Machines for the Suppression of Time

CollaboratorsLizbeth Malkmus (Director) and Douglas Lowndes (Director)
One line synopsisAn analysis of the relationship between visual image and narrative with commentary taken from the works of Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), French critic and theoretician, Roland Barthes (1915-1980) and French anthropologist and developer of Structuralism, Claude Lévi-Strauss (b.1908).

Sky, trees, countryside. Young man is stopped by a Gentleman and a Labourer but walks on. Coloured engraving of itinerant farm hand. Open scene re-enacted, this time with camera and photographer visible in foreground. Coloured engraving of similar encounter. Photograph of man and the two others. Caption: "What do these words refer to?" amended to "What do these images refer to?" Engraving of labourer. Man walking. Group of people resembling Ford Madox Ford’s Work (1852-1863); the painting. Photograph of the "live" group. Caption: "What actions are taking place?" Man passing the group. Douglas Lowndes quoting "No longer can language be identified with a contract pure and simple… a law ... that is tolerated … not a rule to which all freely consent" while young woman chalks the letters C A T on a wall. Man continues his wanderings, passes woman scrubbing front step, enters room where group is posed as Joseph Wright’s An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768), opens a book on Jean-François Millet to show The Gleaners (1857), and a volume of Paul Klee’s Notebooks. Caption: "What do these images describe?" Lowndes: "The sign consists of phonetic oppositions" over someone leaving the room while someone else doesn’t. Newspaper billboard, "Chauffer weds veiled princess". Man. Children. Clocks. Man in library, looks at Illustrated London News supplement on "Imperial Russia, her power & her progress", on the back of which is an advertisement for the Anglo-Russian Bank; photograph of women field workers. Collection of photographs. Books tied together. Caption: "What do these images symbolise?" Lowndes: "In language, the sign consists of phonetic oppositions that are voiced or unvoiced." Man returns past the clocks. Lowndes. Photographs of him and from other parts of the film; books. Woman’s VO: "Language attempts to explain images. All images contain within them an implicit narrative. Roland Barthes, a French critic, claimed that in order to understand a narrative, we need to bring into operation four Codes..." Caption for "Parts of Speech"; commentary says that "These Codes work in a similar way to parts of speech…"; man passing Work group. VO continues to talk – with matching captions and images from the film – about verbs (the Proairetic Code), adjectives (the Semic Code), abstract nouns (the Referential Code), and nouns (the Symbolic Code). A painting of warheads in a box. Lower half of statue; light from door merging with a light ray shining on a painting of a man on a wooden chair; a photograph of the two, and a photograph of the warhead painting with a "gallery attendant" slumped on chair. Labourer engraving.
Man in street; goes to buy Polaroid camera. Caption "Media", photographs, caption altered to "Mediation". The Gleaners. Captions, "Semic Code Adjectival", "Bulk", "Darkness", while commentary says "Adjectives build up a theme through repetition", and shapes from painting repeat in different colours. Caption/diagram interrelates Woman/Nature/Bulk/Darkness. The Gleaners with triangulating lines marked on it. Commentary: "The repetition of one of the codes leads the viewer to select it as a key to the narrative content of the image." Details. Man passing woman scrubbing step. Caption: "Secular Women → Beasts of Burden." Woman and step, photograph of woman in veil, women field workers. Caption: "Symbolic Code." Field workers. VO "Speech struggles to name oppositions…" Captions: "Sky/Earth", "Sacred/Secular". Caption/Diagram interrelates Sacred/Secular/Woman. Various views of the field workers picture with analytical pointers. "Narrative is an escape from oppositions. It slides over them to make the world appear innocent." Children. Field worker. Caption: "Sacred Women → Holy Mother Russia." The ILN Supplement; man decides not to buy camera. Images from film; commentary: "The image evokes a phrase, ‘women, beasts of burden’, and through repetition becomes a cliché." Repeat of captions: "Secular Women → Beasts of Burden" and "Sacred Women → Holy Mother Russia". Front and back of the Supplement, other illustrations from the film. Commentary: "But what do these expressions tell us about the oppositions of Capital and Labour, between Man and Woman, between Science and Human Values?" Commentary says that the "Codes of narrative are like part of speech, but they don’t unfold in sequence as parts of speech do in a sentence…" Pages from Tom Phillips’s A Humument (1960s onwards). "Barthes claims that they weave their own threads of meaning through a story…" – copy of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children (1907) in which parts of speech are being identified – as "chains of thought … called Syntagms". Table listing ideas ("man/experiment/live/bird") from the Air Pump which "echo … under the primary Code of Action". Tables of "girl/sees/death seme → sympathy" and "man/stares seme → sinister", Composite table: "The complexity of narrative enables it to be read in many different ways according to the Code we choose to follow." Images from the film. Commentary: "Image makers often choose to resist narrative in a search for what lies beyond language. In painting there is [a tension between narrative and colour oppositions which does not exist] in photography [where] at the level of the Sign … there is only a chemical deposit. Photography returned the visual arts to narrative representation." Illustrations from Michael Kirby’s Futurist Performance (1971) and elsewhere as commentary says that the Futurists "defied narrative" and wrote "spacially defined" scripts, attempting to reinstate the "male/female opposition" which had been "mediated by romantic narratives". Version of Futurist play (Amooore, 1912) with puppets and people. A Humument poster. VO quotes "The masses have no voice in the matter. The signifier chosen by a language could be replaced by no other...." Eric Partridge’s A Dictionary of Clichés. Woman passes man on her way into gardens.

