Post-Cinematic Affect: Theorizing Digital Movies Now — #SCMS13

capture-of-affect

At the upcoming conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (March 6-10, 2013 in Chicago), I will be participating in a panel on “post-cinematic affect” with Steven Shaviro (who, literally, wrote the book on the topic), Therese Grisham (who organized a great roundtable discussion on the topic in La Furia Umana, which I was also proud to be a part of — and which can alternatively be found here if La Furia Umana is down), and Julia Leyda (who also participated in the roundtable and will serve as respondent on our SCMS panel).

Here is a description of our panel, which is scheduled for Thursday, March 7, from 3:00 – 4:45 pm (Session H):

Post-Cinematic Affect: Theorizing Digital Movies Now

If cinema and television, as the dominant media in the twentieth century, shaped and reflected our cultural sensibilities, how do new digital media in the twenty-first century help to shape and reflect new forms of sensibility? Continuing from roundtable discussions on “post-cinematic affect” in the online film journal La Furia Umana, this panel explores the emergence of a new “structure of feeling” (Raymond Williams) or “episteme” (Foucault) in post-millennial film, one that is evident in new formal strategies, radically changed conditions of viewing, and new ways in which films address their spectators. Contemporary films, from blockbusters to independents and the auteurist avant-garde, use digital cameras and editing technologies, incorporating the aesthetics of gaming, webcams, and smartphones, to name a few, as well as Internet media. For this reason alone, we argue, the aesthetic boundaries between art-house film and blockbuster have become blurred. Moreover, the aesthetic elements of contemporary film do not just simulate the environments created by digital technologies and media, but break more radically with the geometry and logic of films in the twentieth century. In this way, they reflect or transmit the effects, not only of digitization, but also of economic globalization and the financialization of more and more human activities. But these changes have only begun to be theorized. In this panel, we continue the work of theorizing a critical aesthetics of film culture today. The papers take as their critical starting-points David Bordwell on “intensified continuity,” Matthias Stork on “chaos cinema,” and Steven Shaviro on post-cinematic affect and “post-continuity.”

The papers explore key critical issues for analyzing post-cinematic affect, in terms of the ambivalent aesthetics of recent films exhibiting a longing for cinema as the lost object of desire (Therese Grisham on Martin Scorsese’s Hugo), post-continuity stylistics (Steven Shaviro on Tony Scott’s films, particularly his 2005 Domino), and philosophical and technological approaches to the contemporary camera (Shane Denson on images “discorrelated” from human sense ratios in a variety of recent films).

Bibliography:

Bordwell, David. “Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film.” Film Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 3. (Spring, 2002), pp. 16–28.

Grisham, Therese, with Julia Leyda, Nicholas Rombes, and Steven Shaviro. “Roundtable Discussion on the Post-Cinematic in Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2.” http://www.lafuriaumana.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=385:roundtable-discussion-about-post-cinematic&catid =59:la-furia-umana-nd-10-autumn-2011&Itemid=61

Shaviro, Steven. “Post-Continuity”. Blog posting: The Pinocchio Theory, March 26, 2012, http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1034

Shaviro, Steven. Post-Cinematic Affect. Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2010.

Stork, Mattias. “Video Essay: Chaos Cinema: The Decline and Fall of Action Filmmaking.” IndieWire, Press Play, August 24, 2011. Retrieved on August 30, 2012.
http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/video_essay_matthias_stork_calls_out_the_chaos_cinema 

Finally, here are links to the individual abstracts:

Therese Grisham, “Martin Scorsese and Hugo (2011): Our Reluctant Contemporaries”

Steven Shaviro, “Angel of Fire: Post-Continuity in Tony Scott’s Domino (2005)”

Shane Denson, “Crazy Cameras, Discorrelated Images, and the Post-Perceptual Mediation of Post-Cinematic Affect”

Glühwein, Film & Vortrag

M-EineStadtSuchtEinenMoerderA4

As announced recently, our screening of Fritz Lang’s M will take place this Thursday, Dec. 13, at 6 pm in room 615 of the Conti-Hochhaus. There will be Glühwein and, following the screening, a presentation and discussion with Urs Büttner. See here for more info.

M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931): Movies, Machines, Modernity

On December 13, we will be screening Fritz Lang’s M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931), the third film in our series “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity.” (See here for a flyer with more details about our film series, and here for a short video introduction that frames it conceptually.)

Following the screening, Urs Büttner (co-editor, with Christoph Bareither, of Fritz Lang: “M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder”. Texte und Kontexte) will discuss the film with us and help us to understand it in its historical context and in the context of the cinema’s negotiations of modernity. (Vortrag — wie auch die Filmvorführung — in deutscher Sprache.)

And because it’s getting to be that time of year again, we will have Glühwein for all!

As always, the screening (6:00pm on Thursday, Dec. 13, in room 615, Conti-Hochhaus) is free and open to all, so spread the word to anyone who might be interested in joining us. More info here and here.

Man with a Movie Camera (1929): Movies, Machines, Modernity

On November 29, 2012, we will be screening Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929), the second film in our series “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity.” (See here for a flyer with more details about our film series, and here for a short video introduction that frames it conceptually.)

