Abstracts

Samuel Adelaar

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Leviathan: art in the time of hyperobjects

The age of humans impinging upon geological processes known as the anthropocene engendered the phenomenon of global warming, which Timothy Morton ironically argues can only be grappled with through a metaphysics that displaces humans from the centre of the ontological universe. This heterodox philosophical tendency, referred to variously as speculative realism or object-oriented ontology, emerged in response to a crisis in philosophical discourse: the exhaustion of the restriction of thought to that which is given to humans. Morton asserts that global warming is a hyperobject that enjoins humans to acknowledge the latter’s existence. Hyperobjects are real entities existing apart from human intention, which humans are not only spatiotemporally dwarfed by, but also inside of. I claim that Leviathan, a nonfiction film about a commercial fishing vessel harvesting hauls of fish, is exemplary of art in the time of hyperobjects. The visceral spectatorial experience furnished by the film models the viscosity of hyperobjects: that they not only press upon us, but also penetrate our bodies. The images offered by the film are disorienting and unpredictable, resisting intelligibility, and voiding Cartesian space, thereby embodying the end of the world as horizon before which everything is meaningful to humans, which is instantiated by hyperobjects. I also illuminate Leviathan’s non-correlationist philosophical underpinning by relating it to Levi Bryant’s machine-oriented ontology (MOO). MOO is a flat ontology: there is no Being, only beings, which Bryant calls machines because they are defined by their powers. I argue that the film constitutes an onto-cartography, which he designates as a map of the character of the couplings of the machines that compose a social assemblage. This aim animates the film’s efforts to catalogue more than simply the relations involving or attended to by humans, such as the negotiations between fishing gear and the unfathomable energy of the ocean.

 

Benjamin Anderson

Simon Fraser University (Burnaby BC, Canada)

Challenging Legitimation: Alternative Media and Capitalist Crisis

To propose that in a time of global crisis we might simultaneously face a period of opportunity for radical social change might strike some as idealistic, others as opportunistic. However, our various crises – environmental, humanitarian, economic – are generating deep schisms in the global capitalist order, schisms that if exploited have the potential to awaken a dormant global class of the oppressed. Indeed, the Arab Spring, Occupy, and even the recent anti-FIFA actions in Brazil indicate a new consciousness and the potential for a popular movement on a massive scale. It is entirely possible that we are facing the largest legitimation crisis in capitalist history.

An ideological shift on the scale one might expect from such a crisis of global capitalism’s dominance would necessitate and encourage dramatic changes in the roles and orientations of ideological apparatuses, namely the news media. The media field, following Bourdieu, is a social space characterized by the interplay of conservation and resistance forces, one in which communicative agents compete for social capital and contribute to a state of what Muhlmann terms conflictual unifying.

This paper addresses alternative and autonomous forms of media and their increased capital in social struggles. It is the author’s goal to highlight contemporary struggles within the media field and to propose a shift in conceptual and practical visions for ideological resistance. Specifically, as the struggle against global capital’s legitimation increases, new forms of media will continue to emerge, joining the existing vanguard of ideological resistance. Existing outside of commercial structures, these new channels of subaltern resistance are informed by non- mainstream logics. By addressing contemporary debates within alternative media, we will be better equipped to prepare for and support these emerging forms of critical engagement as they challenge the dominant agents and institutions that currently distort and control the media field.

 

Amber Christensen

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Becoming an Image: trauma, affect, and memory

This paper explores ideas of trauma, affect, memory, and the queer archive of feelings within the expanded photographic and performance practice of the Canadian born, L.A. based queer performance artist Heather Cassils.1 The essay specifically looks at Cassils’ piece Becoming an Image.

