IM Essay – Synecdoche



The Synecdoche film could be seen, broadly, as a non-linear representation of the patterns occurring in everyday life as a student in Australia. Sitting and talking, playing sport, working in a café, eating with friends, drinking, going to the supermarket, having band practice and discussing assignments all form part of the collage. However, there is no definitive pattern to the story, no tangible thread from beginning through to end, just a recognisable compilation of experiences and events, none of which are imbued with any overt preference for order. They are democratic and non-chronological, one does not demand the next. However, there is visible a certain loose authorial intent with broad categories helping determine the order in which things can be viewed. The “in” and “out” keyword function in Korsokaw, assigns probabilities to the vignettes and imposes an abstracted structure that in this case, seems captured loosely in notions of “work” and “play”. The film makers, who feature strongly in the work itself, seem to exist independently of any temporal restrictions. The fragmentation and “randomisation” of the events divorces the work from the ‘temporal dimension’ that, according to Ryan, is integral to a traditional narrative form. “The world must exist in time and undergo significant transformations”. (Ryan. 2006, p3) One gets the distinct impression that the ‘actors’ might be playing out everything both simultaneously and not. Further, they are unchanged and unmotivated by recognisable narrative elements.


The Korsakow program, at the behest of the film makers, creates a “way of perceiving realities that oscillates between narrative and statistics”. In a sense, it is a form of “telling as counting”. (Ernst, Wolfgang. 2003, p33) The randomness is limited by the parameters set by the film makers, but the viewer navigates at their own discretion, reaffirming the deliberate non-linearity of the work.




The options for interface in the Korsakow program are limited, but the Synedoche film makes good use of the available space. The principle window occupies the top left hand corner of the screen. The other three quarters of the screen have been subdivided into three groups of four thumbnail images each. The thumbnails ‘come to life’ when the participant moves the mouse over the image, allowing the participant a preview of what they may choose next.




As mentioned in the section entitled ‘Pattern’, the film is made up of vignettes depicting a fairly ‘typical’ life experienced by students in Melbourne. In a way that defies the apparent non-linearity or even non-confluential intention of the work, there is a highly curated feel to the short films contained in the piece. Rather than attempting to show a ‘truly random’ and unbiased cross-section of life, the various different films have been selected to paint a somewhat flattering, even glamorous picture of the students involved. The inclusion of things like playing electric guitars, sitting at well-stocked tables, playing Australian Rules football and working in elegant cafes, all give hints of the ‘narrative arc’ to which the participants feel part.


‘Synecdoche’, does not show events like riding an escalator – absorbed into the indifferent mass of humanity, sitting in traffic, eating at a food court, being late for work, or practising an instrument badly. Instead, we see individual entities – beings forged of experience – showing us how they would like to be viewed. Through the attempt at suspending narrative form, the events become static, fully formed and without beginning or end. They exist in dead time, they are a pastiche, an advertisement for a life that becomes all the more fictional via the inevitably failed attempt at depicting ‘realism’. In other words, despite trying to escape linearity, the personal narratives of the creators are there for all to see. By selection, their taxonomy of life takes on a political and therefore inescapably narrative dimension. To rephrase Bogost, their attempt at “the jarring staccato of real being”, resembles far more “the flowing legato of a literary account” – (Bogost, Ian. 2012, p40) even despite the aleatoric intention of ‘Synecdoche’.




In the case of ‘Synecdoche’, pattern and content conspire to form a meta-narrative that subverts the self-conscious attempt authorial invisibility. This is something almost impossible to avoid when the beings featured are also the creators. To be clear, this is not a matter of fault or blame. There is barely a person alive who would risk a truly randomised witnessing of their own existence – who knows what people might see, but perhaps more pertinently, would randomness ‘look any good’? Filming people who are not ones’ self, or filming inanimate objects would allow for far greater disruption (although I would argue, never complete) of the authorial presence. In this particular case, it is impossible for the participant to see the assembled collage without getting a very palpable sense of the creators’ personal narrative.


788 Words




[Extract] Bogost, Ian. (2012) Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University Press of Minnesota. Print.


Ernst, Wolfgang ;Méchoulan, Éric (Editor) ; Cisneros, James (Guesteditor) ; Garneau, Michèle. (2003) Telling versus Counting? A Media-Archaelogical Point of View. Intermédialités, pp.31-44


Ryan, Marie-Laure. (2006) Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.