Montagecinema revived by the EMO-Synth


MontagecinemaThe general idea behind the EMO-Synth is to create a dynamic work of art that evolves automatically. Using a natural evolutionary process the computer will pursue the creation of ideal optimized and personal audiovisual material. The EMO-Synth thus embraces a fasciniting new paradigm that opens the discussion on the deprecation of the unique character of a piece of art. Referring to earlier art history; this is a recurrent discussion that also appeared at the rise of photography at the start of the 20th century. At that time the general concern was the loss of the aura that surrounds artwork because reproduction of photographic material severely questioned artistic authenticity. But as history thought us it turned out artistic potential is not equal to its medium.

Montage cinema revived by the EMO-Synth is a project based around the EMO-Synth where experimentation with the visual application of the EMO-Synth is a central key point. The project was a result of a series of performances so called test cases – which Office Tamuraj elaborated between 2007 and 2008 and where I acted as curator. In this respect “Montage Cinema Revived by the EMO-Synth” could be seen as a project in which the experience and techniques used in these testcases are merged. Themes explored in testcases 1 to 4 included automatic music and image generation, the use of color- and light dynamics and psychophysiology. During this process as a curator I safeguarded the audiovisual result for which the film constitutes the apex Having a background in art sciences I looked for ways to promote the thesis that the EMO-Synth project belongs to the domain of audiovisual arts. In order to get this statement in the public artistic debate I organized dialogues and reflective moments.

DNAIn my point of view the EMO-Synth performances refer to developments in the Fluxus movement of the 70s. The fact that Valery Vermeulen visualizes heart rate frequencies and statistical data shows a lot of similarities to how Bernar Venet put together very explicit seance-performances with mathematicians and scientists from 1966 to 2006. Bernar Venet moved from Nice to New York where he joined a group of people with backgrounds ranging from nuclear physics to math and music. In this respect Office Tamuraj can identify itself to the early group of inventors of multimedia and the pioneers of video-art with John Cage, Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono and Bruce Nauman as leading figures. Among these the work of Nam Jun Paik seems to be most related to Vermeulen’s artistic approach. Like Nam Jun Paik, Valery Vermeulen has the talent to renew the arts on a technical, visual and auditory level. The artist Valery Vermeulen continuously switches between three domains by applying scientific research to his creative process. He consciously puts pure mathematics in the background to serve the artistic result.

As the development of the EMO-Synth project has an outspoken interdisciplinary character the collective Office Tamuraj was founded to elaborate the various aspects of the project. Along the way these collaborations seemed to be seminal for the creation of several prototypes. The addition of programmer Stif Labarque turned out crucial for a high end implementation of the current prototype, the editing of the film by Arpad Dorozmai was essential to be able to talk of montage cinema and the collaboration with Liard Kranen helped to bring the EMO-Synth to what it is today. In collaborating with Valery I’ve always pursued my ambition to realize a work in team setting where each member plays his own crucial role. Office Tamuraj has tried to conquer new terrain in the audiovisual arts with its computer controlled work of art. The drive to capture the human emotion by means of music is perhaps romantic, but it could lead to new to new artistic disciplines where the visitor can engage in a direct and concrete relationship. The purely observational vanishes in favour of a real interactive component.

Astrid David
Freelance Curator



If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Antoine de Saint Exupery

Project Outline

The concept of montage cinema was conceived by a number of Russian filmmakers in the 1920s and its core ideas were rooted in the Soviet revolution a couple of years prior. Different filmmakers, such as Vertov, Pudovkin and Kuleshov, all had quite different ideas about what montage cinema ought to be. Therefore the word “montage”, which literally means editing, is used to describe the Russian cinema of the 1920s. In this project though, we started off with the theories and views of Sergej Eisenstein who claimed that montage was “the very essence of cinema”.

