Movement-Image and Time-Image

by Beth Metcalf

In ‘Difference and Repetition’ and ‘Logic of Sense’, Deleuze contrasts the games with which we are acquainted with the dice game of univocity.  The games with which we are acquainted, have pre-established rules which fragment chance and divide it among several throws.  The player can win or lose.  These games depend on the limited present which measures causes and actions of bodies and their mixtures.  ‘Chronos’ is this reading of time on the line of interlocking presents.  It is filled with movements of corporeal objects that time measures.  This present (Chronos) absorbs and contracts past and future in repeating cycles of identity and resemblance. 

In contrast, the Ideal Dice Game of univocity has no pre-existing rules.  All throws affirm and ramify chance.  All throws of the dice are real distinction of quality in one throw.  The throws are not numerically distinct, but they are formally distinct.  All formally distinct throws are included in one ontological throw.  The ideal game affirms the whole of chance each time.  The player can no longer lose this game of affirmation.  ‘Aion’ is this reading of time that flies in both past and future directions at once.  It subdivides each event into past and future, gathering incorporeal events at the surface.  Only past and future subsist as they subdivide each present over its empty straight line, breaking the cycles of Chronos.  Every set of qualitatively different throws is included in the ‘aleatory point’ that distributes every real distinction of formal quality throughout all series.  Each throw distributes singularities nomadically in an open space, and ramifies chance in series that communicate and resonate.  This game is nonsense, or the unconscious of thought.  It is the event without present.  Aion is the instant that divides the past (the speed of ‘What has just happened?’) and the future (the slowness of ‘What is going to happen?’).  Aion is therefore the nomadic distribution of univocity.  It is all formal distinction of events in ontologically single Event.  It is the nomadic distribution of pure order (Before – After) without corporeal content measured by cardinal points.  It is real distinction of quality in ontologically one empty form.  Aion is the pure empty order without empirical content. 

Chronos is filled with corporeal objects.  But Aion is the empty form of time.  The event of Aion is incorporeal.  Unlike Chronos, Aion’s unity of events cannot be a unity of corporeal causes.  Aion is all qualitatively distinct throws ramified and interpenetrating in one throw.  It distributes singularities into directions of past or future, things or propositions, content or expression.  The event is the expressed of propositions and the attribute of things.  Therefore Aion cannot be the time that measures movement of corporeal things.  The Eternal Return is the ideal game that affirms all chance in a single instant of Aion.  It is the unique cast of all throws.  It is one Being for all forms and all times.  The event that occurs and the sense that is said is the same. 

The time of Chronos is subordinate to cardinal points.  It is subordinate to the movement that it measures.  Then, with time on its hinges, movement can only be perceived as the displacement of bodies in the succession of images.  But when time becomes freed from its cardinal hinges, the relationship between movement and time is reversed.  Aion is the fracture that unhinges the cardinal points of Chronos.  With Aion, movement becomes subordinate to time.  Instead of time as the measure of movement, time is the transcendental condition of movement.  With this reversal, time is no longer defined by succession of images.  Deleuze tells us that with this “Kantian reversal” time is no longer cardinal succession.  It is only in various cardinal (spatialized) times that corporeal things succeed one another.  But incorporeal things are simultaneous in the time of univocity/multiplicity.  With this unhinged time, Deleuze says, ‘Kant’s Critical Philosophy’ viii, “Everything which moves and changes is in time, but time itself does not change, does not move, any more than it is eternal.  It is the form of everything that changes and moves, but it is an immutable Form which does not change.  It is not an eternal form, but in fact the form of that which is not eternal, the immutable form of change and movement.” 

This is the dice game of univocity on the line of Aion.  Time, like the throws of the dice, affirms the whole of chance---the whole of every real distinction of form, in one throw---in one time.  Time is ontologically one pure empty form without corporeal content.  The whole of chance is affirmed in one throw.  All real distinction is affirmed in ontologically singular sense which does not change.  The whole of that which moves and changes is affirmed in one immutable Form which does not change since it infuses all real distinction of forms (that is itself ontologically single unformed Substance).   

