International Conference of the Junior Fellow Program »Theory and History of Cinematographic Objects«
July 11-13, 2012, IKKM, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
Marcus Becker (Humboldt-Universität, Berlin):
Roman Water. On the Cinematography of Aqueducts
(Presentation in German)
Ancient worlds created by cinematic scenography result from pictorial tradition. Many studies on Antiquity in Cinema use to limit themselves to evaluating the archaeological "correctness" of certain scenographic elements, whereas this contribution – in contrast – aims to track such an historical genesis for the depiction of aqueducts in cinema. The central question is in how far the constitution of roman aqueducts as cinematographic objects within genuinely modern image spaces of the movies corresponds with solutions of visual and spatial argumentations that were developed before the cinema, for example in early modern painting or garden and urban architecture. Already then pictorial conceptions originated from narrative scenarios such as the topoi of decay or restoration of aqueducts. These pictorial traditions safeguarded the way from landscape painting with its picturesquely ruined lines of arches in the Roman Campagna to the aqueducts in the movies. Much more enlightening though are the differences within the visual strategies. Between the 16th and the 18th century the so-called mostra effectively celebrated the restoration of an aqueduct by the Roman Popes creating a magnificent facade at its end. The argumentation here was visualized through architecture, iconographic program, and inscription in the actual urban space. These techniques could not be reproduced for the same subject in the audio-visual space of the movies not only because symbolical systems had heavily changed by then, but also – even more important – as conditions for operations of the cinematographic image are completely different (e.g. the very limited temporal accessibility of cinematic images for the viewers) – the difference of eras seems to be medially irreconcilable. It can be shown, however, that certain spatio-temporal strategies, that create the cinematic ancient aqueduct of the modern era, were already used by the scenery of 18th-century landscape gardens.
Marcus Becker studied Art History, German Literature, and Philosophy in Berlin. He works as a research fellow at Berlin's Humboldt University for the Collaborative Research Centre 644 Transformations of Antiquity, and for the research project Spielräume. Szenenbilder und -bildner in der Filmstadt Babelsberg. He has published numerous papers on garden history, the reception of antiquity around 1800, and on cinematic scenography, co-edited Preußen aus Celluloid. Friedrich II. im Film (2012), and prepares the publication of his dissertation on copies of antique sculptures around 1800 (Ph.D. supervisor: Prof. Dr. Horst Bredekamp).
Jimena Canales, Lindsey Lodhie & Joana Pimenta (Harvard University):
In 1895 when the Lumière brothers unveiled their cinematographic camera, many scientists were elated. Scientists hoped that the machine would fulfill a desire that had driven research for nearly half a century: that of capturing the world in its own image. But their elation was surprisingly short-lived, and many researchers quickly distanced themselves from the new medium. The cinematographic camera was soon split into two machines, one for recording and one for projecting, enabling it to further escape from the laboratory. The philosopher Henri Bergson joined scientists, such as Etienne-Jules Marey, who found problems with the new cinematographic order. Those who had worked to make the dream come true found that their efforts had been subverted. Desired Machines focuses on the desire to build a cinematographic camera, with the purpose of elucidating how dreams and reality mix in the development of science and technology. It is about desired machines, their often unexpected results, and about how the interplay between what "is" (the technical), what "ought" (the ethical), and what "could" be (the fantastical) drives scientific research.
Rethinking the cinematic not only points towards new forms for thinking the technological, artistic and intellectual history of cinema, it can also shape new modes of scholarship through media practice. Thus, this presentation moves beyond the discussion of Desired Machines in its written form to incorporate the multimedia piece "Desired Machines: reframing the cinematic," an audiovisual work produced by Joana Pimenta and Lindsey Lodhie in collaboration with Jimena Canales. This piece takes Canales' essay "Desired Machines" as a point of departure to approach a non-linear, non-teleological history of cinematographic technologies and desires utilizing still and moving images, text and sound. It navigates through both historical archival material and original media to trace multiple trajectories through an alternative history of cinema reflecting on how the cinematic was anticipated, archived, and repurposed, as well as actualized in cinema proper, with a primary methodological focus on the operation of "cinematographic objects" both imagined and real.