To live our lives we often dissociate from traumatic experiences, to prevent them from overwhelming the psyche. For Roland Barthes images without connotation were those of traumatic images, because trauma operates at a level that blocks and suspends language and signification.2 This suspension is particularly fraught in archival concerns when history is intertwined with a collective trauma; how do you document something that exceeds representation? Photography, film and video are linked to the archive as tools for locating memory; they trade in a sort of spectral currency. But to locate trauma is to be torn between two temporalities—it transgresses specific moments in time. In Becoming an Image, visual artist Heather Cassils’ expanded photographic performance; we see a confrontation with the limits of representation in traumatic imagery.

In Becoming an Image, the audience is ushered into a room entirely devoid of light, and resides in silence until their eyes adjust to the darkness. After this, Cassils enters the space, silently and still without light. In the center of the room is a 1500-pound block of clay, as well as photographer. For the next 24 minutes Cassils, who has gone through extreme training in boxing, weight lifting, and mixed martial arts training unleashes a fury of blows onto the mass of clay. During the performance the photographer documents the performance, the flash is the only light source for the duration. The flash’s burst within the pitch-black room, allows for the documentation by the photographer, but more importantly creates a live photograph, and subsequently an after image and a trace unique to each of the spectators. Becoming an Image was originally commissioned bythe ONE Archives (the oldest active Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning (LGBTQ) organization in the United States), in order to address missing trans and queer histories, often absent from LGBTQ archives.

 

Daniel Cockburn

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Your Car Won’t Start, He’s Got A Knife, You’ve Misread The Situation Entirely

The year 1994 saw the release of two films by contemporary horror icons (both of which featured the director’s name in the title) : WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE and JOHN CARPENTER’S IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. Both of these films pin their high-concept scares on self-referential storytelling, but they exemplify two opposite narrative uses of stories-about-stories; one film (Craven’s) says explicitly that stories are a tool for capturing and defeating evil; the other movie (Carpenter’s) says that stories are the tool that evil uses to enter our world and defeat us.

What do (filmed) stories intend to do to us?, What do they actually do to us?, and What happens when their intent is misunderstood — when there is a crisis of perceptionbetween the film and the viewer? I will talk about what can be found in that split that is productive; and what can be found in that split that is terrifying.

Your Car Won’t Start, He’s Got A Knife, You’ve Misread The Situation Entirely is a 20-minute audiovisual lecture-performance in the same vein as my hour-long presentation All The Mistakes I’ve Made (2009), which I first created as part of a DAAD-Berlin Filmmaker Residency, and subsequently toured internationally to venues including the European Media Art Festival (Osnabruck), UnionDocs (Brooklyn), Impakt Festival (Utrecht), and Pleasure Dome (Toronto).

 

Joseph DeLeon

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA)

Detroit: Urban Crisis

Detroit’s urban explorers are amateur media producers who record and transmit Detroit’s built environment with the aim to counter a dominant narrative of Detroit as emblematic of the US’s financial, racial, and urban crises. Their work foregrounds the ongoing relevance, use, and aesthetic value of Detroit’s ruinous structures. I intend to demonstrate how the urban explorers (or urbexers) in Detroit’s ruins embody a crisis in the disjuncture between their commitment to alternate venues for media production and circulation and their contribution to a regime of management of the self through user- produced content under a “new chronic mode” of capitalism that exploits ongoing crises (Cazdyn 4-5).

This paper will perform a discourse analysis of various materials produced by urbexers in order to understand this crisis within the urban exploration (or urbex) subject. First, I will frame the urbexer through the “Tips and Tricks” portions of urbex websites, which present an image of the model urbexer as a media producer and as a responsible citizen devoted to the “leave no trace” tenet shared by eco-tourism and urbex (Garrett 15). Scaling down, I will analyze Detroit urbexers’ particular inflection of this urbex ethos in blog posts, forum posts, and other media. This analysis will demonstrate the contested nature of not only Detroit urbexers’ response to global capitalism’s reordering of urban space and urban disinvestment, but also the very practice of urbex itself as a critical engagement with urban space. Thus, my paper will attempt to portray the contradictory cultural productions that emanate from these amateur media producers in Detroit as a ground zero of a certain form of crisis.

