Naci Emre Boran
The viewers encounter Michael Snow’s La Région Centrale (1971) at the top of a mountain in Quebec. Before La Région Centrale, most of Snow’s films depicted interior spaces, using single camera movements, including Standard Time (1967), Wavelength (1967), and Back and Forth (1968). La Région Centrale could be interpreted as the camera’s attack on human consciousness and thinking, whereby the camera is controlled by a preprogrammed machine on top of a mountain untouched by humans, using almost all of the possibilities and directions of movement. This denunciation does not fully represent cybernetics’s move to control philosophical thinking; it is rather geared towards negating the gaze’s determination of the meaning of the movement only through its telos. Contrasted with a person’s calculating thinking, a calculated algorithm serves a role not too dissimilar to how rational thought was meant to be liberating back in the day.
Metaphysics—which perceive things as what exist to be used, separating them into material and form—, and the perpetrating subject approach—a partner to metaphysics—, have been strengthened by the existence of technical prowess as a force of production in life. The existence of technical prowess’s within the realm of art open up an important critical field pertaining to this perpetration. The viewers are able to experience the constructed aesthetics of the art work both materially and formally, and its going beyond the duality of the object-subject, only insofar as the field that cinema opens up, owing its existence to the prowess of technique. La Région Centrale, as a video-film, controversially uses the technique of constraint by turning the gaze of the act of looking on itself, without an event. Through this constraint, one is expelled from the safety of existing perceptions. When being displaced results in regaining a home, thus establishing a new world, it is then possible to encounter a new way of seeing in the film.
La Région Centrale
To view La Région Centrale with the experience and thoughts that stem from the gaze of the every day, without utilizing the position Snow holds in the history of experimental and avant-garde cinema, will help viewers come closer to the anxiety to counter the holistic look of the existing systems.
Viewers today still see in a way that belongs to the presiding paradigm. The screen that functions as a shield for people who assume that everything exists for them and who thus have a shared language:  Everything seems to be normal for now; the viewers’ eyes are wondering across rocky terrain. This situation lasts a bit too long. This “too” will become the foundational element of La Région Centrale, but the viewers are not aware of this yet. The camera moves up and down, accompanied by an analogue sound. It becomes useless to think about what is going to happen next. For a moment, it feels like what is being shown is the stage of the documentary that talks about the “earth.” But this is a lifeless world; this is the earth that we are familiar with. A while later, the thing that is known to be the earth is replaced by the surface of the earth: It is as if viewers are encountering the face of a person that they thought they knew, but who they later realized was a stranger. The stones’ being stones is suspended, forms and colors begin to be visible on their own. What is on the screen is what is right there, as the ominousness that the world seems to have fallen into is being presented: The perspective is from top of a hill, it is a rocky terrain and landscape. The small gestures of the frame are reminiscent of a trip when the destination is reached without any of the passengers realizing, even if they were looking out the window the whole time. The familiar knot between movement and time of perception is also dismantled here. We encounter the horizon line, the foundation of perspective, which is inherited from the Renaissance. It is difficult to shed this gaze. The viewers are separated from the human eye; they dethrone a line that needs to be able to place objects where required. After a while, the real owner of the image becomes visible: The shadow of the machine that controlled the camera is a reminder that as the subverted gaze is a machine-gaze. The formal gaze that is resisted on the earth is replaced by the ambiguity of the sky through camera movements. Viewers become strangers to the sky in a similar way. But this encounter is more difficult, because boundaries and colors are intermingled and the fall into a void where the analogue sound is needed to be able to understand that the camera moves. And that sound will also be removed from the signified, just like the emptying out of the visual signifieds.
The feeling that the beginning fragment is the warmup for a three-hour struggle with our already-existing mode of seeing creeps up, pushing the boundaries of our tolerance. The durations of the sections are going to be complementing a movement that can be identified. It is possible to say that the shield of the screen is down. As perception’s effort to produce meaning keeps failing, our patience is tested. Some fragments emerge in our minds: the question of “what is the use of the horizon?” appears and disappears in the mind, as the camera focuses on the horizon-line and turns around itself. The camera turns to the sky and then to the earth, subverting the positionings of the earth and the sky. The camera evokes the act of scanning, reminding viewers that they should stop seeking horizontal movements, that there is nothing that can be found other than what is seen. While forgetting the current situation, it is also impossible to define where the perspective of looking is. The light and color that we cannot capture, as if we are on a ferris wheel, ransack our sense of balance. The shifting position of the camera on the coordinates of x, y, z, the different momentums of the swivel, the approaching and receding focus are added on. In the meantime, the only familiar element of temporality is the sky getting darker. We realize that the ball of light that wanders across the screen is the light of the night, the moon. As our tested patience tells us that night, which ends the day, will also end the film, the viewers are not fooled into believing that. The image that “tires” the eyes subverts the expectations that are there despite the light—expectations which are projected on to the lightness and the darkness.
When the end is reached, the fatigue of overcoming some things that have not been defined. There is the feeling of ease for having been deported. The quick movements of the camera converge the form and the ground: objects become drawings: depths and heights become colors. It is obvious that a sense of well-being could not be established, but perhaps the end of patience could be the language that moves from representation to expression: Black holes on the Earth / I’m not dizzy any more.
La Région Centrale intends to decipher the human-constructed world’s way of looking through the machine’s eye in addition to the inherent tension between reality and fiction in the medium of cinema. The a priori conditions of the dominant paradigm of seeing, such as space and time, are transformed into the ground on which another mode of seeing is reconstructed when the causality of movement is questioned. La Région Centrale interrupts the relationship between the camera and time/space, the viewer abandoning the position of the subject by ridding themselves of the illness of expecting, commending to return to the call of thought and experience. To be able to approach an art work as a thing in and of itself that is able to step outside of the constructed field and games of representation will enable us to once again construct relationships between the area that it has opened and things themselves. When an art work emerges and establishes itself in the openness that it has created for itself, everything that happens after that art work appear in a different way. Everything that happens is constructed in the field that it has opened up; nothing is as it was, the world is not what it was, even the earth is different. 
Translated from Turkish and edited by Merve Ünsal
 ~ Fr écran trench, screen, curtain.
 Heidegger’s words on the thingness of the art work could be useful here. Zeynep Direk, Heidegger’in Sanat Anlayışı, https://zeynepdirek.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/heideggerin-sanat-anlayisi-2/.
Naci Emre Boran writes about books and films.