Deleuze and Guattari tell us (A Thousand Plateaus’ p.265-6) about two planes (or two ways of conceptualizing the plane of immanence).  The plane can be a hidden principle that makes the visible seen and the audible heard.  It causes the given to be given, but it is not itself given.  It is inferred from that to which it gives rise on a ‘Plane of Organization and Development’ where there is development of forms and the formation of subjects.  This ‘Plane of Transcendence’ is a plane of analogy.  This plane can only be inferred from the forms it develops and the subjects it forms.  This is the plane of cardinal movement that measures time.  This is the plane of Chronos.  (ATP 280) On this plane movement is imperceptible.  Perception grasps movement as the displacement of bodies and development of forms.  Movement is mediated by relative thresholds of perception.  Each threshold of perception is a function of the development of a form and the organization of a subject on this cardinal plane of Chronos.  Movement is imperceptible in relation to the mediating thresholds on the ‘Plane of Transcendence’ (Chronos).    

However, movement itself is conditioned by relations of speed and slowness and pure affects that are above and below the thresholds of perception.  Movement itself occurs elsewhere.  It is on another plane (or another way of conceptualizing the plane) where movement occurs as the slowness of ‘what is going to happen?’ and the speed of ‘what happened?’  On this other plane, there are no thresholds mediating perception.  On this ‘plane of immanence or consistency’, movement cannot be perceived because it has no cardinal form or organization.  However, on this plane, movement also must be perceived.  On this plane, the principle of composition must be perceived as it composes unformed matter in movements of speed and slowness.  This is the distribution of pure empty form into pure order, Before-After.  This plane of immanence/consistency is the line of Aion (or Aeon, ATP262). 

(ATP282) “The difference between the two planes accounts for the fact that what cannot be perceived on one cannot but be perceived on the other.  It is in jumping from one plane to the other, or from the relative thresholds to the absolute threshold that coexists with them, that the imperceptible becomes necessarily perceived.”  Therefore, we can see that when the plane of Chronos is cut off from the plane of Aion, when we consider only the cycles of repetition in Chronos, then we always remain within the Image of Representational Thought without difference.  It is only when the plane of transcendence (Chronos) is cut off from the plane that composes its principle (Aion) that we fall into Sameness.  However, univocity includes both planes each with its type of multiplicity.  Actualization of form and formation of subjects happens when perception jumps between the two planes.  Actualization is informed by Aion which breaks the analogical cycles of Chronos.  When the plane of Chronos is informed by its openness to the plane of Aion, then we reach repetitions of unformed matter composing the actualizations of univocity. 

The actualizations of univocity, then, are these jumps between planes.  Aion is empty of form and empirical content, because it is the transcendental condition of those contents in the first two syntheses of actualization.  Aion distributes singularities of real-formal distinction into before and after. This conditions every new form of difference that is actualized on the plane of Chronos.  When it reaches new actualizations in the first two syntheses, it is still the ‘movement-image’ with its indirect representation of time.  Time is still subordinate to movement.  But this ‘movement-image’ escapes the return of the same.  

But with the third synthesis of counter-actualization, we reach the ‘time-image’.  This third synthesis of the ‘Eternal Return’ reaches the pure empty form of time.  Time is no longer subordinate to movement.  Movement is now subordinate to time.  The Eternal Return of time is the pure a priori order of empty form.  There is no empirical-corporeal content.  Time is the form of change, but this form of change does not change.  There is only empty order that creates a new form each time.  Time as the pure empty order breaks the cycles of the first two times.  The repetition of the Eternal Return excludes becoming similar of the first repetition.  It excludes the becoming equal of the second repetition.  In the third time, only the alike differs.  Only differences are alike.  The pure empty form of time breaks the cyclic forms of the first two syntheses.  Time is freed from its cardinal hinges.  With the Eternal Return, there is no actualization.  If we can play this dice game within the Eternal Return of counter-actualization, then we can no longer lose.      

Deleuze (Cinema 1, p.56) speaks of a historical crisis in psychology when it became no longer possible to hold a duality between an image in conscious duration, on the one hand; and movement in extended space, on the other.  Semiology (Cinema 2, 210-11) is an example of this ‘classical conception’.  The root difficulty (C2, 26-28) with this classical model is that the image in perception must be assimilated to an utterance.  The image as merely analogical resemblance becomes an immobilized object.  Movement is taken away.  The image becomes merely the ‘mould’ (variability of a perceptible form overcoded by an intelligible structure).  But this ‘mould’ does not reach the ‘modulation’ of variation across all variety.  (See my article ‘Variety and Variation’.) 