 

Eli Horwatt

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Towards Piracy Studies

Film piracy is a paradoxical activity, simultaneously betraying a consumptive fetish for an object and a refusal to support its perpetuity. It is a schizophrenic bundling of desire and neglect, of want and refusal; perhaps a major symptom of late capitalist attitudes towards media, abetted of course by the new arteries of digital communication. Conversely, film piracy presents distinct challenges to the film studies discipline, countering the prejudice towards optimal viewing conditions. It produces distance between spectator and image via digital decay, in some cases enacting situations championed by oppositional film and video cultures dedicated to the creation of counter-cinemas outside of capitalist exchange systems, whilst fulfilling the dream of new archives of images.

The pirate copy, Hito Stereyl notes in her essay “In Defense of the Poor Image,” challenges us with new terms for the value of images—terms the cinephilic film studies discipline resists. Pirate images are divested from resolution and exchange value and instead place worth in other features of the digital image, like “velocity, intensity, and spread.” But while Stereyl’s important defense reroutes the value of pirate images from their visuality towards their mobility—we must also look at how the spectatorial situations found in pirated copies might themselves be valuable aesthetic experiences worthy of interrogation, catalytic to artmaking practices if not parallel to them, and a fulsome staging ground for until-now impossible digital interventions.

This paper examines critical moments in cinema piracy from the last decade which elude the optimal viewing conditions favored by film studies while simultaneously producing idiosyncratic insight into cinematic production, interventions into the ideological circuits of film distribution, and telling comic mishaps from the global marketplace. I examine the distinct challenges raised by piracy studies from film studies scholars as a critical sight of disciplinary crisis and potentiality moving into the 21st century.

 

Katerina Korola

University of Chicago (Chicago, USA)

Leaving The Cave: Gallery Film, Apparatus Theory, and the Question of Emancipated Spectatorship

Since the late 1990s, the moving image has become a mainstay in the gallery, occasioning praise from art critics, curators, and film scholars alike. In much of this commentary, however, the much-maligned cinematic apparatus has provided an occasion to ignore the apparatus that more immediately governs the viewer’s relationship to the work, resulting in a body of criticism that ignores the restrictions on spectatorship endemic to the gallery itself. This paper is concerned with addressing this crisis of criticism resultant from this omission, evaluating its implications for both gallery film and traditional cinematic spectatorship. By re-integrating the earlier institutional critique of museum studies scholars into contemporary discussion of gallery film, the first part of this paper demonstrates that even as the gallery liberates the spectator from certain forms of subjugation, it imposes its own set of constraints. Inversely, the second part of this paper takes the limitations of gallery viewing as an opportunity to complicate our discussion of cinematic spectatorship. Inspired by the work of Jacques Rancière, this paper contends that, in focusing on the set of spectatorial constraints specific to the gallery, not only can the truly critical potential of moving image practices in the gallery be revealed, but so too can the cinema be redeemed as a site for the production of emancipated consciousness. It argues that what emerges from the confrontation of the white cube and the black box is the opportunity to identify and negotiate a crisis is both film theory and art criticism, namely, the need to move beyond the critique of spectacle towards a consideration of practices capable of transforming even the most over-determined of spectacles into sites of emancipation.

 

Cody Lang

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Genre, Crisis, and Neo-Noir Films

