laura u marks

‘The Moscow writer Andrei Sinyavsky wrote letters to his wife while he was imprisoned in Siberia from 1965 to 1972. Quoted in Finnish documentarist Kanerva Cederstrom’s Trans-Siberia: Notes from the camps (1999), Sinyavsky wrote that being in prison - with a definite ending date - is like being on a train. You have nothing to do but wait for the end, so you have a remarkable freedom, and time takes on many different characters: it seems to stand still, it speeds along. He writes, “Time seems to be either nearer or further off than you had expected… It slows down at times, then picks up again, past itself. It is both too big and too small for what it used to be.” Watching a film is like this, too: there’s an implicit contract that you’ll spend a certain period of time, and so within that period you are free; time expands and contracts around you according to how you attend to the film.’

- Laura U. Marks, 'Immersed in the Single Channel: Experimental Media from Theatre to Gallery’, Millennium Film Journal 55 (Spring 2012), p.19.


Marks claims that aniconism is less prevalent than people think in Islamic art but still very common. Often, Westerners associate aniconism as a rule not a tendency. Aniconism is the deliberate avoidance of representing divine beings in art. Often attempts to visualize the divine are regarded as blasphemous. This is due to both the impossibility in truly representing the divine and the cultural importance sound has over images. In contemporary Islamic thought, visual qualities are often subordinated to hearing (Marks 51). Since the divine is infinite, it cannot truly be unfolded in a mere representation. 

Marks chews out her thoughts on aniconism and the prevalence of images online that are digitally altered. Many of us are suspicious the realness these images possess. Online is a place where images are divorced from their indexes and although they are “everywhere, they are disparaged for ‘signifying nothing’” (53). This is a point in Marks’ thought where I wonder if the jump in thought is intentional or I have a hard time understanding the complexities of her argument.