Film as Source of Architectural Imagination: From the Space of Representation to the Space of Production
Katarina Andjelkovic (University of Oklahoma)
Some of the recent architecture practices have recognized that film can provide a source of new architectural imagination while contextualizing our kinesthetic experience of space. Although the term kinesthetic in relation to space has never been really out of actuality, this essay tends to examine its role in the production and representation of space while questioning in what ways can thinking about space be informed by spatial turn going on in both film and architecture. Yet early film projects, like Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929), have recognized an analogy between film and cinematic eye and thus the possibility of extending the perception from the paradigmatic change in the viewing conditions to the construction of reality (by kinematic means). The origin of such a transfer from a positively defined “real” space to the space “mediated by media”, was identified at the time of the emergence of modernist space-time paradigm. The analysis of the first modernist architectural experiments, from Sant’Elia to Le Corbusier, we notice the common tendency to reproduce movement; nevertheless, they advocate the static narrative of architecture and thus undoubtedly testify to the neglect of a certain ways of imagining space. The most important among them is the disregard for our real experience and relations with the space, which is essentially kinesthetic. What testify this idea is the incongruence between the kinesthetic experience of space and how to translate that experience into architecture, which is reflected in developing knowledge that leaves no space for dynamic way of creating space through visual tracing of movement. On the other side, by emphasizing the problem of visual representation, Giedion draws attention to the multi-perspectival character (movement) and hence kinematic element that is embodied in the design (space) of certain examples of modern architecture. Taking this tendency to engage film as a tool to express kinesthetic experience in architecture, we can offer another interpretation of these attempts. Regarding the fact that the theorization of the post-WWII cinema had fundamentally influenced the spectator’s perception of time and space, conditions have been created for connecting film with specific spatial organization. Moreover, considering that the film works from the 60s and 70s drew attention to their architectural surroundings, their dialectic relationship to modernism will be read through the eyes of de Bruyn and Peter Wollen for the purpose of demonstrating that this line of thought beyond the temporal turn in film and architecture pays homage to the role of kinesthetic experience in a shift from the space of representation to the space of production
Katarina Andjelkovic, with a Ph.D. in architecture and a M.Arch.Eng., I am a practicing architect, researcher and a painter; a founder of Atelier AG Andjelkovic (2013– architecture design, urban design, graphic design, painting), a Visiting Professor at University of Oklahoma – College of Architecture and Chair of Creative Architecture. I am currently working with the American School research team, teach studio and give workshops. I taught at the Institute of Form, Theory and History – University of Oslo (2012/13), at AHO- School of Architecture and Design in Oslo and was a guest lecturer at Institute of Urbanism and Landscape – University of Oslo and I lecture internationally at conferences (at University of Notre Dame- USA, University of Innsbruck, University of Zagreb, Belgrade etc.); also served as a visiting researcher at Institute of Urbanism and Landscape – University of Oslo, taught at the Department of Architecture- University of Belgrade – design studio (Master studies: 2008/12) and was a Research Assistant holding the Fellowship from the Ministry of Science (as a researcher at two scientific research projects at University of Belgrade). I tutored several international workshops in Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, etc. I have won numerous awards for my architecture design and urban design competitions, among which the Multifunctional City Center, Minsk, in Belorussia, with Facilities of Regional Importance (preliminary Urban Planning and Architectural Design in co-authorship: 2008) was approved for the development of urban procedures, built and completed. I am a full author of the Preliminary Architectural Design of the National project supported by the Government of the Republic of Serbia: New Building for National Cancer Research Center in Belgrade “Oncology 2”, Pasterova street, P= 10.500,00 m2 (2016- ); was invited to design Anadir Center for Sport and Recreation, in Anadir, Russia for Investor R. Abramovich (2007); implemented a prototype of the new model for Veka window- the realization of the winning competition design solution (PVC, dim. 2.2m x 1.6m) verified by the company Veka and Saint-Gobain Isover, exhibited at 32. South-East Europe Belgrade Building Expo (UFI), Belgrade 2006. I have published my research in international journals: in Italy, Slovakia, Spain, UK, USA, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia – indexed and abstracted in Thomson Reuters AHCI (Web of Science). I won the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce Award for Best Master Thesis defended at Universities in Serbia in all disciplines (2009). I currently serve as an adviser in the coordination between National Cancer Research Center and Public Investment management Office- established by the Decree of the Government of the Republic of Serbia as a new body of the Government tasked with managing projects of reconstruction (2016- ), and as an adviser in the coordination between National Cancer Research Center and Ministry of Health Republic of Serbia (2015- ).
States of Emergency and Enchantment: The Place of Imagination in Listen to Britain
Scott Birdwise (York University)
Humphrey Jennings’s Listen to Britain (1942) is a war film without any explosions or scenes of battle or carnage; instead, it presents slices of everyday life in and around London linked together through an associative audiovisual montage. The “war effort” of the people of Britain, including watching out for enemy air raids and industrial labour, is positioned as firmly coinciding with the civilian pleasures of the music hall and domestic life. In this way, Jennings imagines the ongoing state of emergency declared by the British government in August 1939, a condition of total war and state regulation, as part of the myth of “the people’s war.” What I refer to as the people’s total war thus collapses state security (defence against a foreign enemy) and an optics of everyday life into a modern myth, one that brings the sovereign power of the emergency and the exception into immediate contact with an aesthetics of enchantment. Duty and enjoyment, effort and entertainment, exposure to the threat of destruction and the celebration of life overlap in Jennings’s poetic investment in the quotidian dimensions of popular experience in a time of crisis.
This paper contextualizes the coincidence of wartime emergency and enchantment in Listen to Britain through a discussion of Jennings’s background in Surrealism (developed throughout the 1930s). While it has been argued elsewhere that the war provided a particularly fertile site of activity and gravity for Jennings’s Surrealist sensibility, I also maintain that Surrealism equipped him with the means for developing an imaginative contribution — or adaptation — to the people’s total war, what, I argue, is a biopoetic counterpart to the biopolitics of emergency. Working through Jennings’s theorization of poetry and the Image with that developed by his contemporary Walter Benjamin, I examine how Listen to Britain presents a threshold between space (geographic, national, psychic) consciously and unconsciously perceived and represented. Considering the state of emergency’s surveillance apparatus that suspends the laws of representation in conjunction with the Surrealist investment in suspending the laws of perception, my paper develops the concept of the national pan-optical unconscious to help articulate the contours of a new, convulsive nomos — one that we are still struggling with today — that appeared with the people’s total war.
Scott Birdwise is a PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at York University and a part-time instructor at OCAD University. He previously worked as a programmer at the Canadian Film Institute, where he oversaw its experimental film screening series, Cafe Ex. He has published essays and book chapters on experimental film and media, Canadian cinema, documentary film, and animation. He is currently working on an article on the image of “the people” in the British documentary tradition.
From Becoming-Indigenous to Territorial Complicities and Decolonial Spatial Practices
Olivier Bissonnette-Lavoie (Université de Montréal)
Quebec’s cinema has been, from its inception, highly concerned with space, land and territory. More specifically, direct cinema and documentary have, from Maurice Proulx’s En pays neufs (1937) towards its era of glory during the 50’s and 60’s, largely depicted Quebec’s settler as a pioneer taking possession of a parcel in some remote, wintry and hostile space in order to domesticate and cultivate it (Jean, 2009). Thus, the mastering of nature and land, of space, is closely tied to one of Quebec’s most recognized cinematographic genre.
If the same colonial narrative seems to be observable in all of North America, the specificity of Quebec’s case lies within its particular minoritarian status : that of a colonized colonizer (Mills, 2010). Indeed, Quebec’s settler dynamics have long been sidestepped (and obliterated) so the focus could be put on the affirmative and emancipative dimensions rendered necessary by its minoritarian status.