Bergson addressed this crisis by seeing matter as the identity of movement and image.  Matter is ‘movement-image’.  This is no longer a phenomenology of consciousness as consciousness of something.  Rather, consciousness is something.  Bergson’s ‘movement-image’ is not a transcendent form to which movement is added.  Rather, the image is immediately movement.  ‘Movement-image’ is the continuity of singular points immanent to movement.  There is no prior form or idea of a totalized whole made of given sets.  Rather, the construction of new continuities of singular points produces new sets in an open whole.  The ‘movement-image’ is flow of matter without a prior whole constructed by given sets.  The movement-image is immediately action-reaction.  All sets communicate and cut across each other.  There is only action and reaction in flows of unformed matter.  There is identity of image and movement.

Therefore, Bergson’s movement-image overthrows the classical model.  For Bergson the brain is only a void, an ‘interval’, between action and reaction.  This is no longer the ‘mould’ of concept and image overcoded by an utterance (Signifier).  Rather, there is the ‘modulation’ of asignifying matter.  Language, then, is a reaction to the asignifying material that it transforms.  Whereas the classical model remains on the plane of homogeneity cut off from the plane of heterogeneity,  Bergson jumps between the two planes.  The intersection of these planes is the variation across all variety of asignifying matter.

(C1, 109-10 and 111-122)  Deleuze says that, within the movement-image, the thing is identical to every image.  Every image acts and reacts in all facets and parts.  But when, from within every image, one image separates a received from an executed movement, every image now varies only in relation to this one image.  This one image will now be called the ‘perception-image’ and movement happens within that one interval.  Our perception is mediated by this interval or threshold.  Perception is every image minus that which does not interest us.  ‘Interest’ then is a function of our sensory-motor needs.  Time is an indirect representation which is subordinate to movement within the interval of sensory-motor interest which defines the threshold of perception. 

Therefore, Bergson opens an interval at “any-point-whatever” between action and a reaction.  Images act and react on all their facets and in all their parts, but we perceive images that only receive actions on one facet or some parts and execute reactions in other parts according to our needs.  We jump between both planes in the actualization of image in movement.  Our perception subtracts from the thing that which is not of interest to us, and we react according to our needs with this movement-image and its indirect representation of time.

On the plane of homogeneous space, sets can divide without qualitatively changing.  However, Bergson sees variety in variation.  The whole is not the set of all sets.  It is not a set and does not have parts.  Rather, the whole is open to the plane of heterogeneous duration.  The whole is like a thread which traverses sets.  This ‘Dividual’ is not divisible or indivisible.  It can divide, but not without changing its quality.  The Open Whole is that which prevents sets from closing and lets us see that neither rupture nor any particular continuity is ever the final word as perception jumps between planes. 

The classical model sees merely one organic interval of a variable present of spatialized time.  But Bergson’s ‘interval’ is not an organic unity, but the qualitative leap of opposites into their contrary.  Bergson’s interval is a qualitative leap---the added degree of intensive variation that changes the nature of its variety.  However, Bergson still sees merely an indirect time-image dependent upon sensory-motor links.  He does not reach the third synthesis of counter-actualization.  He is still in the actualizations of movement-image and does not reach the time-image of univocity*.

As we have seen, Bergson’s movement-image was an answer to the crisis of the classical model of the old realism.  However, (Cinema 2, 210-11) Bergson’s interval still links associations and integrates them into a whole.  Therefore, Bergson’s movement-image is still classical (C2, 276-7). In Cinema 2, Deleuze describes the new realism of the time-image.  With neo-realism, the image becomes subordinate to new signs beyond the sensory-motor situation.  Optical and sound signs break the sensory-motor links of the old realism.  Now, the form of change does not change. Optical signs and sound signs make thought perceptible (visible and audible).  Now, actualizations as a function of sensory-motor interest are replaced by disinterested counter-actualization.  Whereas the movement-image removed everything in the image except that which was of interest, now that which was removed is restored in a new ‘any-space-whatever’ (empty and disconnected) to find the disinterested whole again.  Everything acts and reacts on everything else.  Whereas the movement-image was the indirect representation of time, the new time-image is a direct presentation of time.  Time is no longer subordinate to movement, but movement is subordinate to time in the direct time-image.  Time is no longer the measure of movement, but movement is a perspective on time.  The sound and visual signs define the internal relations of the image.  The image is no longer defined by movement, but by mental relations.

