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Int[errupt]ion & Iterability

The Higgs Boson particle was discovered by racing, smashing and exploding protons together basically at the speed of light. The scientists measured the decay signature in the aftermath of the collision to prove the existence of the Higgs. The decay signature is used to prove that the particle, now smashed to smithereens, existed; disaster residue proves that a rupture has occurred, and knowledge of that eruption helps shape our perception of the world.


Deleuze's time-image39 theory proposes that contemporary cinema takes images that interrupt (erupt through)  traditional narrative systems and present a non-linear and fragmented perception of time. These images challenge the viewer's understanding of time and reveal the temporal character of reality. Deleuze's time-image presents a temporal structure in which the past present and future exist as boundaries in cinematic time, with potential to cross through the threshold between temporal modes, using tools unique to the audiovisual language.


Derrida's theory of events suggests that events aren't a linear or causal series, but rather a rupture or a discontinuity in history. Events are not predetermined or predictable, they fall from above and challenge conventional notions of causality and structure. Both theories emphasise the importance of ruptures and discontinuities when considering ontological shifts.


James Marsh’s Man on Wire was a documentary released in 2008 that utilised interviews, eye witness accounts, archival footage and reenactments, to tell the story of Philippe Petit’s infamous tightrope walk between the twin towers in 1974. The film demonstrates Derrida's event theory, in particular the contradiction of Event’s iterability. Derrida claims that we need re-presentations of the event in order to prove its singularity since “repeatability is required to establish the event as singular “40. In the case of Man on Wire this is twofold, the documentary is an iteration of the event, but it also creates a porous time-space in which the wire-walk in 1974 and the collapse of the towers on September 11th 2001 are iterations of the same event, since the walk although preceding it, will always evoke memory of the collapse. This echos the notion of iterability in Derrida's event theory, the notion that events are subject to repetition, reinterpretation, and transformation with each retelling or representation.

By referencing Petit’s wire-walk as unquestioningly singular,  we are actually marking it as reproducible. “Something new, a new event, also takes place in every account of an event”.41 The re-telling, which is how all events are told, is actually a form of iteration, and draws new borders of alterity with each re-presentation. Though the event is anchored to the singular, the re-enactment, and retelling of the event challenges its temporal logic. “There appears to be no tangible ontological difference between the event and its representation” according to Derrida the the event is transformed by each retelling, whether it is an oral chronicle of an event, who’s aura traverses through the ears and mouths of listeners (in a Benjamin fashion) or a documented object with its own signs and significance. By using models, diagrams, re-enactments, historical documents, news articles and footage to animate the story of how Petit managed his ascent (the walk was documented in still photos) the documentary Man on Wire creates a reconstruction that draws from various temporalities and textures, footage shot decades after his walk, and documents pre-dating it. Beyond the overt reference to 9/11, the films audiovisual language of collage and various representations bring together signifiers that reveal the paradoxical nature of events being utterly singular and therefore iterable. Petit’s associate, Allix, references the very construction of the towers, as built for Philippe’s act, that it was as if their whole existence was in anticipation of this very moment.


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