Neo-noir films in the 1970s depict both a change in generic patterns and structures and a legitimation-ideological crisis that America was experiencing during this period. I will look at The Long Goodbye (1973), Chinatown (1974), and Night Moves (1975) and their depictions of ideological contradictions. These neo-noirs revised the private detective narrative mode found in classical film noir in two ways: revising the relationship between the private detective and the collective; and revising the relationship between the private detective and knowledge. What these three films show is American cinema in this period were reacting to the utopian dreams of the 1960s. In the 1940s, private detectives embodied the middle-class ethic of individualism and the profit motive which was depicted in the classical cycle as the detective’s adherence to a strict moral code and desire to get paid in exchange for solving the mystery (two essential ideologemes for the classical film noir private detective film). In the seventies, the private detective’s characterization was not modified but instead the collective he was working within and fighting for was significantly modified and this modification registered itself in the narrative structure of the films. No longer is the detective able to bring justice to the collective and his strict moral code and epistemological abilities (i.e. detection) are useless in the face of bourgeois corruption in late-capitalist (i.e. postmodern) cinema. The 1970s neo-noirs are a dialectical response to the utopian dreams of the1960s by replacing petit-bourgeois ideologemes found in the classical film noir cycle with postmodern nostalgia and cynicism, two key ideologemes for neo-noir in American cinema. The crisis that is imagined by 1970s neo-noir is an ideological crisis that projects a dream of the collective that is post-utopian, admitting defeat to late-capitalism.

 

Vincent Marquis

Courtauld Institute of Art (London, UK)

The Aesthetic of Boredom: Media Arts, Temporality and the Crisis of Spectatorship

In 1981, the Korean American artist Nam June Paik described early video art as “boring,”1 intending to denote the temporal dimension of artworks as affected by the artists’ inexperienced manipulation of the new medium. Yet, as Christine Ross points out, many artists of that period rather conceived of their practice as being informed by the investigation of “the making of time”—in other words, the “consideration of time as material”—and of alternative “conventionalities of time.”

In more recent video and media art practices, this interest in boredom and uneventfulness has resurged in interesting ways, as a number of contemporary artists have dug deeper into their spectatorial-phenomenological implications. In this paper, taking the recent work of Olivia Boudreau, Gillian Wearing, Douglas Gordon and Stan Douglas as case studies, I examine this general insistence on the productivity of temporalizing the spectator’s perception. With the help of theorists such as Lothar Baier, Kate Mondloch and Lars Svendsen, I offer answers to the following questions: Why have these practices embraced this tendency towards slower models of temporality, longue durée, and boredom? What does it reveal about the codes of these practices and our conceptions of time?

I argue that this body of work constitutes a turning point—a crisis—in the ways in which video and media arts are conceived of and experienced. In particular, this body of work instantiates what Martin Heidegger has described as a temporal de-synchronization: an experiential gap between our expectations of time’s flow and the particular temporality put forward by the work. As such, those practices present the current, mainstream Euro-American relations to time—that is, a capitalist model of temporality founded on standards of urgency, speed and performance—as inadequate, limiting, or problematic at best.

In sum, this paper is an examination of boredom as both a critical aesthetic strategy— one that reconfigures the conventions of spectatorship—and a prism through which alternative, more adequate models of temporality may emerge.

 

David Mongor-Lizarrabengoa

University of Western Ontario (London, Canada)

Overcoming the Film Crisis of the 1990s: Peruvian Cinema’s Struggle to Break into the Global Market

Over the course of film history in Latin America, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil have consistently produced more films and have had greater international success than any other countries in the region. With increased support on the domestic level to finance film projects coupled with greater exposure & positive reception on the film festival circuit, many of these smaller Latin American nations are breaking into the global market and gaining international recognition for their films. However, there have been many obstacles that these nations have had to overcome in order to achieve this success. For example, Peru’s film production came to an abrupt halt in the 1990s when Alberto Fujimori was elected president. By eliminating tax incentives for film makers and guaranteed screenings, domestic film production became practically nonexistent. This cinema crisis improved a little bit when Fujimori left office and new programs were established in order to aid domestic filmmakers. In this paper, I will explain in detail the crippling effects of Fujimori‘s dictatorship on Peru’s film industry. Then, I will examine several domestic films: El destino no tiene favoritos (2003), Madeinusa (2006), La teta asustada (2009), Contracorriente (2010), and El evangelio de la carne (2013) that were well received on the film festival circuit (and later by international audiences) and the reasons behind their success. Lastly, I will argue that recent changes in Peru’s government, including the founding of a new Ministry of Culture, have made it possible for new directors and filmmakers to undertake domestic film projects which would not have been possible during the film industry’s crisis during Fujimori’s dictatorship.

