Chapter I – Film

Time: A Study in the Specious Present for Coffee and Cameras


The duration of sensation and the sensation of duration are different. And it is the same with sensation. The succession of sensations and the sensation of succession are not the same. (Husserl, p. 31)

A table is set up: on the table’s surface a coaster, a saucer, with a coffee cup on top of it. Coffee has been poured into the cup. A person sits on a chair in front of the table, at times drinking coffee. The action repeats itself for the duration of the performance. The performance lasts three hours. The table stands as the centre of action for the performer, who is seated throughout the event and surrounded by several kinds of cameras, screens and recording equipment. The performer of the film-performance is myself.

Fig. 1. Setting: a coffee cup, a table, a person drinking coffee. Credit: Sascia Pellegrini

The working title is Time: A Study in the Specious Present for Coffee and Cameras. Hereafter it is called ‘the project’ for brevity: it is conceived as an integration of performance and cinematic installation, following a practice of integration, related to the notion of intermedia.

A few examples and their juxtaposition provide a framework for the research project: while Alison Knowles’s The Identical Lunch (1969) deals with repetition of gestures making the meal a self-conscious reflection of an everyday activity, the short sketches of Jim Jarmush’s film Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) play with the sameness of situation (drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes) to generate a dialogue between actors on a disparate number of subjects unrelated, for the most part, to the specific gestures and activities; furthermore Nam June Paik’s Music-Electronic Television (1963) assembles elements of performance, installation and the use of television as medium, where the space of the exposition is freely explored by the audience.

This project therefore places itself in relation to Fluxus performance, video and installation art, specifically, examples of Neo-Dadaist and Fluxus works dealing with repetition of everyday gestures; event scores and text/visual games of artists such as Knowles, George Maciunas, John Cage, Higgins, Paik. Moreover, it takes into consideration paradoxical elements of the ‘pataphysique of Alfred Jarry and connects with early experimental cinema: for example, early film experimentation by artists such as Maya Deren, Fernand Leger, Hans Richter, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Dziga Vertov.