More recently, concurrently to reconciliation’s discourse, we observe a tendency to integrate a mythic indigenous past into the narrative of the Québécois’ resistance – with the films L’empreinte (2015) or Québékoisie (2013), for example. No longer are space or land the focus; now, identity (that of the white francophone settler as profundedly métissé) has become the prism through which the nationalist project is foregrounded. But once again, this indigenization of the settler, as a « move to innocence » (Tuck and Yang, 2012), erases, forecloses, and perpetuates colonial heritage.
This communication will first explore this problematic with a decolonial reading of L’empreinte and Québékoisie. It will then speculate as to what kind of spatial and territorial politics could be needed if decolonization is not taken as a metaphor, but as a possibility for emancipation. Contrary to the « becoming-indigenous » present in both these films, what is needed, from the settler’s side, are perhaps decolonial spatial practices; a renewed territorial relation and aesthetic that enables alliances and complicities between indigenous and allochthonous radical politics.
Olivier Bissonnette-Lavoie is a doctoral student at Université de Montréal. He is interested in activism, aesthetics, continental philosophy, and indigenous thoughts.
László Moholy-Nagy’s Projection Spaces
Oliver A. I. Botar (University of Manitoba)
Projection or Lichtspiele, along with the creation of Lichtraum (Light Space) as Hans Richter phrased it, were central themes in Moholy-Nagy’s aesthetic. Think for example of photography (both exposure of the light-sensitive surface in the camera and printing by projecting light in an enlarger or to present the work as a slide), or film (again in terms of image-creation in the camera and subsequent projection for viewing) and, of course, the photogram (Moholy’s innovation of holding objects above the light-sensitive surface, as opposed to laying them on it and steering the light source to project, filter or block light projection). It comes as no surprise that in his writing Moholy conflates paintings and projection screens. Referring to cinematic projection spaces, Moholy was critical of thinking that did not fully take account of the medium’s technical possibilities. He thought in radically new ways about both the configuration films could take, given the possibilities of projection, most strikingly in his proposals for multiple, simultaneous projections onto all kinds of surfaces and on all sides, within a single space. This Polycinema proposal also involved the idea that pivoting mirrors in front of a projector, or indeed pivoting the projector itself, would offer a means to make the projected image move about. Projector-tracking conjured up a host of scenarios in Moholy’s imagination, e.g. with three films, all components of a single story, unfurling independently of one another on different parts of the cinema’s interior, and conjoining at specific points of contact between characters. The possibilities are dizzying, also affording enormous scope for non-narrative tracking projection of abstract films. This is where the Polycinema, an idea Moholy first proposed in 1925 and elaborated repeatedly subsequently, intersects with his idea of “light painting” or “light formation,” and the means to achieve this, the Light Prop for an Electric Stage. Projection and “projection spaces” as Walter Gropius phrased it, are terms that relate to much of the art that Moholy produced or foresaw during his career from 1922 on.
Oliver A. I. Botar is Professor of Art History at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. His Ph.D. dissertation (University of Toronto) was entitled “Prolegomena to the Study of Biomorphic Modernism: Biocentrism, László Moholy-Nagy’s ‘New Vision’ and Ernő Kállai’s Bioromantik.” In it, he related Biocentric ideologies to central European Modernism, particularly as it relates to the Bauhaus, and this set the course of much of his subsequent career. He is the author of Technical Detours: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered (2006, in Hungarian, 2007) and Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, Media and the Arts (also in a German edition, Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste, 2014). The associated exhibitions, which he curated, were shown in New York, Rutgers, Budapest, Pécs, Winnipeg and Berlin (Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung). He is co-editor of Biocentrism and Modernism (with Isabel Wünsche, 2011) and telehor (with Klemens Gruber, 2013). He has published numerous articles, and has lectured widely in North American, Europe and Japan. He has also worked on Canadian art, publishing A Bauhäusler in Canada: Andor Weininger in the 50s (2009), An Art at the Mercy of Light: Works by Eli Bornstein (2013), and several articles.
No-Space-Whatsoevers: Blackness in Crystals of Time and Spatial Coherence
Gust Burns (University of Washington, Seattle)
Deleuze famously described the any-space-whatevers of Classical and Modernist European cinema as before and after spaces, spaces of deconnection and of emptiness. In post-war cinema, any-space-whatevers are those whose inhabitants have been evacuated. So the any-space-whatever is always tied, through its before- or after-ness, to a virtual presence, whether past or future.
I contrast the any-space-whatever with the idea of a no-space, which could also be described as a “zone of non-being.” In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon elaborates the nature of the colonial world as being partitioned off into two non-dialectical zones, each inhabited by different species, the white and the black” (39-40). While the any-space-whatever finds its anorigin in a past or future presence, the no-space houses an absolute absence of being.
The recent work of philosopher and critic Frank Wilderson develops Fanon’s theorizations to illustrate more fully how the ontological status of blacks in the modern world has been structured politically through chattel slavery, jim crow, and policing and the prison-industrial complex. Blackness, as a structure of “ontological suffering” functions as the bedrock upon which white (and multi-cultural) being can come to recognize itself. The natal alienation, general dishonor, and gratuitous violence comprised by slavery (Patterson) as an ontological state strips the black of relationality, of contemporaries, at the same time it makes these possible for whites. It follows that the black can attain neither temporal nor spatial coherence, since “to relate, socially, one must enter a social drama’s mise-en-scene with spatial and temporal coherence – in other words, with Human capacity” (Wilderson 251).
Utilizing Wilderson’s elaboration, I revisit Deleuze’s relay between the actual and virtual, “peaks of present and sheets of past,” which constitute the core of the time-image. Within a schema that relies on the differentiation, if not discernibility, of past and present, the black, for whom temporal coherence has been prohibited (for whom the past and the present are not non-identitical) simply cannot appear. Any space which “houses” the non-coherence of blackness must be a no-space, not an “any-space.” This amounts to the cinematic production of Fanon’s colonial black zone, the ghetto.
Gust Burns is a scholar and composer. His compositions deal largely with the obstruction of sound and listening, and so feature both audible and inaudible materials. His scholarly interests include the production and (dis-)articulation of the faculties. His project consists in charting and theorizing these phenomena through literature, music, and art history, specifically twentieth century African-American literature, and Sound Art. Intellectual protocols for this project include analyses of both capital/empire and (anti-black) racism. Gust is a graduate student in the department of English at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Virtual Reality: Archaeology of Future Cinema
Reşat Fuat Cam (York University)
Freed from the constraints of screen, Virtual Reality would seem to be realizing the recurrent utopian project of non-mediation that haunts cinema from the outset. Particular evident in Eisenstein’s theories of multisensory Stereokino, Münsterberg’s and Balazs’ ideas on Stereoscopic 3D, Bazin’s Total Cinema, Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema, Heilig’s “The Cinema of The Future” to Sutherland’s Sensoroma, these projections ultimately converge in an utopian model for cinema: a cinema without limitation, or more radically, a cinema without an outside.
As an extension of this program, contemporary VR aesthetics invests in immersion and multimedia strategies that abolish the limits that condition the image. For instance, Jaron Lanier defines VR as “a world without limitation, a world as unlimited as dreams.” However, neither cinema nor VR are unique in this context. In fact, it’s a common motive in different arts starting from 19th century aesthetic programs. Rancière argues that in the modernist programs of Brecht and Artaud, for example, “theatre is presented as a mediation striving for its own abolition.” For Heidegger, it is a recurrent topos in late modernity: it is the grounding “metaphysics” of modern science that aims to conquest the world in its entirety through images.