Jimena Canales is Associate Professor at the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University and author of A Tenth of a Second: A History (2010). She specializes in the history and philosophy of the physical sciences, focusing on epistemology, science and representation, and theories of modernity and postmodernity. She has published widely on the history of architecture, film, and nineteenth and twentieth-century science and philosophy. Some recent articles include: "Desired Machines: Cinema and the World in its Own Image," Science in Context 24 (2011); "A Science of Signals: Einstein, Inertia, and the Postal System," Thresholds 39 (March 2011); "'A Number of Scenes in a Badly Cut Film': Observation in the Age of Strobe." In Histories of Scientific Observation, ed. Daston and Lunbeck (2011); "Einstein, Bergson, and the Experiment that Failed: Intellectual Cooperation at the League of Nations," Modern Language Notes, 120 (2005); "Criminal Skins: Tattoos and Modern Architecture in the work of Adolf Loos," Architectural History 48 (2005).
Lindsey Lodhie is a media artist and scholar whose research focuses on the history of photographic technologies and the moving image in modern and contemporary art. She holds an MFA in Media Arts from SUNY Buffalo Department of Media Study and is currently pursuing a PhD in Film and Visual Studies and Critical Media Practice at Harvard University.
Joana Pimenta is a graduate student in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University, pursuing a secondary field in Critical Media Practice. With a background both as a filmmaker and a researcher, she completed her B.A. at the New University of Lisbon and at the Université Paris 8, and has developed research work as a junior researcher for the project Film&Philosophy: mapping an encounter in Lisbon, and as guest researcher affiliated with the Imagined Futures of the Cinematic Dispositif project at the University of Amsterdam. Her current interests broadly focus on the dialogue between cinema and the visual arts, from expanded cinema and artists' film and video practices of the 1960s and 1970s to contemporary media and installation art.
Francesco Casetti (Yale University):
On the Screen: Event or Object?
Francesco Casetti (born 1947 in Trento, Italy) is professor of film studies and humanities at Yale University. After graduating with an "advanced degree of specialization" in film and communication studies from the Catholic University of Milan, he taught at several universities before becoming professor at the Department of Performing Arts at the University of Trieste in 1994. Between 1999 and 2010, he served as the Chair of the Department of Communication and Performing Arts of the Catholic University of Milan. Casetti has also taught as a visiting professor at various international universities, including the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, the University of California, and Yale University. He is co-founder of the Permanent Seminar on History of Film Theories in Turin, an international network of film scholars aimed at a systematic exploration of film and media theories. Casetti is also member of the editorial boards of several journals of film and communication studies, such as Comunicazioni Sociali, and Cinema & Cie, as well as the general editor of the series "Spettacolo e comunicazione" for the publishing house Bompiani. In addition to his academic work, he has been appointed as one of the curators of La Triennale in Milan for the years 2009-2014, and serves as consultant of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican.
Thomas Elsaesser (Yale University):
Fairgrounds, Carousels and Ferrara Frescoes
Linearity, Circularity and Intermittence are the most basic modalities of the cinematic experience. My talk will trace a few disparate genealogies that all revolve around objects and devices familiar from the cinema and from childhood, of which their centrifugal and centripetal energies will always remind us.
Thomas Elsaesser is professor emeritus of film and television studies at the University of Amsterdam and visiting professor at Yale University since 2006. Born in Berlin in 1943 and educated at the universities of Heidelberg, Sussex and Paris, he taught comparative literature and film at the University of East Anglia until 1991, when he was asked to set up and head a Department of Film and Television Studies at the University of Amsterdam, which he did until 2000. From 2000-2005, he headed the international research program "Cinema Europe". He is also the general editor of the series "Film Culture in Transition", published by the Amsterdam University Press. He has held visiting positions at many US universities, as well as senior research fellowships in Vienna (IFK), Stockholm (Ingmar Bergman Foundation), Cambridge (Leverhulme Professorship), Tel Aviv (Sackler Institute for Advanced Studies), Berkeley (Center for European Studies), Ferrara (Copernicus Scholar), and Berlin (Exzellenzcluster FU Berlin, Languages of Emotion). In 2005, he was made Knight of the Dutch Lion by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and in 2008 received the Honorary Life Membership Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.
Lorenz Engell (IKKM Weimar):
On Objects in Series: Clocks and MAD MEN
Objects and series have traditionally been perceived as differing profoundly in their relation to time: series were involved with the succession of time, if not the linear flow of time, and objects were seen as more or less stable in time or resistant to the flow of time. Yet serial formatting as the main practice of television seems to have transformed this difference. Serial objects do not last in time and operate in seasons of successive synchronicities – as does television. According to Stanley Cavell, television, mainly through the very operation of serialization, transforms the flow of time, and hence uncertainty, into a stable lasting presence. Moreover television deprives the object of what Günther Anders calls its »full« presence, replacing the latter with mere formal synchronicity. But formal synchronicity itself is a relation, which has to be produced by specific tools or agent objects. In everyday life, the most common and compact of these are the clock and television; the serial format being another, more complex and highly efficient type.
