"Emoticons" is a short video experiment based on six basic emotions. One day, after I gave a lecture on cinema, the brain, and contemporary media culture, two filmmakers asked me if I had ever made a film myself. On my negative answer, they offered their technical assistance and proposed I should make a short personal film related to the topic of my lecture. After observing, reflecting, and writing about the ways in which cinema has literally moved the camera into both the minds of characters and spectators (a process that was already part of cinematography from its beginnings and that has developed in interesting ways over the last three decades), I thought that it was fair enough to take up this challenge and discover unknown territories. In The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Contemporary Screen Culture (Stanford University Press, 2012), I depart from the observation that cinema gives us increasingly intense direct access to character’s brain worlds, suggesting that our audio-visual images co-evolve in resonance with the knowledge we have of principles of the brain and with a philosophical understanding of the complex entanglements between bodies, brains, and world. Inspired by Deleuze’s claim that ‘the brain is the screen,’ I propose that after the movement-image and the time-image, we have entered the phase of the neuro-image that has a particular connection to digital screen culture.
"Emoticons" is a short video-essay that could be considered as a personal and experimental footnote to the theoretical observations in The Neuro-Image. The video departs from a common principle in affective neuroscience that facial expressions relate to basic emotions that are at the core of more complex feelings. These basic emotions operate as simple guidelines for evoking a memory or an association with each affective mood. Besides events from episodic (autobiographical) memory, they all include a reference to film or another audio-visual traces. Consciousness has become cinematographic consciousness. This project was originally conceived as a mini-installation consisting of two video-channels: one video shot and projected in a 360⁰ pan, expressing events inside a brain space; the other video of a talking head projected on a dummy, pronouncing thoughts associated with each basic emotion. With great thanks to filmmakers Igor Kramer and Pepijn Schroeijers to suggest transforming some theory into practice and to help create a ‘neuro-image’ of my brain.