His idea of “montage cinema” was that filmmakers needed to compose a series of exciting events in order to emotionally stimulate the viewer. This meant that individual shots couldn’t just follow each other, but had to collide. He denounced the classical Hollywood way of editing in which temporal and spatial continuity were quintessential. Shots had to be opposed to one another instead in a ‘dialectical way’. This idea was derived from the Marxist theory in which thesis and anti-thesis combined into syn-thesis and thus determined the course of history. This collision of shots could be based on conflicts of scale, volume, motion and speed, both within and between different frames. These conflicts result in a new mental concept which forms itself inside the viewer’s mind. This mental concept cannot originate from the different shots co-existing, but emerges from the overall interaction between shots. This enabled the director to raise abstract concepts, such as specific emotions, in the mind of the audience. Genuine emotions could not be felt through emphatic identification with an actor/actress playing a certain role and acting out an emotion. True emotions could only be felt by the viewer through the dialectical process of images colliding and thereby generating meaning, superseding the sum of its parts.

A frequently used example to explain this theory of how cinema works is the famous scene from Eisenstein’s film Strike in which we see workers who are on strike and then get attacked by law enforcement agencies. Subsequently we see bulls who are guided towards the slaughter-house. The juxtaposition of these shots creates a metaphor in the viewers mind about the workers being treated as cattle and stirs up rage and discord about the way the workers are humiliated. The metaphor in this example acts as a catalyst of emotions that could not have been set off by merely showing images of the workers and the reaction of the establishment to their uprising against the system.

dvi connectors“Montage cinema revived by the EMO-Synth” is mainly focused on the development of Prototype 05 of the EMO-Synth in collaboration with the collective Office Tamuraj. Right from the start of the development of the EMO-Synth there were already some ideas to use it in a movie context. After the initial developments of the first four prototypes funds provided by the Flemish government (supported by the Flemish Audiovisual Fund, now make such a realisation possible.

The main goal of “Montage cinema revived by the EMO-Synth” is to explore and implement modules for the EMO-Synth so that it can be used in a cinematographic setting. The general idea – in line with the general ideas and philosophy of the project – is to radically abandon the concept of a static movie. Instead we programmed the EMO-Synth to generate new versions of any given movie with the appropriate, personalized soundtrack. The audiovisual material is generated in a way that maximizes the emotional impact on the user.

For Prototype 05 images were needed that could provoke strong emotional states during the performances. To meet this requirement we decided to work with an old classic silent movie. After some internal debate, Office Tamuraj chose Julian Ruperts 1925 version of The phantom of the Opera to be the footage we would work with.

“Montage cinema revived by the EMO-Synth” also denotes the implementation of our first image generating system. It is basically an automatic video montage system in this case. During performances the EMO-Synth will automatically start producing a new montage of the given movie, while preserving semantic content. Implementing this first image generating system has already proved to be crucial to the further evolution of the image-generating component of the EMO-Synth.

“Montage Cinema Revived by the EMO-Synth” is a brand-new interactive cinema experience that meets the expectations of the viewer as closely as possible.


The Phantom Of The Opera


The Phantom Of The Opera Title

The Phantom of the Opera is a 1925 film directed by Rupert Julian. The film is about Eric, a musical genius who hides himself because of his deformed face. After he has heard Christine, the young opera singer, he becomes hopelessly in love with her. This is the beginning of a tragedy. Christine is engaged to the handsome young count Raoul de Chagny and cannot feel love for a deformed freak. Driven by extreme anger and jealousy the phantom kidnaps the young soprano.

Phantom Of The Opera Performance

As most of the work of the montage cinema school is protected by legal issues we looked in the project for alternative film material apt to being applied in the "montage cinema" context. Extensive research lead us to The Phantom of the Opera. Even though it was made in roughly the same period as the montage film-school flourished, it has few similarities at first glance. But closer examination reveals that it contains all the elements to be used for montage purposes.

On one hand there is the world of the phantom, which is dark, gloomy and driven by negative emotions. On the other there is Christine’s world which is bright, happy and has overall positive connotations of love and devotion. The emotional elements within the shots are one-dimensional and don’t really evoke complex emotions and abstract concepts in the viewer’s minds. But a clever re-editing, executed by the EMO-Synth which follows the guidelines stipulated by the director of the project, adds a new dimension to the film.

phantom of the opera stills

The juxtaposition of shots of both “worlds” will lead to the emergence of new and more complex and abstract emotions which will be reinforced by the new soundtrack that is composed to the slightly re-edited parts of the film. The audience will experience empathy for the villainous character of Eric. This empathy is usually not associated to malicious characters in films and can only be achieved by means of using montage techniques. These elements present in The Phantom of the Opera make it the ideal film to use in a montage context without being a montage film itself.