This lecture examines the recent series MAD MEN which portrays an ad agency in the 1960s. It deals with an agency of time production by making serial objects circulate, and hence with television and its evolution itself. Simultaneously, it operates precisely as such an agency for making serial time in its time, i.e. the present. In doing so it undermines Anders' dichotomy of »full« presence and formal synchronicity into some »serial simultaneity«.
1959 born in Düsseldorf, Germany
1977–1982 Study of theatre, film and television studies, Romance languages and Literature and art history at the University of Cologne; M. A.
1985–1993 Research assistant at the Institute of theatre, film and television studies, University of Cologne
1988 Ph. D.
1990/91 Substitute Professor for film and television studies at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Professor for Wahrnehmungslehre, History and Theory of Communication and Media, Faculty of Design, Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen, Weimar (today: Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)
1996–2000 founding dean of the Faculty of Media of the Bauhaus University Weimar
2001 Professor for Media Philosophy at the Bauhaus University Weimar
2004–2008 Vice President for Teaching of the Bauhaus University Weimar
2008 Director (together with Berhard Siegert) of the IKKM
Sabine Hake (University of Texas, Austin):
On the Lives of Objects
The historical film depends to a large degree on the filmic representation of objects of everyday life that are either associated with a particular past or, in the case of films about recent events, identified as being no longer part of the present. However, the objects chosen to interpret – rather than merely represent – the distance between present and past should never be treated as self-evident in their function within the mise-en-scène or be regarded as secondary to the production of narrative meanings or historical insights. On the contrary, reading a historical film such as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen (2006) through what I call the lives of objects allows us to better understand the unique status of objects as visualizations of both the social and cultural discourses associated with them and the forms of attachment and strategies of incorporation articulated through them. In this particular case, the objects chosen for a historical reconstruction of the GDR circa 1984 are shown to be profoundly dependent on contemporary forms of engagement: the sensory pleasures through which spectators respond to these audiovisual semblances and evaluate their cultural and aesthetic significance; the political memories and historical knowledges that guide their recognition and appreciation of period styles; and the reading strategies that integrate them into ideological formations and interpretative frameworks. It is with regard to these larger questions that my presentation analyzes the culture-politics interface marked as East German through the kind of objects that define its historicity and align it with a decidedly West German theory of cultural production.
Sabine Hake ist Texas Chair of German Literature and Culture an der University of Texas at Austin und Herausgeberin von German Studies Review. Sie hat sechs Monografien über Aspekte der deutschen Film- und Kulturgeschichte veröffentlicht, zuletzt Topographies of Class: Modern Architecture and Mass Society in Weimar Berlin (2008) und Screen Nazis: Cinema, History, and Democracy (2012).
Ulrike Hanstein (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar):
Rear projections: Images of the scene and scenes of the image
(Presentation in German)
Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Rettig and Robert Mitchum on a raft in front of a Canadian mountain landscape, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in a car in front of a serpentine road near Nice, Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller on elephants in front of the rainforest – these scenes showcase an operation of classic studio recording technology: rear projection.
The technical process of rear projection of static or moving backgrounds onto transparent projection screens was patented in 1918. But it was only used extensively from the 1930s to the 1960s. In a studio recording with rear projection the profilmic composition combines views of landscapes or images of an urban exterior (in the background) with the visual appeal of the star performers' facial expressions and gestures (in the foreground). Rear projections configure a diegetic scene, using special effects to bring together the material scenography, moving bodies, and the perspectival depiction of space.
My paper analyses scenes with rear projections as a chimeric way of constructing space and movement – in films by Max Ophüls, Otto Preminger, Don Siegel, Alfred Hitchcock, Lars von Trier and Mark Lewis. In order to describe these in terms of technology and Bildtheorie (theory of the image), key questions are asked about the relationship between the material Bildding ('image-thing' or physical image) and the imaginary Bildobjekt ('image-object'), about the way the space is closed in terms of production technology but opened in the phenomenal sense, about the temporal relations and the uneven proximity of the different things visible in one frame, and about the time index of aesthetic processes in studio realism.
With rear projections, not only diegetic scenes but also disjunctive forms of image appear. Images with/of rear projections always show scenes of image production as well. This sheds light on arrangements and operations which make possible the changeable filmic spaces and the movement appearing with the images.
Ulrike Hanstein lectures in Media Studies at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. She received her MA in Theatre Studies from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, and her doctorate in Film Studies from Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests include topics in film theory, experimental cinema, performance art, media theory, and the aesthetics of moving images.