 

Malcolm Morton

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Rachel Boynton’s Our Brand is Crisis: Questioning Documentary Form in the Age of the Recession

My paper examines Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary Our Brand is Crisis, about Bolivia’s 2002 presidential election. Throughout the film, operatives of the campaign consultancy Greenberg-Carville-Shrum are entirely forthright in declaring that their modus operandi is to generate a sense of crisis, and therefore urgency, in the electorate. In this manner, they state, centrist, neo-liberal ideas are more likely to carry the day, as radical socialistic “experiments” can be dismissed as “too risky” in the current state of crisis.

Beyond its lucid demonstration of the political uses of manufacturing crises, however, Boynton’s film is interesting in light of its implications regarding the “fly on the wall” observational documentary, or “direct cinema,” tradition. My paper will question whether, in our current crisis-prone era of globalization, digitization, and corporatization, direct cinema still possesses the same informative power that it once did. The early classics of the form, produced in the mid-twentieth century in North America and Western Europe, were products of specific national and cultural contexts where a far greater degree of ethnic, educational, and experiential homogeneity could be presumed between the films’ subjects and its audience. The form was largely predicated on the idea that we can know, or judge, people by their faces, bearing, tone, manner, etc. This idea, however, required a greater degree of uniformity between a film’s subjects and viewers than can be taken for granted in today’s era of globalization.

My paper will further discuss Charles Ferguson’s 2010 documentary Inside Job in contrast to Boynton’s film. Touching on Iceland, Singapore, China, and India as well the West, Inside Job tacitly acknowledges the limits of direct documentary in today’s world, and suggests that a more protean form – drawing on computer graphics and Hollywood-style cinematography – might offer more potential for making sense of the great economic crisis of our time.

 

Jessica Mulvogue

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Cartography after the future: counter-mapping practices in the time of global crisis.

 

Beyond providing geographical and territorial information, maps function as means by which we imagine and make sense of the world and negotiate our position within it. Maps are not accurate representations of the world nor are they neutral. Maps are ideological projections that betray cultural conventions, received ideas about the world, as well as systems of global power. In our current moment of permanent crisis and imminent catastrophe, analysis of how we envision and represent the world is particularly crucial. This is because maps are not only spatial objects but also temporal. Cartography of course tells us something about history but in its desire to order or reorder the world, mapmaking also has a role in orienting the future. Counter or alternative mapping strategies often reveal systems of power with the aim to redirect the future. The relationship between counter-maps and the future is particularly interesting today given Franco Berardi’s (amongst others) assertion that the ‘future’ is over, that futurity is a notion of the past.

This paper looks to different alternative mapmaking practices, from the realms of science, design, and art, to first investigate how the world is represented in times of global crisis and then to consider what this reveals about changing ideas of ‘future’. I look at four instances of counter-maps from two crisis periods. First, I examine two utopian world images: Buckminster Fuller’s dymaxion map and the Apollo 17 “Whole Earth” image of the 1960s/70s. I will then compare these representations to contemporary cartographic imaginations of the world, in particular Jonas Staal’s GPS app The Ideological Guide to the Venice Biennale 2013 and Qie Zhijie’s Mapping the 21st Century. While on the surface, these latter maps appear to be emblematic of dystopian visions of the present and reflections of the ‘end of the future,’ I suggest that the performative aspects of these maps reveal in fact a utopian impulse or the promise of futurity.

 

Erin Nunoda

University of Toronto (Toronto, Canada)

Film in Bas-Relief: 3D and Haptic Performativity

 

In literature compiled on the formal capacities (or alternatively, perceptual limitations) of 3D technology, two common paradigms inevitably emerge. The first illustrates the format as the remnants of a self-conscious bent in early cinema: one that acknowledges its representational status and places the audience at a remove from its illusions. The second defines it as an example of filmic illusion par excellence, one that sutures its audience even more persuasively to its apparatus and thus to the Hollywood economic system. Alternatively to both, this paper posits 3D as akin to a tradition of engraving, suggesting the traces of embodiment while also affirming an essential iconographic quality: the figures emerge from proscenium situatedness, but they cannot ultimately transcend its flatness.