In his discussion of Man with a Movie Camera, Roger Ebert begins with the following observation:

In 1929, the year it was released, films had an average shot length (ASL) of 11.2 seconds. “Man With a Movie Camera” had an ASL of 2.3 seconds. The ASL of Michael Bay‘s “Armageddon” was — also 2.3 seconds.

If, as I have argued, Michael Bay’s post-cinematic filmmaking captures something of the nonhuman processing of contemporary life by algorithmic means, then Dziga Vertov’s captured something of the machinic materiality of the modern age — a similarly nonhuman view emphasized in the Kinoks movement (from “kino-oki” or kino-eyes) to which Vertov belonged. From the Wikipedia article on “Kinoks”:

The Kinoks rejected “staged” cinema with its stars, plots, props and studio shooting. They insisted that the cinema of the future be the cinema of fact: newsreels recording the real world, “life caught unawares.” Vertov proclaimed the primacy of camera (“Kino-Eye”) over the human eye. The camera lens was a machine that could be perfected infinitely to grasp the world in its entirety and organize visual chaos into a coherent, objective picture.

But perhaps coherence is in the eye (or kino-eye) of the beholder. As Ebert remarks,

There is a temptation to review the film simply by listing what you will see in it. Machinery, crowds, boats, buildings, production line workers, streets, beaches, crowds, hundreds of individual faces, planes, trains, automobiles, and so on.

In many ways, the film resembles what the object-oriented ontologists, following Ian Bogost, call the “Latour litany“: a rhetorical device, consisting in a list of apparently unrelated things, which peppers the writings of Bruno Latour and is employed extensively in OOO to emphasize the plurality of things or objects populating the world and to encourage a break with our normal tendencies to view them anthropocentrically. Bogost recommends the device in his Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, and perhaps it’s fair to see Vertov’s general project of the Kino-Eye, and its specific expression in Man with a Movie Camera, as precisely an alien-phenomenological undertaking, designed to help us feel “what it’s like to be a thing” in the modern age.

As for the connection with Michael Bay-style “chaos cinema” and the post-cinematic discorrelation of digital images from the human subject, a recent project, the “Global Participatory Remake” of Man with a Movie Camera, brings the two types of alien phenomenologies — the contemporary algorithmic/database-driven and Vertov’s filmic kino-eye — together in an exciting way. At the same time, this project might be seen to raise some rather unsettling questions. What is the relation of contemporary “participatory culture” to the ideals of socialism, when the empowerment experienced by the participants is grounded in the same informatic infrastructure that turns our own entertainment into “immaterial labor” exploitable by corporations wielding algorithms incommensurable with our human concerns, values, perspectives? While the “Global Remake” is hardly guilty, I think, of such exploitation, it enjoins us materially to attend to media-historical and political changes, and to recall that while Vertov’s project was undertaken in the cause of the Revolution, we still have to assess what the revolutionary potential might be — if any, either historical or contemporary — of an alien phenomenology…

As always, the screening (6:00pm on Thursday, Nov. 29, in room 615, Conti-Hochhaus) is free and open to all, so spread the word to anyone who might be interested in joining us. Feel free also to bring along snacks and refreshments. More info here and here.

M: Movies, Machines, Modernity — An Introduction

Above, a somewhat streamlined and re-focused version of the talk I gave last Thursday at the first screening in our film series “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity.” Text and video: Shane Denson. Music: Jared C. Balogh, “Break in the Action,” licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike License.

Film & TV Reading Group (Winter 2012/13)

(Click on the image for a larger view)

As indicated on the flyer above, the Film & TV Reading Group will have its first meeting of the semester on Wednesday, November 14 (4:00 pm in room 613, Conti-Hochaus), where we will discuss Walter Benjamin’s famous “Artwork” essay. The topics for the following meetings have not been determined yet, so if there is anything you would like to discuss, please let me know. Tentatively, the following dates have also been reserved: December 5 and January 16 (also 4:00 – 6:00 pm in room 613). New participants are always welcome!

M: Movies, Machines, Modernity. A Film Series

This semester the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research at the Leibniz Universität Hannover will again be organizing a series of film screenings. We have decided to show public domain versions of the films so that we can make the screenings free and open to all. (Feel free also to bring along snacks and refreshments.)

The topic this semester is “M: Movies, Machines, Modernity”:

From the beginning, movies have presented themselves as the preeminent machines of modernity. On the one hand, they have served as a medium for imagining and envisioning modern landscapes and machinic cities. On the other hand, the movies were involved directly in the making of said modernity. The image of a machine is often a movie’s reflexive image of itself, or of that which it imagines itself to be…

Screenings will take place in the rooms of the English Department / American Studies (room 615, Conti-Hochhaus — all screenings begin at 6:00 pm). The schedule, put together this time by Felix Brinker, Ilka Brasch, and Shane Denson, includes the following four films:

November 8, 2012: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

November 29, 2012: Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

December 13, 2012: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (Fritz Lang, 1931)

January 17, 2013: Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

[UPDATE: See here for a brief video introduction to the topic of our series.]