She is the author of Unknown Woman, geprügelter Held. Die melodramatische Filmästhetik bei Lars von Trier und Aki Kaurismäki (2011) and co-editor of Re-Animationen. Szenen des Auf- und Ableben in Kunst, Literatur und Geschichtsschreibung (with Anika Höppner and Jana Mangold, 2012).
Rosa John (Universität Wien):
Camera // Bolex
(Presentation in German)
Frame by frame the camera is exposing the film. It is indeed moving the image, fragmenting time and space. Walter Benjamin points out: "It is through this [the camera] that we first discover the existence of the optical unconscious". So the camera achieves its peculiar purpose - in the fields of natural sciences, sports, industry, private recollection, entertainment and the arts likewise. Thus it is essential to realize: In spite of individual handlings all visualisation is preconfigured by components of the camera (what camera?). Every appropriation of imagery is conditioned by device details, the peculiarities of various machines.
My presentation picks up the fact that a great many of avantgarde filmmakers, especially of the New American Cinema, have worked with the same type of camera. Maya Deren, Gregory Markopoulos, Robert Beavers, to name just a few, all film(ed) with a Bolex H16. How does this object distinguish itself? What are its cinematic specifics? The 16mm camera also indicates the interference of artistic, private and commercial practice. What is significant in this change of perspective? The Swiss company Paillard-Bolex launched the first camera model in 1935. About 300 operations were tested on all units before they left the factory. While private and commercial documents generally hide their intrinsic instruments and materials, it is avantgarde film practice to reflect and to display them. In this kind of cinematic thinking, artistic articulation is deeply connected to the awareness of the matters of the medium. As Maya Deren put it, the film medium serves as "muse and means". Therefore the camera is often not only a method, but a motif of filmmaking. Based on examples the operational dependence of bolex/camera and film/art shall be examined.
Rosa John studied Theatre, Film and Media Studies in Vienna and Athens as well as Artistic Photography and Independent Film at Friedl Kubelka School. Besides her artistic work and the organisation of cultural events, she is currently working on a dissertation on industrially manufactured conditions of cinematographic imagery.
Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London):
The Peculiar Ecstasy of the Animated Object
In the 1920s and 1930s there was a peculiar flurry of thinking about cinema on the part of critical, Marxist or Anarchistic European intellectuals. Animation was a particular focus of interest because of its relationship to what Walter Benjamin termed 'a different' or 'an other nature' (eine andere Natur). Kracauer, Benjamin and others conceived of the cinematic object, which to a certain extent could be seen as the animated object (even in film) as part of a parallel nature or order of things, constructed and potentially mutable. The object is an object in movement, in change, behaving, or misbehaving. This lecture considers the constitution of those objects, beginning with Kracauer's super-cinematic objects - fabric and leaf, which allow him to theorize the filmic movement of things and the fate of filmic nature. To move the scale, Kracauer's constitution of the mountain in film is also considered. Eisenstein's concept of 'non-indifferent nature', of plasticity and ecstasy of the object - which proposes that animation gives a psychology to the object - is also pertinent. The talk then revisits the constitution of these filmic objects in our epoch, after a panoply of technical developments, such as CGI in the world of cinema and nanotechnology more generally in the world of nature and pertaining to scale. The constructed nature of the object in film (which is all animation now) is set critically alongside recent developments in object-oriented thinking, which posits a world thought from the perspective of the object.
Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London. She has written two books on Walter Benjamin (2000/2007), 'Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde' (2002), and 'Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry' (2007). She runs a website together with Ben Watson, www.militantesthetix.co.uk .
Lesley Stern (UC San Diego):
"It once was fire": this thing that once was a body
What cinematic operations occur in order to turn a living body (a person, perhaps a character, most probably a representation) into a dead body (a thing like other things, but also a thing very similar to a human, a non-thing)? The moment of transforming occurs within a distinctively cinematic register, it is a privileged moment. But the effect and affect of transformation also is possessed of cinematic life. The corpse, or dead body, is one of the most lively things in the cinematic repertoire, rendered so through an arsenal of tricks and tropes and techniques of instantiation. How does this thing, this thing that was once a live body and now is not—though it still goes by the same name, is still called a body—relate to other things, to cinematic things, and to networks and speculations (realist and otherwise) outside the cinema? Sometimes absence from the image regime is what matters; the affect of the corpse is more powerful than its presence (as in detective fiction generally), but often its presence serves to bring into focus the temporal, spatial and phenomenological articulations of animate and inanimate cinematic being.