The medium thus suggests an affinity for the presentational or the archeological: unlike large formats or multisensory techniques, 3D cannot assume a totalizing effect, it separates actors and objects (or perhaps actors-as-objects) in fragments; it tempts immersion but only in part. Yet, these metaphors of tactility also point to a potential metaphoric resonance in 3D: one is drawn closer, but cannot touch, a fact which attenuates the pathos of projection, and may in fact be able to illustrate relational gaps better than non-3D technologies. 3D is thus not just an extension of a formative theatrical impulse (a la the “cinema of attractions”) but could instead be construed as an expression of affective contradictions inherent in spectatorship: it is neither explicitly overwhelming or distanciating, but rather implies the phenomenological gaps that exist between touching and feeling.

Using examples culled from recent popular usages of the technology, the paper conveys a manner through which 3D can be interpreted not merely as an economic imperative, but also as an attempt to account for subjective fragility and post-film poetics of gendered identification.

 

Kalli Paakspuu

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Reframing Provocation

In Ukraine the a capella song named Shchedryk was arranged by nationalist and composer Mykola Leontovych in 1916 as a new year carol that tells the story of a swallow flying into the house to sing of the wealth to come in the spring. This presentation examines how music and juxtapositions can ground a story in a longer history using archival images as a dialectics of point, counterpoint, fusion in a co-authorship of reception. A visual dialogue evolves in the film Shchedryk (2014) through a remediation of scenes from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), Alexander Dovzhenko‘s Earth (1930) and Norman McLaren’s experimental film, Synchromy (1971). Shchedryck’s dance of colour, tone and rhythm is manipulated with jazz artist Paul Hoffert’s performance and layered cinematic narratives that weave through an architecture of reds, greens, blues and yellows. In the spirit of McLaren’s improvisation Shchedryk was designed to be projected on a public wall and to pulsate with the centuries long struggle of Ukrainians to maintain their culture through the tyrannies of the Russian Czar, the Bolsheviks and present day political forces. The film is a culture jamming in innovative film arts designed as a first step in a crowd mentoring and funding campaign for the theatrical documentary, 1921 The War Against Music. This presentation will include the 4.5 minute film experience which is doing the film festival circuit and will consider how people without the recourse to the dominant culture may through recipient co-authorship replay things in more sophisticated ways. Judith Butler’s idea of the performative and of subjects re-performing an injury (Butler 1993) is introduced to this multi-screen experience in an effort to revisit beliefs and norms (Butler, 387), but also to re-imagine and reframe provocation.

 

Casey Reid

Humber College (Etobicoke, Canada)

The Crisis of Communication: Online Identity and the Politics of Failing

Failing online can ignite various discussions, but as accentuated by websites such as Failblog and Lamebook, it is in the sense of humour derived from watching others fail that identity becomes not only revealed as a construction but de-essentialized. This more dispersed conception of identity reflects back onto the physical body, and thus has the capacity to disrupt the very normative society that insists on regulating and hierachivizing a digital space. However, online spaces tend to be self-regulating and part of this regulation occurs through posting, sharing or commenting on Fail Videos. A key facet in the interest of Fail posts and videos is making a private event public. This essay seeks to explore the disjuncture between the joy of watching other’s pain in a public space and the inability to cope with a sense of embarrassment for the subject. Much of the embarrassment derived is not so much the act depicted within the space of the videos, but the deterioration of the line between public and private and the seemingly infinite possibilities of publicness online. The crisis of communication then, is the complex relationship one has with their own online identity and a largely self regulating vast network of users who take pleasure in those who “fail” online. “Failing” online can take many forms but it is the implicit rejection of and by a normative society actualized online that underpins this pleasure. This essay will explore on one hand, how the politics of failing are predicated on finding humour in misfortune of others and on the other, how the posting and circulation of these misfortunes has the capacity to be subversive.

