Folds to Black or White

Curator's Note

After the Thai Board of Censors cut six “offensive” scenes in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century (2007), the director replaced them with a haptic black leader and silent soundtrack.[1] The filmmaker stated that he wanted the “audience to feel that they’re forced to be in the dark.” He added, “If censorship is still with us, then maybe this is how we should watch the movies.”[2] In response to censorship, suppression, and effacement, some filmmakers and artists employ folded strategies in their work. These notes present a synopsis of my theory of folds to black or white in global moving image practices.[3] As resistant modes of experimentation, folds to black or white counter impossibilities and impediments in the social sphere, inviting alternative readings of history and memory. My theory draws on productive connections between Gilles Deleuze’s concepts of the fold and the black or white screen, with a special focus on minor, or modern political cinema.[4] In addition, I fuse Laura U. Marks’s enfolding-unfolding triadic model, “Experience–Information–Image,”[5] with Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the abstract machine of faciality, or the “white wall” (“signifiance”) and “black hole” (“subjectification”) system.[6]

For Deleuze, thinking is folding. He theorizes the fold as a kind of subjectivation due to its ability to locate itself at the confluence of matter and spirit, the inside and the outside.[7] The power of thinking enfolded within the potentiality of the virtual outside becomes more pronounced in minor artworks, acquiring a political dimension.[8] Marks conceptualizes the enfolding-unfolding aesthetics in the broader context of media philosophy, but marginal cinemas—intercultural cinema or cinema at the periphery—often inspire her writings. She describes her model of Experience, Information, and Image as three planes, among which there is a movement of ebb and flow, enfolding (virtualizing) and unfolding (actualizing).[9] Confronting the instability of memory, suppression of experience, censorship of information, and omissions of history, minoritarian artists think (or fold) outside of majoritarian history and psychological memory, in absolute memory and pure time.[10] The abstract machine of faciality not only dictates the politics of the face but is also embedded within the signifying forms of social life,[11] which makes minoritarian artists particularly attuned to its mechanisms of operation. According to Deleuze and Guattari, the abstract machine of faciality operates in a mixed mode of two systems: the “white wall” is the surface of the signifier, while “black holes” are redistributed on that wall.[12] The white surface forms the basis of the generic dominant regime with all its rights and privileges. The minor and the subaltern are tossed into the black abyss of the eyes, nose, and mouth.[13] If the face is captured by state politics, then creative micropolitics strives to dismantle the face. For Deleuze and Guattari, thwarting the logic of the face urgently calls for inventing new decoding strategies.[14] Whenever minoritarian artists find white walls and black holes, they counteract the overcoding of the abstract machine of faciality.[15] With reference to Deleuze and Guattari’s theory and Marks’s aesthetics, I propose that folds to black or white in minor artworks entail the enfolding of suppressed or dismissed minor memory and material experience and the enfolding of censored or erased minor history, information, and images, as well as their selective unfoldings by dominant powers and mainstream media.

Seen through the lens of film-philosophy, my coinage of folds to black or white expands on both fade-ins and fade-outs as rational transitions and black or white screens as irrational cuts in cinema.[16] On the one hand, if the fade is part of the “major” means of expression in cinema, then shifting the emphasis to the fold as a “minorizing” strategy deterritorializes the fade, altering it from within. In minor artworks, social impossibilities become the driving forces for releasing lines of flight. The act of folding rather than simply fading to black or white points to various impasses, which may prevent or obstruct the unfolding of certain images, information, and experience. On the other hand, if in modern cerebral cinema a radical interstice (sometimes as a black or white screen) opens between two images that makes them incommensurable,[17] then in minor cinema folds to black or white may be better described as inflections that invite us to unravel their infinite differentiation. Privileging the fold in cinematic expression emphasizes the processual side of thought and results in a nuanced and creative approach, suitable for the description of complexities of minor memory and history. Deleuze treats the process of folding materially, not metaphorically. Folds to black or white deterritorialize the figurative in cinema by effacing the domain of visual inscription, proceeding not by negative erasure but by the folding and unfolding of matter. Folds to black or white can manifest as blackouts or whiteouts in various degrees of dissolving, blurring, smudging, smearing, or thinning out. Some filmmakers and artists consistently resort to these folded practices in their work: for folds to black, see Glenn Ligon, mounir fatmi, Raoul Peck, Rea Tajiri, and Ai Weiwei; and for folds to white, see Alfredo Jaar, Ismaïl Bahri, François Bucher, and Akram Zaatari.[18]