In this paper, after reviewing discourses on immersion and multimedia strategies in VR and cinema, I critically engage with the political and ideological tenets of this rhetoric of immediacy or the limitless image by mobilizing Heidegger’s, Foucault’s and Rancière’s critiques of late modernity. Moreover using Deleuzian concept of intensive spaces, this paper considers VR as an interactive process that constantly re-defines the affinity and the difference between “heteronomous” spatial categories. Replacing the aesthetic chasm that conditions cinematic imagery VR is, indeed, a constant negotiation between the image and what is outside of it, hence spectacle and spectator, real and imaginary, and actual and virtual.
Resat Fuat Cam is a filmmaker/researcher and a PhD candidate in the Cinema and Media Studies program at York University. His research focuses mainly on the interrelations between philosophy, new media and cinema. Affiliated with the Alice Lab for Computational Worldmaking and Stereoscopic 3D Lab, he is currently looking at new screening technologies such VR and stereoscopic 3D.
Towards A Contemporary “Space-Image” Cinema? Thinking Space Through the Viewer’s Body
Antoine Gaudin (University Paris 3 – Sorbonne nouvelle [IRCAV])
In this talk I will argue that the works of some contemporary filmmakers (among whom Gus Van Sant, Bruno Dumont, Lisandro Alonso, Albert Serra, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jia Zhang-Ke) constitute a specific poetics of space. The hypothesis is that their films do not simply use the space as a background, a pattern, or even an agent of narration and representation (“Space becomes place”, c.f. Stephen Heath), but also contribute to reveal space as a critical philosophical issue in human existence and in the same time as a fundamental material of cinema’s very own plastic composition.
Far from the pictorial or theatrical categories of space, and far from the spatial “grammar” of classical narrative and editing, the presentation will begin by the introduction of a new theoretical tool, the “space-image”, which is meant to be more closely linked to the “cineplastic” (c.f. Elie Faure) and “abstract-rhythmic” powers of cinema. “Space-image” is less about the “space” that is shown to us (“behind the screen”) than about the “space” that we live, as it is inscribed in the film itself. Based on studies on the viewer’s embodiment in the cinematic apparatus and on the film as a perceptive phenomenon, the paradigm of “space-image” advocates that filmic space has no permanent substance: it is never given as a still object, a steady form. Rather, space, as a filmic primordial material (not only as an object of representation), is subjected to constant shaping throughout the whole screening.
Short film clips from various times (from early to contemporary cinema) and styles (from narrative to experimental) will be used to illustrate and to test this approach of cinematic space, which leads to tackle some specific aesthetic issues (the rythmic dimension of space, the abstract dimension of the figurative image, the kinesthetic implication of the viewers, etc.) not so often taken in consideration in discourses regarding cinema.
Using this complementary approach, I will then examine the works of a few contemporary filmmakers, trying to show how their films, because of their global narrative and editing principles, structure the modelling of a primordial filmic space that can reveal some “hidden dimensions” (c.f. Edward T. Hall) of our everyday space to us. The point here is to underline the phenomenological impact of the cinema medium – that is its ability to make us experience and comprehend differently our lived space by making it both a sensory and existential issue.
In the end, the main goal of this talk will be to articulate an aesthetic question (on the specificity of film) to a philosophical issue derived from sensory experience (the spatial structure of being-in-the-world).
Antoine Gaudin is a senior lecturer (maître de conférences) in Film Studies at University Paris 3 – Sorbonne nouvelle (IRCAV). He is the author of L’espace cinématographique. Esthétique et dramaturgie (Paris, Armand Colin, 2015, 215 p.) and the co-editor of Représentations-limites des corps sexuels dans le cinéma et l’audiovisuel contemporains (Paris, Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2017).
Hollows and Folds of Filmic Poché: The Turbulent Architecture of Pronouns in Ozon’s Frantz (2016)
Don Kunze (Penn State University)
The pronoun does something interesting to space. It clears a place and protects it in order to make it “wait,” temporally, to be filled. Although this place-holding creates confidence that the place will be filled, it suspends attention in such a way that a dual register is created in which action can flow around and past the protected zone. The hopefulness of the pronoun has to do with a binding force that acts like a force field around the place-held-open, a contractual, ethical, and evidentiary processual space that confirms or completes a process of correction, confirmation, or rectification. In this sense, the pronoun’s contract is “orthopsychic” (Bachelard) — an “objective self-correction/adjustment that opens up a dimension of speculative freedom with the invisible space-times (poché) of the film.”
“Orthopsychics” predominates in François Ozon’s 2016 film, Frantz. Anna, whose fiancé was killed in the trenches of World War I, befriends Adrien, a French soldier who claims to have been Frantz’s best friend. The film’s first half, predicated on the credibility of Adrien’s story, is refracted by the second half, which revises this account but, in an uncanny way, “fulfills its prophecy.” Anna’s point-of-view role mediates the exchanges between characters, scenes, and even specific lines of dialog that function as pronouns with (1) an anaphoric or “horizontal” relation within the “surfaces” of the filmic presentation as well as (2) a transformative deictic transformation of the audience’s reception of the film’s design. The pronoun function persuades us to suspend our judgment to await a greater reward, to be delivered in an ethical, esthetic, or even cosmic register, yet the chiasmus and chirality of the film’s two parts has received no critical attention.
The theme of orthopsychics opens the way to construct a general theory about the “bi-spatiality” of film. This presentation aims to articulate a novel idea of time’s relation to spatiality, as “rectification” operating within the standard diegetic flow of action and exposition. The orthopsychics of space-time is also an “orthographics,” where material conditions create both material surpluses and voids, sometimes simultaneously.
Don Kunze has taught architecture theory and film criticism at Penn State, U. Penn., LSU, U. at Buffalo, and Virginia Tech (WAAC). He is an emeritus professor of Architecture at Penn State University. His recent research includes the analysis of temporality’s spatialized forms in fiction, film, philosophy, and architecture; the calculus of form used by Speculative Realism; and the “orthographic” comics of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. He lives with his wife and cat in central Pennsylvania.
Deleuze in 3-Dimensions
William J. Littlefield (Case Western Reserve University)
The 20th century French philosopher Gilles Deleuze published two books on the philosophy of cinema: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (Cinéma 1. L’Image-Mouvement, 1983) and Cinema 2: The Time Image (Cinéma 2, L’Image-temps, 1985). The texts were groundbreaking in their analysis of the metaphysics and semiotics of the film medium. At the time of their publication, 35 mm still reigned supreme. But, since then, a massive shift to digital projection has occurred. And, even more recently, 3-D films have proliferated after their potential was asserted by James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). At the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018, a series of virtual reality films was debuted. This radical change in the mechanics of film demand that Deleuze’s theory be revisited in light of a new spatial dimension. The evolution in film may be encroaching on other aspects of Deleuze’s thought, such as his interpretation of the virtual. While film criticism must keep pace with the technological advancements of its medium, it can increasingly rely on insights from other fields. Spatial critiques of cyberspace, particularly those of Michael Benedikt, can function as useful complements to Deleuze’s movement-image and virtuality. The philosopher proudly confesses an indebtedness to the American pragmatist, C. S. Peirce. The semiotic triad of icon-index-symbol developed by Peirce is a fundamental building block for Deleuze’s film theory. Of these three, the index has significant consequences for this emergent dimension in cinema. This paper will explore how Deleuze’s original theory of cinema can be applied to expansionary film technologies such as 3-dimensional stereoscopic film and virtual reality film. Limitations to Deleuze’s theory will be identified in instances where its scope fails to accommodate a third dimension. Subsequently, the paper will attempt to bridge these gaps by appealing to Deleuze’s own sources, such as Peirce and Bergson, and by applying other realms of Deleuzian thought about space and performance. Finally, where this approach is insufficient, theories of cyberspace are incorporated.