 

Jeffrey Speirs

University of Regina (Regina, Canada)

Star Trek & Dystopian Futures

In this paper I will argue that we have turned away from depictions of what Richard Rorty has called a “more ideal future” in television and film. We are now preoccupied with depictions of the future that are grim, dark, and bereft of hope. There are many examples to choose from, but the most salient is the change in tone that has occurred in Star Trek. I will use the political philosophy of Richard Rorty to show that depictions of the future like Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek are necessary to promulgate hope and political agency. It is a future that has benefitted from moral progress.  Human inequality, hunger, poverty have been eliminated. Yet, it is not a utopia. War and other troublesome circumstances are still present. In Roddenberry’s Star Trek, it is only the ramifications of violent conflict in the past which serve as the context for the stories being told. War is not the centerpiece, and violence which leads to death is rare.

Recent incarnations of Star Trek are a stark change from this “more ideal future.” Violence and death occur with greater frequency, and the future seems bleak. Star Trek is no longer science fiction nor is it a narrative of hope. This is problematic because hope is required to instigate moral progress. Darker depictions of the future, like dystopias, can be useful to criticize current events and themes, but there should be brighter portrayals of the future to instil hope.

 

Sarah Stang

York University (Toronto, Canada)

Outlaw on the Silver Screen: American Cinema During the Great Depression

 

To begin my presentation, I will set the context of the historical period: the roaring twenties, the stock market crash of 1929, and the ensuing economic crisis which was called the Great Depression. Then I will discuss the changes that started occurring in American society because of this crisis – the pessimism, the cynicism, the deep distrust of Wall Street and the businessman in general, the feeling of betrayal, the fear of moral breakdown combined with the changing attitudes towards crime and punishment, the scepticism towards the American Dream, and the crisis of national identity. I will then turn to a discussion of how Hollywood responded to these changes, using the figure of the outlaw to subvert everything from capitalism, to the law, to the American Dream itself. I will quickly demonstrate how the outlaw figure in Swashbucklers (Captain Blood, the Mark of Zorro, The Adventures of Robin Hood) embodied rebellion against a government that has been corrupted by greedy capitalism, how Westerns (Stagecoach, Jesse James) turned the usually villainous outlaw into a hero to denounce the legal system as corrupt or inept and critique society’s rejection of those who do not fit into to traditional norms. I will then spend the rest of my presentation talking about gangster films as the most complicated and popular contemporary outlaws in Depression-era America. I will give a brief history of the infamous gangster Al Capone and how he ruled Chicago and became a kind of outlaw hero in his own lifetime, and how he was represented in film (Little Caesar, Scarface). The gangster, both real and cinematic, functioned as a proxy for the deepest tensions in American society, and was by far the darkest and most cynical representation of the crisis of national identity that was precipitated by the economic downturn

 

Tyson Stewart

Laurentian University (Sudbury, Canada)

Spectres of Death in Godard and The Crisis of Representation

 

 

How do mainstream fictional images of war affect documentary

filmmaking? Is there an archive of images of atrocity that is

uninfluenced by the logic of the spectacle? Is narrative inbuilt in

documentary war footage? This talk will focus on montage sequences in

two films by Jean-Luc Godard to confront the question of how death in

the context of war is represented in both fictional and documentary

film. After a brief survey of death scenes in Godard’s films, montage

sequences in Les Carabiniers (France/Italy, 1963) and Notre musique

(France/Switzerland, 2004) will be analyzed in terms of différance and

the politics of representation. André Bazin argued that the moment of

death in film is an ontological obscenity, yet these films, and many

others by Godard, show death as oscillating between reality and fiction,

presence and non-presence, being and non-being. My argument concerns the

fact that Godard, by representing atrocity through a blurring of genres,

in some ways deconstructs documentary realism and its rhetorical moves.

