The work of art typically
offers a place to stand inside the frame formally
separating the artwork from the audience. In Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW,
this is an apartment overlooking an urban courtyard, where isolation and
visibility conspire to 'cut lives in two,' presenting the case of the ultimate
Just beyond the frame that separates the art work from the audience is another imaginary frame that is the view of the literal narrator or disembodied voice the guides the audience's point of view. The audience can sometimes 'see around' this second frame, but often the diagetic reality of the story makes an invisible perfect seam between the two frames. When the narrator is 'defective' - as is the case in Rear Window, a featured film in the seminar - the audience both senses a difference between the 'reality' of the narrator and the 'Real' of the story and usually finds a space to correspond to this difference. In Rear Window, for example, the space is the apartment of the invalid photographer, Jeff Jefferies. The camera rarely leaves this room and follows Jeff's thoughts as he scrutinizes one neighbor in particular, Lars Thorwald, who seems to have killed his wife.
The inside frame is a common device in art, literature, and architecture. It is the place where a small detail, typically, is able to convert - suddently and totally - our idea of the work as a whole. Remember, for example, The Crying Game's first 15 minutes, where an innocent romantic date at a carneval gives way to a story about Irish terrorism; or M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, where the revelation that the psychiatrist is just one of the dead people his young client Cole cannot escape.
The inside frame is, in the simplest sense, the 'place' of the suture, the 'event' of smuggling some outside (usually feared) element to the protected, safe interior, making the protective enclosure into a trap. This was Poe's device in 'The Masque of the Red Death' as well as so many adventure films where the enemy appears as an insider who betrays his colleagues.
In the terminology of 'boundary language,' the inside frame results when the Other (the structure of authority, the basis of representation) is turned 'inside out' by the 'return of the repressed' surplus or lacking term, the element of pleasure/pain that had been formally excluded in the creation of the network of symbolic relationships comprising reality.
The inside frame, more than any other element, demonstrates the material details by which the human boundary is implicitly ambiguous and complex. Mathematical properties suggest that the boundary is 'topological', while our thinking and theorizing about boundaries tends to be projective, using the boundary as the graphic counterpart of the 'logical distinction'.
The inside frame is the central detail of the seminar and studio, where the history of the hearth, foundation rites, cosmograms, anamorphosis, and other themes interlace to provide a 'natural history of the boundary.'
© 2012, Donald Kunze, all rights reserved