[ISEA94] Paper: Robert A. Fischer — Audiovisual Literacy: On the Electronic ‘Camera-stylo’


It is interesting to remember that the synchronous sound-camera (ECLAIR) was developed during the 1950’s simultaneously with the magnetic recording-devices for electronic images (AMPEX). The world of (acoustically enhanced) moving images became a world of audiovisual communication – be it chemical-mechanical or pixel based-electronic. Alexandre Astruc then coined the term “caméra-stylo” -the “fountainpen-camera”- for new possibilities of sound/image creativity. The term will appear to be prophetic for the constitution of a new praxis in literacy: the development of audiovisual texts (as opposed to filmand/or video shows). In my paper, I will analyse the development of a new audiovisual literacy against the background of western written codification of the word by means of the phonetic alphabet, within the dialectics of orality and literacy. I will show examples of recent film/video-texts in which the narrative structures are determined by the technology of codification.
Drawing back on my research as a cultural anthropologist on indigenous electronic media-praxis, I will also analyse some strategies of audiovisual textuality by so-called oral cultures (in particular by the Warlpiri Aborigines of Central Australia), who are making a transition from a form of “primitive audiovisuality” to electronic audiovisuality, shifting the period of alphabetical literacy. On the line we will understand that there is no such thing as an exclusively “oral culture”. We will be able to acknowledge that some of the indigenous or non-european strategies, rooted in traditional narrative and representational forms, are presenting striking parallels with western avant-garde film and video-making, respectively audiovisual texts.

This paper is part of the Nordicil seminar on the New Narrative of Cinema, organized in context of ISEA94