Louise Hornby is Associate Professor of English at UCLA. She is the author of Still Modernism: Photography, Literature, Film (Oxford University Press, 2017). She is currently working on a project about the visual culture of weather in the twentieth century.
Glass tears do not leave a trace. In Man Ray’s photograph, Les Larmes de Verre (Glass Tears) (1932), they rest on the model’s cheekbones—hard, cold drops, threatening to fall (fig. 1). The tears are too smooth, too round, too still. If the tears were to slide off her face, they would scatter like tiny marbles across the studio floor.
Aerial perspective is grounded strictly on the important fact that all mediums called transparent are in some degree dim.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colors
This is an essay about the relationship between film and air. More specifically, it is about film as air, bringing together a theory of medium and setting by way of the air’s dispersed form. My provocation is to conceive of film’s setting as neither location nor place. Instead, unhinging setting from ground, I explore film’s avant-garde and self-reflexive gesture of setting into the air, of claiming the air as its medium.