The Chilean-born and New York-based artist Alfredo Jaar frequently relies on folds to white in his practice (e.g., Lament of the Images [2002] and May 1, 2011 [2011]).[19] Jaar’s extensive The Rwanda Project (1994–2010) is dedicated to the minor memory and history of the Rwandan genocide. One work in this series, Epilogue (1998),[20] presents an extended fold to white, countering effaced experience and information with effacement as an experimental strategy. The three-minute video opens with a glaring white screen, which slowly reveals the outlines of the eighty-eight-year-old Caritas Namazuru’s face. Namazuru had to walk around 400 kilometers to a refugee camp in then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to escape genocide in Rwanda. Her face is never presented in sharp focus, and after thirty seconds we can see only thirty percent of her facial features.[21] After a few moments of ghostly suspension, Namazuru’s face slowly dissolves back into pure immanent whiteness. The fold to white enfolds the experience of the Tutsi victims of the Rwandan genocide, to which the world turned a deaf ear, permitting the atrocities to continue.

Iranian cinema is replete with instances of folds to black, as filmmakers in this country often operate under oppressive restrictions. In my recently published essay, I advance the concepts of the “sartorial Islamic Baroque” and “folded feminisms” in relation to two Iranian women directors, Mania Akbari and Ana Nyma (Anonyme, or Anonymous). [22] I argue that folds to black in their films function as modes of resistance to gender inequality in Iran. Here, I extend my discussion of folded strategies in cinema to another instance of folds to black found in the closing credits of several Iranian films. For this thematic week of In Media Res, I’ve created a short video, Folded Credits (2023), which draws on my remix-assemblage, This Video Does Not Exist (2015/2023).[23] Cinema is typically treated as a collaborative medium, and at the close of each film, end credits usually roll, listing the director(s), cinematographer(s), cast, crew, and production companies, disclosing a list of participants. Some Iranian films, however, end with folds to black without any credits. Folded Credits remixes folds to black in Mohammad Rasoulof’s Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013), Ana Nyma’s Remote Control (2015), and Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (2015).[24] Ana Nyma is an anonymous woman director, while Rasoulof and Panahi were infamously arrested in 2010, banned from making films for twenty years, and sentenced to six-year prison terms for various charges including alleged collusion, anti-regime propaganda, and unlawful assembly.[25] In each of these films, in addition to folds to black, the directors replace the end credits with statements that contest the censorship of information and suppression of experience by the Iranian government. The folded credits serve as affirmative announcements that in the absence of artistic freedom resistance continues by other means. In so doing, the three films defy dominant meanings and identifications imposed on them by the political regime and strive to create a different future for the “missing people,”[26] calling forth alternative subjectivities. More so, the final folds to black invent the missing audience, encouraging spectators to unfold what has been enfolded by reaching out to the virtual realm, where a new relation to thought has the potential to emerge.



The Ministry of Islamic Guidance approves the credits of distributable films. Despite my heartfelt wish, this film has no credits. I am indebted to everyone who helped us. This film would not exist without their support.


    Due to censorship in Iran, and to maintain the safety of the crew and cast, they have renounced from [sic] being named in these credits.


An Anonymous film

This anonymity is not just a moral posture. It is also a rule of the game that is very much a reality. A big thank you to all who participated anonymously in this film and wish to either stay [in] or return to Iran. It is not possible to reveal their names. Not yet ...


Fold to black.


[1] Syndromes and a Century (Sang sattawat), directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand, Anna Sanders Films, 2006), film.

[2] Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal, “Syndromes and a Century: The Long Road Home,” April 4, 2008,, accessed October 17, 2023.