William J. Littlefield has conducted both his undergraduate and graduate studies with the World Literature and Natural Sciences programs at Case Western Reserve University. His research interests include philosophy of technology, digital humanities, semiotics, and critical theory. Complementing his academic work, he has been a software engineer at multiple Fortune 500 companies. Originally from Dallas, Texas, he currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio where he is still affiliated with his alma mater.
Place as Memory: Time Travel via Backgrounds in Immersive Digital Environments
Jason Margolis (Simon Fraser University)
Technological advances enable the rendering of realistic 3D and virtual reality representations of actual places from the past, including buildings and streets that have long since disappeared. The field of digital humanities relies on such technology to accurately reconstruct the past for virtual preservation and scientific analysis. Artists and creators use these same technologies to create authentic backgrounds for immersive digital artworks and video games. By interacting with these works, contemporary audiences can virtually explore and form memories of experiencing these lost spaces. My research examines two digital creative works that represent urban spaces lost to intentional gentrification as the background settings of their narratives, and considers whether the backgrounds themselves can suffice as an engine for empathy.
My specific study is on the background visuals in the interactive installation and app Circa 1948 and the video game Assassin’s Creed Unity. Circa 1948 was created by artist Stan Douglas, in collaboration with the National Film Board’s Vancouver Digital Studio and playwright Kevin Kerr. It reconstructs Hogan’s Alley, the only neighbourhood in Vancouver with a notable concentration of black families and businesses, and the version of Hotel Vancouver built in 1916 and demolished in 1949. Hogan’s Alley was mostly physically destroyed around 1970. Assassin’s Creed Unity is the eighth major title in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. The game follows assassin Arno Dorian from the eve of the French Revolution in 1789 through to the Thermidorian Reaction in 1794. The game’s setting is a meticulously researched and recreated pre-Haussmann Paris.
This exploration begins with a history of backgrounds as memory, reviewing the Roman Rhetorica Ad Herennium and Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory. James Elkins’ notions of the background and the surround in photography, Jacques Rancière’s equality of light in photography, and Doreen Massey’s revaluation of space as continuous interrelations contribute to an appraisal of the aesthetic and informational importance of background space. In an effort to consider the value of digitally recreated backgrounds, I will look at Paisley Livingston’s argument about first-hand aesthetic judgments, Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of corporeal discourse with artwork, and Ian Graham Ronald Shaw and Barney Warf’s response to Massumi, Deleuze and Guattari vis-à-vis video games and immersive environments as worlds of representation and affect. Finally, I will assess the aesthetic quality of the digital backgrounds independent of their narratives by comparing their empathic and historical values to the field of digital archaeology.
Jason Margolis is a graduate student in Comparative Media Arts at Simon Fraser University, as well as the producer for the university’s Creative Studio. He was nominated for an Excellence Award in teaching at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where he was an instructor on screenwriting and motion picture production management. He also instructed for eight years at Vancouver Film School and for three years at Ai – The Art Institute of Vancouver, and has been a frequent guest lecturer on filmmaking at Capilano University. Jason earned a B.A. in film production from the University of British Columbia, and received two screenwriting fellowships and a story editing internship from the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters in Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts. He is the recipient of the National Screen Institute’s Totally Television award for creating the television series Uncorked, and the Directors Guild of Canada Kickstart award for the short film After Shock.
The Potential of Space in Space Is the Place (1974)
Terrance H. McDonald (Brock University)
This paper explores the potential of space – both in terms of an outer space and the carving out of space for subjectivities denied by molar structures – to generate the new, the not yet. Specifically, this paper embraces Eugenie Brinkema’s (2014) radical formalism and Caroline Levine’s (2015) affordances of form to read how space takes shape within Sun Ra’s Space Is the Place (1974). This close reading for form puts the potential of space into conversation with Christina Sharpe’s (2016) conceptualization of the wake to map how the aesthetics of this Blaxploitation science fiction film can ground speculation on new potential ways of being. In this sense, I argue that form mediates subjectivities and, conversely, that subjectivities also work over form. Therefore, by closely reading cinematic form – as the taking shape of film form and content – my paper opens up theoretical speculation with the capacity to rethink minoritarian subjectivities through the very forms structured by the potential of space. Consequently, thinking space marks the acts of reading for form and reading of forms, which materialize the affective sensations that are created by formal relations. This delineates a crucial political intervention by the aesthetic and the importance of art for revolutionary social justice. Furthermore, rather than relegating the aesthetic to a place of privilege or extravagance or surplus, this argument foregrounds the significance of form to social justice issues. By mapping the form of Space is the Place in conversation with continental philosophy, I offer concepts that contribute to the vital project of returning to the aesthetic as a means for politics. What is at stake in this paper is the necessity of a return to form as a means of powering a reconceptualization of life yet to come.
Terrance H. McDonald is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Posthumanism Research Institute/Posthumanism Research Network at Brock University. He recently defended his dissertation titled “Mediated Masculinities: The Forms of Masculinity in American Genre Film, 1990 to 1999” under the supervision of Barry Keith Grant and with Eugenie Brinkema serving as external examiner. Currently, he is the secretary for the SCMS Film Philosophy SIG and a subfield book review editor (Film Theory and Film Philosophy) for Symposium. His work has appeared in Men and Masculinities, NORMA: The International Journal of Masculinities Studies, and Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy, among other venues.
Pedro Costa: Framing the Senses
Anthony Moss (York University)
From Ossos (1997) to Horse Money (2014), Portuguese filmmaker, Pedro Costa has challenged national politics, and created films that highlight the plights and sufferings of the working class, colonized, and immigrants of his homeland. The subject of this paper will be examining the distinct use of light, sound and space in his filmography, specifically in his most recent film, Horse Money. Costa crafts space in a highly political manner, specifically creating frames within frames, stark images, and constructs sound that actively challenges the accompanying images. This assault on not only conventional film form, but also the senses of the viewer separates his work from other European auteurs, and creates a new sense of political space in cinema. A film like Horse Money, in which dark and dripping underground catacombs are explored with as little light and visible movement as possible, seemingly acts to challenge the definitions of emotional space that one could find in Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.
These colonized and marginalized spaces carry a different emotional weight, which reflects the constant use of limited framing and audio, creating a cinematic experience all it’s own, meant to show the true lived experiences of the subjects Costa chooses to follow. Whether these be immigrants of Cape Verde in Ossos, or the working class women in In Vanda’s Room (2000), each life Costa chooses to study assaults the senses, giving a true brief window into that level of despair and poverty. Going beyond time, these explorations of space and scenario that Costa follows also lends itself well to examining a cinema that does not primarily focus on pure semiotic meaning, rather a cinema that redefines how viewers experience colonized and marginalized spaces, working in a way to properly illustrate the problems that have been subjected to many Portuguese people.
Anthony Moss is currently a 4th Year Cinema and Media Studies undergraduate student at York University in Toronto. Anthony is interested in studying the changing media landscapes of YouTube and other social media websites. He has presented at the York Undergraduate Research Fair, and has been currently offered a position in the Cinema and Media Studies MA program at York University. He is also an experimental filmmaker, and Criterion Collection enthusiast.
Post-Cinematic Topologies: Rethinking Suture through the Biopolitical Aesthetic
Tamás Nagypál (Oregon State University)
Now largely forgotten, suture as category of 60s and 70s Lacanian film theory used to designate editing techniques whereby the extradiegetic space of the camera was seamlessly merged with the diegetic universe, creating the illusion of reality and completeness of the moving image. As Rodowick observes, suture theory emerged within the then hegemonic paradigm of political modernism that, in an attempt to determine their usefulness for the capitalist culture industry, drew a rigid opposition between ideological films that cover up their spatial inconsistencies through continuity editing and a counter-cinema that exposes them to conscious reflection. This binary was then deconstructed by postmodern cultural studies skeptical of a deterministic relation between capitalist apparatuses and film form, shifting focus to the unique conditions and histories of film production, circulation, and consumption that resist universalization. As Zizek notes, in this new theoretical paradigm fetishizing difference, openness, and a ban on totality, suture simply became the synonym for a vaguely defined notion of “closure,” losing its reference to cinematic space altogether.