Les Carabiniers mixes real footage of war with the story of characters

Ulysses and Michelangelo on the battlefield. Notre musique contains a

striking montage of death entitled “Hell” using both non-fiction and

fictional sources and the film ends with Godard (played by Godard) being

told about a character’s suicide. Documentary death is incorporated into

these narratives, but strategies are used to highlight death’s

relationship with the medium and the viewer at all times. These films

conjure death and atrocity in unique ways that point, in the end, to a

clash between non-fiction and fiction, an interplay between documentary

and hope, which suggests no longer can one exist without the other.

 

Carmen Victor

York University & Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada)

Shadows from the Future – Kelly Richardson’s The Last Frontier (2013)

 

The Last Frontier (2013) a large-scale HD video installation by Canadian-born, UK- based visual artist Kelly Richardson depicts an enormous swirling dome set in an uncanny, remote terrain. The installation unfolds in a seamless bounded loop without any discernible beginning or end. Much like sublime landscape images of the Romantic period, viewers observe the post-apocalyptic view from outside the frame of experience in a place of safety. Does the dome protect an unseen population from a hostile environment or is it a containment shield from a catastrophic nuclear or cosmic force? It is not certain whether The Last Frontier depicts a future, utopian habitat or a dangerous event horizon.

The Last Frontier was first publicly exhibited in a former WWII bomb shelter; a location that ostensibly offers protection but where the potential for annihilation remains omnipresent. I demonstrate how The Last Frontier shares formal qualities with the Trinity nuclear test detonation image taken at 16 milliseconds, July 1945 in the New Mexico desert. Taken together, these images evince a juxtaposition between destruction and protection. I argue that The Last Frontier represents a future, unknown event proposing a terrifying utopia that is forever haunted by the failure of its enterprise.

The research situates The Last Frontier according to the notion of displaced temporality (nachträglichkeit) vis-à-vis theorists such as Freud and Foster. My analysis also suggests events that are expected to happen after an unknown point of reference (or cataclysm) at some temporally undefined moment in the future. But rather than forecasting a point on a pre-determined trajectory, this research demonstrates how The Last Frontier becomes a dialectical image where the past, present and future collide.
I also demonstrate how The Last Frontier functions as an iterative structure no longer moving toward a transcendent future, within the rhetorical category of the sublime.

 

Jakub Zdebik

Ohio University (Athens, USA)

Celluloid Film as Digital Art: Cory Arcangel and the Rift between the Figurative and the Abstract

 

Cory Arcangel is the artist best known for his Super Mario Clouds, 2002—a moving image art work consisting of a hacked Nintendo cartridge playing nothing but the white clouds on the blue backdrop from the iconic video game. Recently, Arcangel has questioned the nature of the image in a digital age by attacking film in an attempt to exacerbate the rift between digital and celluloid images. Colors, 2006, appropriates Dennis Hopper’s 1988 film of the same name and plays the gangland cop movie one horizontal line of colour, outstretched vertically across the screen, at a time—the figurative representations is replaced by an abstract digital image while the narrative plays on. Untitled Translation Exercise, 2006 is Richard Linklater’s 1993 Dazed and Confused overdubbed with the voices of an Indian outsource firm creating an uneasy disconnect between the portrayal of middle-class America and the perplexed tone of Indian voices. With Structural Film, 2007, Arcangel projects a 16 mm film of a scratched digital video filter to create a ‘fake’ structuralist film while, in effect, offering a close study of the formalist tension between video and film aesthetics. These three works show the artist intensifying the rift between the digital and the analog. I will analyze Arcangel’s film hacks through the theories of Massumi (“On the Superiority of the Analog”); Deleuze (“Analogy”, Cinema I); and Elkins (“Art History and Images that are not Art”). I propose to explore the zone of indiscernibility between celluloid and digital images by suggesting a concept of the image based on varying degrees of formal and abstract arrangements rather than representation. In the process, I hope to bring attention to the new types of images developed by Arcangel and through those, reinvigorate the visual theories of the aforementioned aesthetic thinkers.

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