Lesley Stern is Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of The Scorsese Connection and The Smoking Book and co-editor of Falling For You: Essays on Cinema and Performance. Her work moves between a number of disciplinary locations: although her reputation was established in the fields of film theory and history, she is also known for her fictocritical writing. She has published extensively in the areas of film, performance, photography, cultural history, postcolonialism and feminism; her essays have appeared in journals such as Screen, M/F, Camera Obscura, Film Reader, Image Forum, Trafic, Emergences, and Critical Inquiry. Stern is currently working on things in the cinema, on cinematic performance, and on a book called Gardening in a Strange Land.
Annette Urban (Ruhr-Universität Bochum):
An object-based grammar of film as an inventory of images: John Baldessari and John Stezaker.
(Presentation in German)
What precisely are the objects of film, and can we set up a type of inventory? This highly topical film studies issue, with its ambiguous fundamentals, is not easy to address. However, some unexpected answers may be found in 1970s and 1980s conceptual photographic art. In a list published by artist John Baldessari, for example, you will find the words attack, animal, birds, building together with camouflage, chaos/order, etc. following each other in a strictly alphabetic but otherwise highly heterogeneous order. An entire repertoire of film objects appears to be hidden therein, because this list is derived by means of a classification system of collected film stills which Baldessari has developed over the years. By cumulating and comparing these images – a working process which Baldessari has in common with British artist John Stezaker, – some pivotal, highly stereotypical, yet at the same time evocative cinematographic objects emerge. A closer look at the work created by these two artists from their archive of film images can provide insight into the way in which cinematic objects are acting on their own. In Baldessari's sequential collages, for example vectorial objects extending over the framework to the next shot, are linked paratactically. Consequently, the efficient elements of the montage become somehow engaged and go round in circle. Furthermore, by marking and covering key parts inside a single image, Baldessari and Stezaker also expose those elements which function as catalysts for the cinematic flux of images and turn things into agents. A pre-conceptual grammar of objects of cinematic language, intertwined with an image archive of selected film scenes re-grouped in a quasinarrative manner, seems an appropriate way of helping us further understand their inherent power of acting.
Jun. Prof. Dr. des. Annette Urban since 2010 Junior Professor in Modern Art, Photography and New Media at the Department of Art History at the Ruhr-University Bochum; member of the DFG-research project "Spaces of Reflection of Cinematographic Aesthetics" (2007-2012), led by Prof. Dr. Ursula Frohne at the University of Cologne, responsible for the section on staged photography. Previously, research and teaching assistant at the University of Cologne (2009-2010) and the University of Bremen (2008-2010); Study of Art History, Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at the University of Bochum; PhD on "Artistic Interventions in the 'public/private space'" (publication forthcoming).
Kenneth White (Stanford University):
On the Matter of Snow
In 1971 Michael Snow completed his classic "camera movement" trilogy with La Région Centrale, perhaps the consummate avant-garde engagement with cinematographic "things and operations." His three-hour, 16 mm "gigantic landscape film" is widely recognized as a major achievement of cinema, and perhaps modern art. I argue that Snow's project must be included in a wider array of scanning mechanisms at work in the Canadian tundra. While Snow was producing La Région Centrale in Sept-Iles, Quebec, just 23 km to the east was Pinetree Line Radar Outpost Moisie C-33, a station in the first early warning system built by the Canadian and United States governments in the early years of the Cold War. Thus we see two radar systems developed for ostensibly different purposes, yet reckoning with similar anxieties of seeing, prediction, sensual experience, and rapport across vast distances. One produced by the institutions of defense, the other by an artist exploring the physiological functions of sensory experience in cinema. Two servomechanisms churn and spin, striving to look beyond their immediate position to the future: one of nuclear war, the other to aesthetic limits. I explore the custom-made apparatus Snow designed in collaboration with the machinist Pierre Abeloos. In support of my readings, I draw upon mid-1940s United States defense industry reports, classified during wartime, that detail the servo systems to which Snow's device is a direct relation. I argue that Snow strives to combine a transcendent physiological experience with an intense rapport with the inscription capabilities of his machine; or, as he described it, "I want ecstasy and analysis." I conclude that the machine, and its second life as an autonomous work of sculpture entitled De La, must be considered within a larger field of Cold War surveillance discourse.
Kenneth White is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. His research concerns the history of psychoanalytic discourse and avant-garde film and video of the 1960s and 1970s. He served as guest editor of Millennium Film Journal 54 (Fall 2011): "Focus on Carolee Schneemann."