The aesthetic characteristics and cultural connotations of video have informed cinema ever since video’s emergence. Parallel to the development of video art, filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Haneke and Atom Egoyan have engaged themselves creatively with the electronic medium – often in (inter)medial constellations with film. This paper takes a closer look at one particular video-film hybrid. A medially complex, split-screen, science-fiction pseudo-documentary – with one part of the image constituting faux-found footage and the other an admitted re-enactment – The Fourth Kind (Olatunde Osunsanmi, 2009) employs the aesthetic strategy of representing an alien entity by way of its violent effect upon both human bodies and the electromagnetic image itself. With this notion of figuration qua video disturbance, made possible by the fluid pictoriality of the electromagnetic image, the border between the bodies in and the body of the image breaks down.
Taking up on Gilles Deleuze’s claim that the task of art is to render invisible forces visible, the paper shows how video in The Fourth Kind thus functions according to a logic similar to the one developed by Deleuze in relation to Francis Bacon’s painting. Insofar as this logic manifests the dynamics of (dis)figuration, whereby a direct bond between the materiality of the medium and the corporeality of the figure(s) is generated, The Fourth Kind not only constitutes a philosophically fruitful example of a video-film constellation, but suggests a particular intermedial relation between video and painting as well. Ultimately, it manifests a New Materialist critique of representation, inasmuch as it is the medium’s increasing resistance to fulfilling its figurative function which produces its affective impact – the failure to record a resemblance of the figure(s) allowing the medium to show its true (sur)face.
XV. Film and Media Studies Conference in Transylvania. Cluj-Napoca, 24-25 October 2014