With the use of Lacan’s formulas of sexuation, this paper reconsiders suture as a shifter between contradictory cinematic topologies, a point of inconsistency in every film world that reveals how the same diegetic universe can be totalized in antagonistic ways. Understood as such, suture becomes a key component of what Whitehall calls the biopolitical aesthetic in contemporary cinema that maps securitized spaces of life alongside territories of precarity and death, drawing attention to how systematic killing is a price of life under late capitalist biopower. The recent science fiction film Kill Switch pushes this paradigm to the end by featuring two parallel universes: one of security and affluence sutured together by standard shot – reverse shot sequences, the other through first person perspective signifying the vulnerability of the protagonist targeted by a genocidal AI.
Tamas Nagypal is a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University. He received his PhD in Cinema and Media Arts from York University with a dissertation on the biopolitical aesthetic of film noir. Tamas is currently working on a book manuscript titled Illiberal Cinema in Post-Socialist Eastern Europe. He has published in journals such as Mediations, Film International, and the Journal of Religion and Film, as well in the edited volume Žižek and Media Studies: A Reader.
Cine-Thought Maps of Space in the Capitaloscene: Deleuze, Jameson, and Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea
Jakob Nilson (Örebro University)
This paper reimagines the problem of cognitive mapping of global social space in the era of the Capitaloscene. It does so through critically combining aspects of Jameson’s idea(s) of cognitive mapping and Deleuze’s notions of cinematic thinking (and of cartography). The socioeconomic space to be covered by a cognitive map – as fundamentally a Marxist-aesthetic tool – is a historical space, which in the Capitaloscene opens up to deep time and a spatial whole not just of global socioeconomic relations but of planetary nature. Jameson himself called for maps, made up of representational forms yet to be invented, which would provide the phenomenological subject with an orientation in a global system otherwise too intricate and vast to take in as an experience, with the purpose of reawakening in the subject utopian desire and imagination. A map capable of such consciousness-raising orientation, in Jameson’s reasoning, would have to be an artistic/narrative map of sorts, in order to hit as an experience rather than an intellectual abstraction in the form of another scientific concept (already available to us). Still, the map would only provide a sort of informational stimulus, rousing the observing subject to think and imagine anew (and then hopefully act). The “cognitive” aspects seem thereby exclusively located in the observer. Now, a map of the complexity of globalized space arguably requires coordinates structured and bound by thought, and even more so with the depths added by the Capitaloscene. If read instead through a Deleuzian frame, cognitively mappings art works can be reconceived as having to be already in themselves clusters of thoughts, with utopian imagination ingrained. These issues are also treated through a discussion of John Akomfrah’s massive three-channel video Vertigo Sea. The layered, planetary scope of this work does not figuratively represent – allegorically or otherwise – a social totality as requested by Jameson, nor is it a mere reflexive meditation of its semi-unrepresentability. The interaction across its multiple screens and audio-tracks instead make up an associative multiplicity-like conceptual frame, which through the imaginatively poetic but also critically and archeologically astute, sketches a different kind of map of a whole.
Jakob Nilsson is a researcher and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the Department of Media and Communication Studies, Örebro University. He specializes on intersections of film and philosophy with emphasis on Deleuze, and has published articles in Theory, Culture & Society; Cinema. Journal of Philosophy and Moving Image; Cinema & Cie. International Film Studies Journal; Journal of Aesthetics and Culture; Rhizomes; and SITE Magazine. He received his PhD from Stockholm University in 2012 with the dissertation The Untimely-Image. On Contours of the New in Political Film-Thinking. He is also the co-editor, with Sven-Olov Wallenstein, of the anthology Foucault, Biopolitics, and Governmentality (2013).
Erin Obodiac (Cornell University)
In his 1968 lecture “The Ends of Man,” Jacques Derrida investigates the relève of man in the French philosophical milieu by mobilizing the term end in its multiple resonances as ending, death, finitude, but also purpose, telos, finality as well as limit, margin, and ens or entity. Emerging in this critique of humanism, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the always already posthuman: although Derrida might not agree with Cary Wolfe that posthumanism is deconstruction by other means, the relève of man opens the backdoor to some peculiarly transhuman and nonhuman kin. In 2018, the ends of the anthropos also concern a telluric force, the anthropocene, the geological era in which human activity and technology leave a dramatic mark upon the planet. It might be timely to think about the media archaeology of geomedia, i.e. both the earth’s own mediatic phenomena and the manner in which human media impact the earth. As Akira Lippit argues in Electric Animal, the proliferation of media technologies in the 19th and 20th centuries was co-extensive with the accelerated extinction of animal species. A pernicious reading of “The Ends of Cinema” might therefore suggest that cinema performs a relève of living beings: not only does the cinematic simulation substitute for the living entity, it also signals its deathly phantom. Although one might investigate the ends of cinema via the geology of media or the proliferation of anthropocene and extinction films and video, my essay “Autoimmune Cinema” will argue that the cinema, in itself, harbors its own mode of radical finitude.
Derrida observes that even such classic attributions as spontaneous self-movement define life as well as its opposite, the inanimate mechanism. The outward sign of life’s autonomy is motion, yet contemporary theories of animal movement have ironically emerged from media technologies such as photography, cinematography, animation, and automata. The technics of animation engenders the kind of movement-image that is taken as a sign of life, and does so by way of the mechanics of an automaton-like apparatus. If animation engenders a sign of life, this is the life of a technical apparatus, neither human or animal, nor even bête-machine. Understanding animation as “machinic life” means that what Derrida calls “originary prosthesis” or “originary technicity” subtends both the natural and artificial, the organic and non-organic, the animate and the inanimate. It also subtends life and death: as originary prosthesis or technicity, the autopoiesis of the living being includes its own auto-destruction. Derrida mobilizes the term autoimmunity to describe this predicament: as a form of machinic life, is the peculiar animation that is the cinema autoimmune as well? The end of cinema, cinema past, cinema achieved, in sum, the relève of cinema—its negation, displacement, replacement, elevation, and preservatio —is powered, I will argue, by cinema’s own autoimmunity.
In several works—in particular, “Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides” and “Biodegradables,”—Derrida argues that autoimmunity is essential to both the living being and the political. Another essay “No Apocalypse, Not Now (Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives)” explores under the name of “the archive,” not the possible self-destruction of humanity in the nuclear age, but, insists Derrida, a more radical one: the self-destruction of the archive of literature. My essay will explore another radical finitude—the self-destruction of the cinematic archive—by way of the figure of “autoimmune cinema.” Although Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinema or the nuclear holocaust movies of the 1970s might shed some light on cinema’s autoimmunity, my essay will instead turn to Peter Fonda’s Idaho Transfer to demonstrate that cinema, as the primordial transfer machine, “ends” space/time/matter.
Erin Obodiac received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Irvine and has held teaching and research appointments at UC Irvine, the University of Leeds, SUNY Albany, and Cornell University. Her writings assemble residual questions from the deconstructive legacy with emergent discourses on technics and animality, media ecology, and machinic subjectivity. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University, completing a book called The Transhuman Interface, which repositions critical theory and deconstruction within the history of cybernetics and machinic life. The Transhuman Interface is a result of the research project “Robots at Risk: Transgenic Art and Corporate Personhood,” which Obodiac began as a Fellow at Cornell’s Society for the Humanities. The project and the accompanying book manuscript examine contemporary theories of machinic life and robotics as well as the philosophical traditions that underpin them.