The crystal reveals the hidden ground of time.  It is the differentiation of sheets of past and peaks of present.  Regions of the past seem to succeed each other from the point of view of former presents, but they coexist from the point of view of the actual present.  There is pre-existence of past in general, and there is co-existence of sheets of past.  And there are de-actualized peaks of present.  This distributes different presents to different points of view (all incompossible).  This is not a subjective imaginary point of view on one same world.  Rather, there is one event in incompatible, objective worlds.  The poles of real and imaginary, objective and subjective, physical and mental, and actual and virtual become reversible and indiscernible. In the crystal, there is the indiscernible becoming of distinct images between coexistent sheets of past and the simultaneity of peaks of present.  The crystal is the constitutive division of the present into present which is passing and the past which is preserved.  Time itself is constituted in the crystal.  Whereas the movement-image is an open whole internalizing images and externalizing the whole in the images, the crystal makes way for the direct time-image.  The outside is the interstices between images.  This is not association, but differentiation.  I take the crystal to be the second synthesis of disjunction. 

With the movement-image and its indirect time-image subordinate to movement, the actual ‘recollection-image’ reconstituted motor series of former present as a succession of parallel planes.  However, the crystal lays the foundation for a direct time image where virtual ‘pure recollection’ explores co-existing sheets of past.  Regions of past are defined by optical signs on interacting planes which construct a continuum of duration.  Rearrangements lead to new continua as coexisting levels of past fragment, combine, and rearrange with any peak of simultaneous present.  Pure recollection transforms the sheets of past into transversal continuities.

But in this second synthesis speech is still a component of the visual-image.  The image becomes visible as it makes itself heard.  The visible-image becomes legible as the sound components overlap, cross, and cut each other to trace a visual space.  They make themselves seen as they are heard.  They make the image readable.  But this second synthesis of disjunction is still an indirect representation of time, because it can’t do without the movement-image which expresses it.  It was necessary for crystal to bring about a break in the sensory-motor schema before the speech-act could arise independently from the visual image.    

In the movement-image of the old realism, the actual-image is doubled by a virtual image which reflects it.  Ever vaster circuits correspond to deeper and deeper layers of reality and higher and higher levels of memory and thought in the actualization of the movement-image.  But with the new realism, the most inner circuit of the actual is doubled with its own virtual image.  This is the crystal of indiscernibility between the real and imaginary, the past and present, the actual and virtual.  The actual and the virtual enter a relation of reversibility, because they are indiscernible.  The crystal-image, with its double sides of actual and virtual, must be still present and already past at once.  This crystal, on the plane of Aion, splits present and past in two heterogeneous directions.

The direct time-image is the ‘third synthesis’ of conjunction.  Now movement is subordinate to time.  Time is out-of-joint.  Conjunction is the constitutive ‘AND’ between things.  This is no longer a rational cut subordinate to movement.  It is movement that is now subordinate to a perspective of time.  Whereas the movement-image finds rational cuts between images, the time-image is the irrational cut (interstices) that does not form part of any prior set.  It is false continuity.  There is no totalizing whole of images, but an outside inserted between them.  Now, outside and inside is not a whole, but a limit---a membrane---that brings sheets of past and peaks of present into conjunction.  The whole is no longer the interior of thought.  Forces from the outside hollow out and attract an inside.  There are no longer rational cuts of commensurable relations between series of images.  Images are no longer dependent on prior association of movements.  But irrational cuts in time order the series into images.

With the direct time-image, the visible image and the sound image do not reconstitute a whole but enter an irrational relation.  The sound-continuum is no longer dependent on the visible-image.  Now the visible-image becomes ‘any-space-whatever’ (empty or disconnected).  With the irrational interstice between the visible and sound images, the sound image becomes independent.  The visible-image (content) and sound image (expression) confront each other.  Without losing the non-totalizable relation of their disjunction, they are brought into a ‘free-indirect’ incommensurable relation of conjunction.  The visual image never shows what the sound image utters.  Images are no longer linked by rational cuts but are re-linked in irrational interstices.  The direct time-image is the conjunction of the disjunction (interstices) between visual and sound image.  It is the fusion of a tear.  It is an outside more distant than any exterior and an inside deeper than any interior.

With the direct presentation of time in the time-image, movement becomes subordinate to time.  The sensory-motor links of perception are broken.  Signs no longer presuppose the perception-image of sensory-motor action.  Optical and sound signs now constitute an image which resists sensory motor actualization.  The image becomes subordinate to optical and sound signs beyond movement.  This time-image reaches the pure empty form of time (Aion).  What happens is no longer linked to the sensory-motor functions of our interest.  There is the disinterest of counter-actualization.  This is the third synthesis of ‘Eternal Return’. 

*Likewise, Deleuze sees Peirce’s phenomenological semiotics (C2, 30-34) as based on the movement-image because it is still deduced from a perception-image that never breaks the sensory-motor link. 

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