Visible Things

Nemanja Nikolić


July 5th – August 4th


Making things visible: Cinema-graphia and drawing as “spacing” (espacement) in the work of Nemanja Nikolić

When Derrida was writing his study The Voice and the Phenomenon, based upon the critique of Huserl’s conception of origin and (fa)logo-fono-centrism, he offered a new standpoint for engaging into the ontological status of art and aesthetics. This kind of art and/or aesthetics, opposed to the ontological unfathomable here-presence, appears in the field of difference, the unstable boundary between the observed (eidos) and writing which articulates and defines it. This standpoint coincides with the turnover in philosophical tradition from the philosophy of consciousness to the philosophy of language. Art, as well as a work of art, always appears or “happens”in the midst of language or existing texts concerning culture and knowledge, although this structure, according to Derrida, is never finalized. Moreover, it is difficult even to speak about structure in his “project” on deconstruction. The coherency of this language structure, as a set of conventions and rules by which an artwork is defined, implies an exchange of meaning, or the process of (visual) communication inside of a closed system. This kind of conception of (visual) communication or exchange is, according to Derrida, unsustainable, since it is necessary to have “the flow of words” in order to achieve communication and the effect of meaning. Language isn’t a static system, but implies movement, or the space-time dimension, or as Derrida would call it, writing as espacement. Writing, language, and thus the artwork entails espacement that takes place in the moment of its separation from its producer/”the author-subject”.

It is not a coincidence to talk about writing or the creative artistic process in the context of espacement, if we recall the very concise division of art to plastic or “spatial” (architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, photography etc.) and “time-based” (music and dance), or even “time-space” (video, installation, performance etc.). The inauguration of space allows the creation of a habitat – or the dwelling of meaning: “Once spacing is introduced, as a sine qua non of linguistic expression and of sense-making processes in general, then the philosopher of language necessarily becomes a philosopher of spatial articulation(s).”1

The video Distant by Nemanja Nikolić demonstrates exactly these articulations and mechanisms as a particular cinema-graphia. Moving between a classical approach to animation and traditional drawing, liberated of any kind of cinematic scenario, is what crafts the base conception of the work of Nemanja Nikolić: the automatism of unconscious “content” – intimate, personal images of memory, recollection or the conscious act of citing or deconstructing different film situations, details and scenes from Eisenstein’s and Hitchcock’s masterpieces through drawing, which internalize a completely new „plot“ in an intertextual connection. This approach, known from the surrealist practice, breaks down the conventional mode of communication, the clichés governed by iteration, even in, paradoxically, the masterpieces of avanguard film and fine arts.

Nikolić’s video diptych tries to show that there is a sort of provisual, unconscious, haptic dimension of perception which never appears in an optical system. It is traumatic materiality (a certain “nothing”), a “pure” différence, hiatus or liminal space which writing itself masks or allows its “revealing”. From a static Renaissance perspective and frame which captures the glance inside of a logical and self-sufficient space, drawing is transposed into a cinematic or video-like movement, where time thus makes possible or destabilizes observation in the field of perception. This hybrid piece of work shows that insisting on the traditional, metaphysical, canonic priority of the image more than that of what makes it possible (the optic unconscious, writing, graphia), reveals its own improbability. In other words, the element that decentralizes that priority, what we “think” we see and what captures our glance is writing, spacing the difference, division, decomposition or dissemination of a stable cinematic representation. That is why we can say that Nikolić’s “video diptych” belongs to the domain of cinema-graphia. But why cinema-graphia and not cinematography?

By the neologism cinema-graphia2, the textual movement of cinematic writing is emphasized, on the contrary to the conventional meaning of cinematography (the art or science of motion picture photography). Cinema-graphia thus implies writing liberated from the „tyranny“ of the image for its own sake: The hyphen between cinema and graphia, demonstrates a performative play of supersession, dislocation or disruption to the reassembly and finally contact; it outlines duality, difference or a (cinematic) cut, which is masked by grammatical bridging in the form of the word “to” (“cinema-to-graphy”) and demands the division of the signified, thus accenting the procedure of writing as espacement and an economy that doesn’t allow two entities to close into a single term. Cinema-graphia so to say deconstructs cinematography. In Nikolić’s piece, cinema-graphia is at work as an experimental video practice focused on the relation between the elements of writing “across” the frame. In this way, the concept of logocentric space in terms of the Renaissance, the static foundation of the frame as the „window that looks into the world“, has been repressed by the movement, continual flow and exchange of meaning and being, in the time-space of cinema-graphia.


Author: Bojana Matejić
Translation: Isidora Krstić

1Peter Brunette, David Wills, „Introduction“, Deconstruction and the Visual Art. Art, Media, Architecture, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 3.
2Laura R. Oswald, “Cinema-graphia: Eisenstein, Derrida, and the Sign of Cinema”, u Peter Brunette, David Wills, Deconstruction and the Visual Art. Art, Media, Architecture, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 254-255.