Atopias of Annihilation: Imagining Space as Futurity
Kevin Pementel (Ohio State University)
Alex Garland’s film Annihilation (2018) tells the story of a scientific excursion into “the Shimmer,” a mysterious zone from which no prior military ventures have returned successfully. The Shimmer acts as a prism, refracting the genes of everything and everyone within it. Bizarre—”impossible”—and hostile forms of life emerge within it. Much of the discussion around the film has referred to its similarity to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), a film about a small group’s journey into a post-apocalyptic wasteland known as “The Zone” and to “The Room” at its center, within which all earthly desires are fulfilled. Other than their situational similarly, however, I assert that the films suggest two radically distinct typologies of space. Tarkovsky’s mysticism manifests within a metaphysical space of promise, of “belief in this world” (Deleuze). Garland, however, suggests a much more ambivalent or “chaotic” existentialism; the space of the Shimmer is neither mystic nor metaphysical but biological, and it suggests creative destruction as much as annihilation. To properly attend to this space, then, I turn to Frederic Neyrat’s “radical existentialism” and above all his notion of atopia, the outside that is always-already inside and constitutive of existence (being-outside). I suggest that only such an existentialism can elucidate the Shimmer, its ambivalent creativity, and its spatial figuration of the futurity of the Anthropocene wherein biological becomings of human-animal and plant life make no promises but their eccentricity. While the characters of the film speculate whether the meteor the caused the Shimmer constitutes a religious or alien event, I suggest, following Neyrat, that atopia is without ontological anchor, that existence as such constitutes the very “groundlessness” of the life within the Shimmer, its “separation” from known biology as the “irremediable tragedy of existential difference” (Atopias, 9). To further articulate the existential atopia of the Shimmer, I turn to Eugene Thacker’s contemplation of the unhuman “world-without-us,” or thought itself as nonhuman. I thus conclude that Annihilation is a work of “speculative annihilation,” and therefore a spatial figuration of the futurity of the Anthropocene (In the Dust, 125).
My work generally investigates new media, visual culture, and technology with a careful attention to the material conditions of production and distribution of increasingly digital and digitized images through global techno-capital circuits. More specifically, I examine the critical-aesthetic interventions of contemporary new media (digital video, internet, and software-based) artists and theorists in global securitization apparatuses of surveillance, the neoliberal collusion of states and corporations, and the epistemologies of digital and networked technologies. Most recently, I’ve turned my attention to techno- or network-pessimism and “evil media,” questioning the extent to which sciences and technologies of knowing foreshorten or otherwise imagine future possibilities as well as possible futures.
Film Worlds Worlding
Julia Reynolds (Auckland SAE)
This paper opens possibilities to examine spatial attunement in regards to making and viewing film. Martin Heidegger’s understanding of the term ‘worlding’ is used to examine how film worlds are ‘set-up’ and encountered. First from the position of a filmmaker, setting up locations and sets and also from the viewer encountering these locations and sets. Often a film’s primary value is given to a mixture of character or action without understanding the significance of the world the character-action is housed in. My presentation uses Heidegger’s conceptualisation of Dasein and being-in-a-world as a modal structure for understanding the relation between character, world and action.
The paper examines film characters’ attunement and mood, their situatedness and concern within their filmic world. It also opens possibilities to privilege production design. This privileging is not to isolate a department within the filmmaking industry, rather it asks the question; how is space ‘set-up’ to be understood as a film world.
Heidegger’s thinking around ‘world’ is explored at first from his work in Being and Time, published in 1927. One idea is that ‘world’ can be seen as a wider referencing whole; a film set, with furniture and ‘things’ reference a wider world for the character to be-in. However, the presentation also moves into later ideas of ‘world’ from his essay, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, written in 1935. Where art sets up a world, this idea complicates and extends the possibility of world into a world-worlding, referencing not only the world of things within the art but more importantly the setting-up of world.
I will examine these ideas referencing my own work and experience of filmmaking.
Julia is a filmmaker, with twelve years experience as a director, editor, and art director. She’s worked in television, music videos, TV commercials, funded short films, animations, international web content, as well as interactive and virtual reality.
Julia’s academic career includes time working for the University of Waikato teaching studio and video production courses, and at WINTEC Media Arts School in the Moving Image department. She is currently working as a Film Lecturer at Auckland SAE. Julia holds a PhD in Art and Design from AUT. Her research includes both written and creative work – Her first feature film, Shepherd, premiered in early 2018.
Feral Hospitality: Making Space for Multispecies Co-existence in Kedi
Sara Swain (Independent Scholar)
While filming Kedi (2016), her documentary about feral street cats in Istanbul, Ceyda Torun admits she wondered how she could defend “making a film about cats, as opposed to about Syrian refugees in Istanbul or political upheavals in the country” (Bromwich 2017). Such self-conscious, explanatory asides are unsurprising: there is often a need to justify focusing on animals, as though one were squandering precious real estate in the finite vista of human attention. This paper questions this finitude. It posits that the inability to entertain the human and the non-human in the same sphere of significance is a consequence of the perceived spatial scarcity that exists at the very crux of our notion of hospitality.
For Derrida, hospitality houses the home of ethics. Hospitality requires not only a receptivity to the other, but a giving up of space to and for the other. Whether unconditional or conditional, the space in question is restricted: either by the dimensions of the home, how it is parsed by the host, or by time. Making room for the other means less room for the self, therefore hospitality cannot be sustained. Accommodations are exclusive and they expire. The perceived spatial scarcity inside, innervates demand and competition, leading to questions and conflicts about who deserves inclusion and exclusion, and why. As the world becomes increasingly inhospitable to all life forms, hospitality and its concomitant notions of home, belonging, host, and guest require urgent rethinking.
Kedi appears as a promising intervention. It offers what I call “feral hospitality.” Going astray, it extends the space of ethical consideration to include cat denizens, their ways of being, relating, and getting on in the world and the particular human citizens with whom they share interests, affects, experiences, and negotiate meanings. Wandering away from Derrida, Kedi finds Luce Irigaray’s notion of a mutual hospitality of co-existence that respects the dignity, integrity, and the sovereignty of all. I argue that this is a kindred analog to André Bazin’s cinematic realism. It is a zoomorphic, non-anthropocentric aesthetic-turned-ethic of representation that creates a welcome opening towards imagining the space of hospitability as capacious, creaturely, and cosmopolitan.
Sara Swain is a writer, researcher, and educator based in Toronto. She holds a PhD in Communication and Culture from York and Ryerson Universities. She studies the ways in which non-human animals are implicated in the imagination, development, and conceptualization of media technologies, and our understandings of communication.
“Gonna Catch Us All?” The Possibilities of the Weaponisation of Augmented Reality Technology and the Development of Incursive Experiences
David Sweeney (Glasgow School of Art)
In 1989, American forces bombarded Panamanian drug lord Manuel Noriega with deafening rock music when he took refuge in the Catholic Church’s embassy in Panama. In 1994 Serge Monast, the Canadian journalist and conspiracy theorist published the book Project Blue Beam (NASA), in which he alleged that NASA was planning to use orbiting 3D holographic projectors to simulate the coming of the Anti-Christ. In 2015 the American startup company Magic Leap (formed in 2010) released a promotional video demonstrating their ability to digitally project 3D images directly into the world i.e. to ‘augment’ reality without the need for any interface other than spectators’ eyes. The company announced a research and development partnership with Lucasfilm the following year and also received investment funding from Google.
Let us imagine that the troops besieging Noriega had used Augmented Reality technology of the type Magic Leap propose, in a similar fashion Monast alleged NASA had planned . It may sound like science fiction (Monast may have plagiarised a 1991 episode of Star Trek: TNG), and admittedly Magic Leap’s failure to release any actual product so far may reveal them to have been a ‘vaporware’ company all along, but, given that sonic weapons already exist and have been used by law enforcement for crowd control, perhaps we should be preparing ourselves for the deployment of visual ordnance.
