Post-Cinema Book Launch Party

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On June 24, 2016, Julia Leyda and I will be celebrating the launch of our co-edited book Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film at Pro qm Books in Berlin. Several contributors will be on hand as well for a short book presentation, Q&A, and wine!

See the flyer above for details, and come out if you’re in the neighborhood!

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Seriality Seriality Seriality

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Poster for the upcoming conference “Seriality Seriality Seriality: The Many Lives of the Field that Isn’t One” (final conference of the Popular Seriality Research Unit), taking place June 22-24, 2016 at the Freie Universität Berlin!

More info at the conference website.

CFP: Seriality Seriality Seriality — Berlin, June 2016

Seriality Seriality Seriality: The Many Lives of the Field That Isn’t One

On June 22-24, 2016, the Popular Seriality Research Unit (DFG Forschergruppe 1091 “Ästhetik und Praxis populärer Serialität”) will hold its final conference in Berlin, Germany.

After six years, thirteen subprojects, nine associated projects, numerous conferences, workshops, and publications it is time to reach some kind of conclusion.

Together with our international collaborators over the years, we would like to explore future possibilities and alternative visions of a “field” that we always claimed existed. Thus, the focus of our final conference will be on the histories, conceptualizations, and methodologies of seriality studies itself.

Trying to sidestep the formats of the project pitch, the case study, the “reading” of individual series according to pre-existing theoretical models or their translation into philosophical master vocabularies, we invite scholarly practices—including those just mentioned—to reflect on the challenges and limits of (their contributions to) seriality studies as an ongoing, perhaps fantastical, project that traverses disciplinary and methodological paradigms.

Each of the Research Unit’s current subprojects will organize a section. Section formats will vary but they will always stress discussion and exchange. Hence, workshops and panel discussions will provide at least 40 minutes for Q&A. Time limits for papers (20 minutes) and panel statements (5 minutes) will be strictly enforced.

We invite paper proposals for sections nos. 3, 7, & 11 by October 31, 2015. Please specify which of these sections you are applying for; note that other sections are already complete.

Please refer to the CFP above for details and application procedures, and visit our conference website at: http://www.popularseriality.de/en/konferenz/index.html

Trust Issues: Community, Contingency, and Security in North America

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My friend and colleague Felix Brinker, now at the Freie Universität Berlin, is co-organizing a conference on the notion of “trust” — including all the technologies and media of surveillance and control upon which trust is built and broken — in contemporary America. I am pleased to post the call for papers for this exciting event:

“Trust Issues: Community, Contingency, and Security in North America”

GSNAS Graduate Conference 2014

May 9-10, John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

From the misprision of financial institutions to the NSA scandal, recent years have seen several revelations calling the architecture of American society into question. The United States has been rocked by crises of faith that have cast new doubt on the American Dream. Historical breaches of trust are also at the fore. The fortieth anniversary of Watergate is a further reminder that issues of trust constitute a central concern in North American studies.

This conference engages with the significance of trust for social cohesion and the consequences of its withdrawal from social, political, and financial institutions. We also welcome papers exploring how these processes are represented in literature, film, and other media. Where can we place our trust, culturally and socially, given a multitude of informational sources and authorities? How can America’s damaged politico-cultural institutions be stabilized, transformed, or replaced?

Papers are invited on a range of topics from various disciplines. Possible subjects include, but are not limited to:

  • How has America created, maintained, and interrogated its ‘grand narratives’ throughout history? What role does popular culture assume in debates regarding surveillance and control, conspiracy theories, and leadership? 
  • How can the conflicting priorities of an individual’s right to freedom and the communal desire for security be accommodated? In what way do business interests interact with political responsibilities? Can corporations rebuild trust at a local and transnational level? 
  • In what ways do the histories of race, sectarianism, and sexuality in North America intersect with those of community and security? How does the figure of the Other stabilize or destabilize a sense of trust?
  • In what way does minority/divided government influence political accountability and legitimacy? Do the political systems of the U.S. and Canada inspire trust in adequate representation?
  • What does the erosion of trust between narrators and readers signify for modern and postmodernist texts and aesthetics? How are alternative realities, paranoia, and the fear of technology depicted in fiction?
Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and a short CV to gsnas.conference2014@gsnas.fu-berlin.de. The proposal deadline is February 9, 2014. For updates, please refer to http://www.gsnas.fu-berlin.de/en/conference/2014/index.html.