Lowndes: "Language is situated on the axis…" Man passes clocks. Caption: "Name A." Birdcage and bird silhouette. Commentary: "To read is to struggle to name." Lowndes: "… of association and contiguity." Man with flying ducks on mirror. Caption: "Predicate A + B." Miscellaneous items by a mousehole; photograph of Captain Robert Scott; reflection of painting by Peter Scott; boy looking at picture book. The painting, the flying ducks, Lowndes in uniform, asleep in chair, three blocks of wood on wall over fireplace, ducks on mirror, etc. Commentary quotes Barthes: "This temporary wandering of the predicate can be described in terms of a game ...with two players, the Snare and the Truth". Caption: "Enigma A + B = C." Commentary continues: "…the more signs there are, the more the truth will be obscured…". The same image of blocks, ducks, mirror, fireplace. in different colours. VO: "For the distinguishing feature of the sign is that, in some way, it always eludes the individual or social will." Caption concerning "Paradigmatic Association". Lowndes: "Language is situated on the axis of association and contiguity". Caption concerning "Syntagmatic Association". Various statues in gardens with captions "Paradigmatic Association" and "Syntagmatic Association". Man passing statues while going towards gardens entrance. VO: "In the Syntagm, a term acquires its value only because it stands in opposition to everything that precedes or follows it, or to both". Repetition of man and statues sequence. Commentary quotes Barthes, "Truth … is at the end of expectation … This design … implies a return to order as expectation is disorder. … narratives … attempt to name." Woman entering gardens. Caption: "Name A." Mirror/ducks/fireplace, etc. Caption: "Symbolic Code." Commentary asks if an unnameable object (here wooden blocks taking the place of other things) is "a power for good or evil". Caption: "Predicate A + B." Commentary talks of objects in the room: a bird "refers to art history" in a merging of ornithology and landscape painting popularised through connection to "the father hero", Robert Scott. Caption: "Semic Code Adjectival." Multiple images from the film; commentary saying that "narrative is a function of language, but representation … builds themes that create new enigmas which reading attempts to slide over…" prompting questions such as ‘What has happened to the English gentleman?’." Woman in garden, man in room. "Gallery attendant" seats himself by painting of warheads. Commentary says that this question can only be answered by reference "to history". Man passed woman dusting and seats himself in empty cinema. Caption: "Myth, Repetition, History." Cinema runs newsreel of Neville Chamberlain returning to Britain after visiting Adolf Hitler; repeated. VO quoting, "The function of repetition is to render the structure of the myth apparent. The purpose of myth is to provide a logical model, capable of overcoming a contradiction."

Collaged images. Different phrases added to Union Jack background: "England makes laws", "Has colonies", "Keeps Peace", etc., roughly following an historical sequence. Images from the film. Commentary says "It is now possible to ask once again, ‘What has happened to the Englishman?’. The memory of the Englishman is contained in language, which brings about a repetition not dissimilar to the formation of an image in his mind…" thus reinforcing what may be inaccurate cultural perceptions. Magazine article from 1918 headed "Backs to the Wall Again". Images from the film. Commentary suggests that "as a sign, a picture is arbitrary, but its function is to mediate an ever-present set of oppositions". View of the whole flag-shaped display of slogans, and details of them as opposites; altering the arrangement. Door closed. Various images from film. Commentary says that "The syntagm now constitutes a whole..." in different ways and "has moved". Some images overlaid with others. Woman in garden. Man in room. Picture of warheads, woman now seated in front of it. Man passing statures in gardens. He and woman now meet. "The syntagm has moved from name to answer." Man on beach. Woman draws MCM in sand and it is amended to MGM. Credits. THE END.

Running time39 minutes
Full credits

Piano played by Alastair Leonard;
Rondo in A Minor K511 W. A. Mozart;
Partita No.6 in E Minor BWV830 J. S. Bach;
Mouvement from Images Book 1 C. Debussy.
The FUTURIST play was based on a script by Volt translated by Victoria Kirby and published in the book FUTURIST PERFORMANCE by Michael Kirby, Dutton Paperback.
Actors Ken Robertson,
Clare Travers Deacon,
Tim Brown,
Clive Swift,
Reven Malkmus,
Richard Albrecht,
Stella Bauer,
Piers Plowright;
Camera Clive Tickner,
Steve Tickner,
Paul Lowndes,
James Malkmus;
Sets Humphrey Leadbitter;
Sound Ian Bruce;
Production Felicity Oliver;
Those who helped, Jo Spence,
Roger Webster,
Roy & Annie Armes,
Jack & Casey Hyland & daughter,
Helen Armes,
Manuel Alvarado,
Bob Ferguson
John Sanford
Lyn Leadbitter & children.
Grateful thanks are due to… Trustees of the British Museum,
Tate Gallery London,
City Art Gallery Manchester,
Clichy Musées Nationaux Paris,
Pathé News,
The Round House,
The Richmond Fellowship,
Photocraft Hampstead.
Quotations spoken from:- Course in General Linguistics by Ferdinand De Saussure, McGraw Hill (© Philosophical Library New York),
The Savage Mind by Claude LeviStraus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd.
Structural Anthropology by Claude LeviStraus, Peregrine Books (© Basic Books Inc. New York),
Quotations by the teacher from :- S/Z by Roland Barthes, Hill & Wang,
Mythologies by Roland Barthes, Paladin Panther
Image Music & Text by Roland Barthes, Fontana Collins.
Written and Directed by Lizbeth McCulloch,
Douglas Lowndes.
Arts Council of Great Britain © 1980.

Film segmentMachines for the Suppression of Time - ACE108.2
Machines for the Suppression of Time - ACE108.3
Machines for the Suppression of Time - ACE108.4
Machines for the Suppression of Time - ACE108.5
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