The title of this paper is a reference to the phenomenally popular Pokémon Go Augmented Reality game. Launched in 2015 by Niantic, the game’s players use the GPS application on their handheld devices to track and ‘capture’ creatures from the Pokémon video game franchise which are lurking in real world space. Despite the absorption in the game experienced by many users – which, according to media reports, has resulted in accidents and even fatalities amongst those overly immersed in the hunt – playing Pokémon Go is still 1). a voluntary choice and 2). reliant upon an interface. Removing these two factors has the potential to make the experience of augmented reality not so much immersive as incursive in its capacity to instill discomfort and even terror in unwitting spectators, as is the case with the ‘stress-inducing’ low frequency sound weapons alleged by certain conspiracy theorists to already be in use and which may have been the casuse of a mysterious outbreak of illness at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba last year.
It is easy to conceive of technology like that promised by Magic Leap being used to generate disturbing visual manifestations. Indeed, similar apparitions already occur in theme parks, and deceased musicians Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson have all recently ‘performed’ posthumously onstage in holographic form (with Presley’s hologram also making an expereince in Blade Runner 2049 ). But, again, spectators are primed to expect such encounters, however unsettling they may be. One could argue that the public today is too sophisticated and media-savvy to fall for such visual trickery but a combination of AR technology and the kind of sonic weapons mentioned above could make for an experience which is overwhelmingly, even traumatically, real. Such an experience would constitute an invasion of reality similar to that presented in Angela Carter’s novel of ontological warfare, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, first published under the title The War of Dreams (1973).
In this paper, drawing on a range of theorists, including Wolfgang Iser, Steven Shaviro and Jodi Dean, I explore the possible ramifications and consequences of AR technology being ‘weaponised’ to impose incursive experiences on an unsuspecting populace.
Dr David Sweeney is a lecturer in The Glasgow School of Art’s Design History and Theory department, specialising in popular culture.
Mark Taylor (University of San Francisco)
For this presentation, I will show a section of my ongoing film-collage project Downer, a movie staircase constructed from clips of people in horror films traversing landings, passing through doorways and descending stairs, while giving a talk on cinema as a threshold of ambiguous and transitional experience. In the film, characters are forever moving through, evading pursuit and investigating mysteries, exiting the stairwell only to return again as a character from another film, another era, another gender. The stairwell is a threshold space these characters cut across on their way to discovery, escape or death; it is the place of becoming.
In Threshold Spaces, Till Boettger defines the threshold as “the sensitive spot where we change from zone to zone.” A transitional space, the site of decisions not yet made, it is often difficult to see the threshold itself, though in a sense we spend all of our time inside of it. As physical phenomena thresholds thrive on spatial ambivalence. They are porous borders that connect and separate. “They live in the sequence of what lies in the past, present and future. This means: threshold spaces also live in the expectation of what is to come.”
Cinema unfolds in the forever present. Films generate experience as we receptively watch them disappear, constantly revising expectations of what will come next, based on what has just faded into the past.
Providing control between inside and outside, devices such as body scanners, surveillance cameras, intercoms, and peepholes also belong to the threshold. The outside of cinema gets inside. We become what we experience, identifying with characters, seeing through other eyes, empathetically feeling emotions that are both not and uniquely our own.
The sites of cinema are portals to other worlds, while the multiplex is a heterotopia where these worlds, real and imagined, collide. The screen opens and we fall through, mentally moving from here to there. Thresholds proliferate as screens become more ubiquitous. Are we always being lured into the cinematic threshold? Do we ever leave the threshold, or are we always in a space of uncertainty and becoming?
Mark Taylor is a visual artist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. His artist books have been collected by the Library of Congress, Stanford University, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the New York Museum of Modern Art, among many others. Taylor founded and was the editor of KQED Arts, an online publishing platform for KQED, the northern California public media station. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Media Studies department at the University of San Francisco.
The Pre‐conditional and Post‐dispositional: Cinematic Cartography of Central Park
Sadra Tehrani (Penn State University)
This research illustrates the variety of ways that Central Park’s space not only creates a cinematic setting for films and provides the directors with opportunities for developing their narrative, but also is queued into a visual literacy for looking at the landscape that cinema produces.
Cinema offers different filmic architectures (structured ways) of seeing Central Park. These in effect, create “mediated Central Parks” that contribute to our visual literacy about New York’s urban landscape. Olmstead was aware of the Anglo‐Saxon tradition of gardening and landscapes, therefore the language of “looking at the landscape” is embedded in the park. I argue that the development of this visual literacy can be traced not only in landscape, but in cultural artifacts like architecture and cinema.
Just as the perception of space is dependent on movement – it shrinks and expands as we go faster or slower‐ it can also be analyzed relative to the story being deployed. A subject’s hysteria can transform a place as grand as Sheep’s Meadow or the Water Reservoir to an experience of captivity and enclosure, as in Wall Street and Marathon Man respectively. A “normal” Central Park can be triggered by a character to become uncanny, as in the Portrait of Jennie. In these transformations and in the interplay of excess and void, the park’s scenic elements combine effectively with cinematic devices to produce a complex fantasmic image.
Discussing films such as Portrait of Jennie, Marathon Man, Wall Street and John Wick, I address the spatio‐scenic elements of appearance and movement, such as horizon, sun angle and trajectories. These are analyzed in conjunction with cinematographic techniques such as camera movement, composition and lighting.
This paper will include time‐movement diagrams and analytic spatial visualizations of sequences in selected films in order to trace the movement of camera and actors, as well as examine scene blockings in relation to the park’s space. This is done not only to illustrate how cinema maps the space, but also how we can produce a cinematic cartography of space’s pre‐conditional and post‐dispositional qualities.
Sadra Tehrani is a Graduate Candidate of Architecture at Penn State University. His research involves a cross‐analysis of architecture, city and cinema and investigates the representation of urban space and the transformation of Modern cityscapes in film. He has received a Graham Endowed Fellowship award in 2016 and a Graduate Student Travel Grant in 2017, and directed two documentary films during his studies as an architecture student.
Space Out of Joint: Notes Toward A Theory of Revenant Media
Philippe Theophanidis (York University)
In Perspectiva Communis, a treatise on the science of optics written in the second half of the 13th century, John Pecham answered the question “What is an image?” with those words: “it is merely the appearance of an object outside its place”. This answer, provided in the context of a discussion about the nature of illusions, have been the subject of renewed attention in recent times. My contribution takes on Pecham’s definition to show how film-philosophy is susceptible to be of special interest to the study of media. After a brief overview of the ways in which media studies have traditionally cast the concept of media, I turn my attention to an aspect that remains largely neglected. Indeed, before being associated with technological instruments or systems, medium was said to be a “material space” or a milieu.
I will rely on various case studies to further demonstrate the potential of this association. In each case, instead of focusing on time, it is the image as displacement — space out of joint — that will be discussed. From Plato’s cave to Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, a dislocation is at work where the image “takes place” on uncanny grounds. This exploration will allow me to show that “haunting” has as much to do with places and sites than it has with time, past, present, and future. Ultimately, I will make the argument for a development of Jacques Derrida’s “hauntology” toward a theory of revenant media.
Philippe Theophanidis is assistant professor and coordinator in the Communications program at York University’s Glendon Campus. He works at the intersection of philosophies of communication, media studies and visual culture. He has published academic articles and book chapters in French and English on a variety of topics, ranging from cinema to contemporary political issues.
