While wandering over the surface of the image, one’s gaze takes in one element after another and produces temporal relationships between them. It can return to an element of the image it has already seen, and ‘before’ can become ‘after’: The time reconstructed by scanning is an eternal recurrence of the same process. Simultaneously, however, one’s gaze also produces significant relationships between elements of the image. It can return again and again to a specific element of the image and elevate it to the level of a carrier of the image’s significance. The complexes of significance arise in which one element bestows significance on another and from which the carrier derives its own significance: the space reconstructed by scanning is the space of mutual significance.
This space and time peculiar to the image is none other than the world of magic, a world in which everything is repeated and in which everything participates in a significant context. Such a world is structurally different from that of the linear world of history in which nothing is repeated and in which everything has causes and will have consequences. For example: in the historical world, sunrise is the cause of the cock’s crowing; in the magical one, sunrise signifies crowing and crowing signifies sunrise. The significance of images is magical.
The magical nature of images must be taken into account when decoding them. Thus it is wrong to look for ‘frozen events’ in images. Rather they replace events by states of things and translate them into scenes. The magical power of images lies in their superficial nature, and the dialectic inherent in them – the contradiction peculiar to them – must be seen in the light of this magic.
Images are mediations between the world and human beings. Human beings ‘ex-ist’, i.e. the world is not immediately accessible to them and therefore images are needed to make it comprehensible. […]