[3] See my forthcoming book, Tanya Shilina-Conte, Black Screens, White Frames: Gilles Deleuze and the Filmmaking Machine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2025).

[4] Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (1988; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993); Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (1985; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

[5] Deleuze’s influential ideas about the fold have been extended in film and media theory by a range of thinkers, among them Tom Conley, Michael Goddard, Timothy Murray, Patricia MacCormack, Saige Walton, Laura U. Marks, and Giuliana Bruno. Tom Conley, “From Multiplicities to Folds: On Style and Form in Deleuze,” in A Deleuzian Century?, ed. Ian Buchanan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 249–66; Michael Goddard, “The Surface, the Fold, and the Subversion of Form: Towards a Deleuzian Aesthetic of Sobriety,” Pli 16 (2005): 1–27; Timothy Murray, Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008); Patricia MacCormack, Cinesexuality (London: Routledge, 2008); Saige Walton, “‘Folds in the Soul’: Deleuze’s Baroque, Wölfflin and Grandrieux’s Un Lac,” Culture, Theory, and Critique 57, no. 2 (2008): 197–214; Laura U. Marks, Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010); Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

[6] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (1980; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 167.

[7] Deleuze, The Fold, 3.

[8] Deleuze, The Fold, 38.

[9] Laura U. Marks, “Enfolding-Unfolding Aesthetics, or the Unthought at the Heart of Wood,” in Technology and Desire: The Transgressive Art of Moving Images, ed. Rania Gaafar and Martin Schulz (London: Intellect Books, 2013), 152.  151–62.

[10] Deleuze remarks that minor arts are “linked to minorities as a sign of their vocation,” making it possible to speak of “minor(itarian)” (but not identitarian) cinema. Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. D. W. Smith and M. A. Greco (1993; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 109.

[11] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 115.

[12] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 167.

[13] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 184.

[14] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 116.

[15] For more on this connection, see my chapter, “Folds to Black or White in Minor Cinema and Art Practice.” Shilina-Conte, Black Screens, White Frames.

[16] For rational and irrational cuts in cinema, see Deleuze, Cinema 2.

[17] Deleuze, Cinema 2, 200.

[18] For my analyses of these artists, see my chapter, “Folds to Black or White in Minor Cinema and Art Practice.”

[19] Alfredo Jaar, Lament of the Images, 2002, plexiglass text panels (texts by David Levi Strauss), light wall, and mixed media, each text panel 23 in. x 20 in., light wall 6 ft. x 12 ft., Museum of Modern Art, New York; Alfredo Jaar, May 1, 2011, 2011, two LCD monitors and two digital prints, official White House photograph by Pete Souza, 15 ½ in. x 19 ¼ in. x 1 ½ in. each, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO.

[20] Alfredo Jaar, Epilogue, 1998, video installation, 35mm silent color film transferred to DVD, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

[21] Alfredo Jaar, “It is Difficult,”, accessed June 9, 2023.

[22] Tanya Shilina-Conte, “The Sartorial Islamic Baroque: Folded Feminisms in the Experimental Cinema of Mania Akbari and Ana Nyma (Anonyme),” Screen 63, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 47–67.

[23] Tanya Shilina-Conte, This Video Does Not Exist, 2015/2023, This video is the multimodal companion piece to my scholarly book. This work has been supported by The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy Research Grant, University at Buffalo. 

[24] Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Dast-Neveshtehaa Nemisoozand), directed by Mohammad Rasoulof (United Kingdom, Kino Lorber, 2013); Taxi, directed by Jafar Panahi (Iran, Jafar Panahi Film Productions, 2015); Remote Control (Télécommande), directed by Anonymous (France, L’Atelier documentaire, 2015), films. The latter director has referred to herself as Ana Nyma, Anonyme, or Anonymous.

[25] Both directors have since faced several subsequent arrests. See “Jafar Panahi is third film-maker in a week to be arrested in Iran,” The Guardian, July 11, 2022,, accessed October 17, 2023.

[26] Deleuze, Cinema 2, 216.

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