Curtains: Re-Framing Labour in the Flattened Stereoscopic Film
Theresa Wang (University of Toronto)
This paper analyzes the 2014 experimental film Curtains by Lucy Raven as a 3-D work that deconstructs the traditional stereoscopic means of viewership, relieving 3-D cinema of the tensions between flatness and depth. I consider Curtains as flattened stereoscopic film, that is, a film that encourages eye divergence to break away from the spatial cues of stereoscopic imagery and interrupt the illusion of three-dimensional representation. In doing so, Curtains complicates conceptions of depth and flatness for the purpose of re-configuring erased labour.
Scholars have focused on the aesthetic and ideological construction of 3-D and its relation to depth and volume. Instead of building upon this discourse, I borrow Jacques Derrida’s notion of “hauntology” to argue that 3-D cinema’s ontology is defined by a lack of identity and erased labour. The spectral echoes an inability to situate oneself. I regard 3-D cinema as a ghost trapped in its desire to overcome its immateriality with material three-dimensionality. Through theories of hauntology and perception, I account for the tensions within the synthesis of three-dimensional space and potentially extricate 3-D cinema from them.
Raven’s artistic practice explores the intersection between still photography and moving images. Curtains, which reflects upon erased labour practices in the film industry, elucidates the presence and absence of bodily labour in 3-D cinema. In its conversion of three-dimensional depth to two-dimensional flatness, Curtains reveals the invisible work behind illusory depth. The film annihilates the illusion of depth and allows the viewer to revel in flatness; through this disavowal, Curtains materializes the invisible acts of labour. This analysis of haunting and representation in Curtains contributes to a larger project in new media studies that seeks to subvert ontological constraints. I hope to demonstrate that a lack of ontology may relieve the irreconcilable tensions in 3-D and reassert the primacy of labour in the construction of space.
Born in Taiwan, Theresa Wang currently lives in Toronto where she is a student of Art History and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. She is interested in philosophies of media studies, community organizing, and art. Wang is the Chair of the Hart House Art Committee in addition to holding the position of Publishing Intern at c magazine.
“Snake bit, eleven years.”
Joshua Harold Wiebe (Concordia University)
‘Swamp’ acts as both noun and verb; a swamp, to swamp. The swamp as noun is interstitial space, the uncultivated point of conjunction between ground and water. The swamp as verb is an action of overwhelming, of excess. To swamp something is to inundate it with an excessive amount to the point of surplus. The polyvalence of the swamp is to be read through two adaptations of Swamp Water, a Vereen Bell novel serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in 1940: Swamp Water (1941, Renoir) and Lure of the Wilderness (1952, Negulesco). While a number of variables persist across both adaptations, the most striking deviation is the relocation of the daughter of suspected murderer and fugitive Tom Keefer (who is named Jim Harper in Lure of the Wilderness but is played by actor Walter Brennan in both) from the town bordering the Okefenokee swamp into the swamp itself. This paper takes as its subject matter the attitudinal shift motivating this relocation, from the swamp as inhospitable to the swamp as site of familial negotiation.
In order to work through this conflict and to establish a working theory of the swamp that can account for the continuities between and the deviations across these two iterations as well as move beyond this limited purview, this paper is organized around the scene of the snake bite. Appearing first in the novel, the moment occurs as Keefer/Harper crouches by the water’s edge to drink only to be struck by a cotton-mouth moccasin. The events which precede and succeed this scene in both films will be considered against one another, while the attacks themselves will be held in contradistinction, the minute differences in temporality, environment, gesture, sound, and dialogue will be traced in order to illustrate the concept of the swamp’s indiscrete boundaries and the implications of a psycho-geographical recalibration of a site in which figures can now take refuge. The scene/s will be read and reread so as to bring to the foreground how each adaptation establishes the swamp as a zone of indiscernability, one which precludes surveillance and pursuit.
Joshua Harold Wiebe is in his final semester of his undergraduate degree in the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University, and has been accepted into the MA program in cinema studies at the University of Toronto. His research has been presented both in last year’s Spiral Film-Philosophy conference, as well as in the Structure Symposium in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Architectures for Cinematic Looking: Embodiment and the Moving Image at the Manifesta Biennal
Melanie Wilmink (York University)
In The Address of the Eye, film scholar Vivian Sobchack famously posits a dialectical experience of cinema where as we gaze at the filmic image, the image seems to look back. Flowing through time, while carrying complex meaning through both the internal image-space and the physical venue, she asserts that film is “…never merely a viewed ‘thing’”. Instead, the cinematic image operates in a “…mutual resilience and resistance… this back-and-forth exchange…” that mimics human intersubjective relations (24). This paper fleshes out this phenomenological understanding of film spectatorship using Henri Bergson’s work on memory and perception, along with Laura Marks’ notion of haptic visuality, and interrogates how this conversation between a spectator and the filmic object plays out in a simultaneously temporal and spatial context.
Although I agree with Sobchack that film viewing has never been as passive as previously claimed, it is perhaps easier to visualize the conversational qualities of spectatorship in works that literally engage viewers’ bodies in time and space. Through interactivity and skin-to-skin contact between the artwork and viewer, it becomes easier to grasp the many ways that the cinematic blurs the lines between the temporal and the physical. As such, this paper will examine a series of different moving image installations from the itinerant Manifesta art biennale from 2012 and 2016.
Situated in different European cities for each iteration, Manifesta necessarily adapts already-existing venues for its unique exhibition needs. With a mandate to embed deeply in its host city, the festival regularly uses non-gallery spaces for a variety of exhibition formats, and emphasizes artwork as a discursive tool, with a large program of educational and audience engagement activities. Of particular interest is their 2016 Pavilion of Reflections—a floating platform on Lake Zurich, which hosted film screenings, performances and lectures, as well as swimming recreation area and bar—and their 2012 take-over of a defunct coal mine in Gent, Belgium. In both these iterations, moving images were deployed as stand-alone artworks, but also as part of a larger conversation around how site and image intertwine with the performance of viewing.
Melanie Wilmink is a PhD candidate in Art History and Visual Culture at York University, with honours such as the 2014 York University Elia Scholars Award, and a 2015 SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. She completed her MA in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts at the University of Regina in 2014, and her BFA in Visual Arts at the University of Calgary in 2007. Her dissertation examines the inter-connectivity between spectatorial experience and exhibition spaces, and aims to determine how public art situations act as vehicles for metaphoric and physical transportation. Her ongoing research was developed through her experience as Programming Coordinator for the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers and its $100 Film Festival (an avant-garde Super 8 and 16mm event established in 1992), as well as her independent curating practice.
Hypno-Opera I: Synecdoche of Space
Fan Wu (Independent Scholar)
I confess: I don’t know–I don’t know how to write about images any more. All I have left in me is the will to be possessed by them, and to take up that possession as origin-point for further creation. In Hypno-Opera I, I set an early film by Heinz Emigholz — Schenec-Tady III — to a poetry score I’ve written. The film is an exploration of one space — the camera remains in place and photographs, zooms, and pauses in a 360 degree circle — and Emigholz edits the film according to a score that grants to the one space a dynamic range. Or, in Virginia’s words: A single flower as we sat here waiting, but now a seven-sided flower, many-petaled, red, puce, purple-shaded, stiff with silver-tinted leaves — a whole flower to which every eye brings its own contribution. I deploy Schenec-Tady for its intrinsic properties as a hypnotic agent and enfold the viewer in the mesmer of Space singular plural. Nausea, Bachelard, grainy repetition-compulsions, horror, disassociation, Hart Crane — and we pick up speed, antidote to the exhaustion of the word becoming. Not a musing on space but a full-throated enfleshment with it.
Fan Wu is a translator, poet, and independent scholar based in Toronto. He holds two M.A. degrees from the University of Toronto (in Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies). His lyric prose and poetry can be found in Arc, MICE Magazine, Prefix Photo, and The 4 Poets. He is undergoing a lifelong project of understanding how to synthesize his poetry and scholastic practices.