Images that Metabolize Time (Post-Cinematic Perspectives)

Pioneering video artist Nam June Paik has been quoted as saying that video “imitates not nature but time.” Somewhat more elaborately, in his reflections on “input-time” and “output-time,” he writes: “Video art imitates nature, not in its appearance or mass, but in its intimate ‘time-structure’ … which is the process of AGING (a certain kind of irreversibility).” And elsewhere again, Paik explains his view thus: “So called ‘feedback’, video artist’s favorite word, is nothing but the scientific term for ‘aging’ … that is : enrichment in time-component or a compounded time. Like any other art, video-art also imitates the nature… but in her time-component. Ex. : in NTSC color, color is determined by time-component : that is : phase-delayline in 3.58 mega-hertz.”

Paik’s views on video’s novel relation to temporality inspired philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato to take up the question of time’s modulation in the machines of post-Fordist capitalism in his book Videofilosofia: La percezione del tempo nel post-fordisme (the first chapter of which has appeared in English in Theory, Culture & Society). And Lazzarato’s reflections (along with those of Steven Shaviro and Mark B. N. Hansen, among others) have been central to my own attempts to come to terms with the significance and experiential parameters of our shift to a properly “post-cinematic” media regime.

This past weekend (November 22-23, 2013), I had the opportunity to present my work on the topic at the excellent “Post-Cinematic Perspectives” conference organized by Lisa Åkervall and Chris Tedjasukmana from the Freie Universität Berlin. Steven Shaviro’s talk on Spring Breakers was a particular highlight for me, but I also enjoyed being exposed to thoughts on a number of topics and artworks quite outside my areas of expertise — especially a number of talks on very recent video-art pieces with which I was not previously familiar but am now inspired to seek out.

Through some serendipitous cosmic event — some alignment of the stars giving rise to an unhoped-for coincidence of spatiotemporal coordinates, intellectual and practical concerns, and the respective times of work and leisure — I also found myself confronted with Nam June Paik’s wonderful Triangle: Video-Buddha and Video-Thinker (1976/1991), currently on display in the exhibit “Body Pressure: Sculpture since the 1960s” at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart (25 May 2013 – 12 January 2014). Placing a sculpture of Buddha and a small reproduction of Rodin’s Le Penseur under the constant, real-time surveillance of two video cameras connected to four monitors — two of which face each other in a closed-circuit loop of video production and machinic reception — Paik’s Triangle provided the perfect opportunity not only to think more about the “metabolic images” that (following Paik, Lazzarato, Shaviro, and Hansen) I had been theorizing at the conference, but to put these thoughts into practice in an experimental configuration.

Of course, the fact that (following the advent of the smartphone) virtually everyone today walks around with a high-definition digital video camera in their pocket has no small bearing on the significance and historicity of Paik’s work. Thus, my wife and I decided to expand Triangle‘s loop of time-metabolizing images by adding a further layer of video processing: each of us filmed different points of the sculpture’s own input/output and integrated our own video devices into the loop. The results, seen here, were synced and combined with split-screen and transparency settings (along with reverse-motion in the top video and the introduction of compression artifacts in the bottom one). In this way, we tried to expand and reflect (materially, not cognitively) on the impact of computational imaging technologies for a work like Triangle — on their radical expansion of variables (“and/ors”) which Paik described thus:

Paik-Triangle-Buddha-Thinker

In the talk I gave over the weekend, “Nonhuman Perspectives and Discorrelated Images in Post-Cinema” (abstract here), I argued (drawing on Lazzarato’s very Paikian arguments about video):

Computational rendering processes generate unanticipated and unanticipatable images, in effect rendering post-cinematic cameras themselves strangely vibrant, uncanny. There is a dilation of affect involved, which introduces a temporal gap of hesitation or delay between perception (or recording) and action (or playback), and it amounts to a modeling or enactment of the indetermination of bodily affect through which time is generated, and by which (in Bergson’s system) life is defined. A negative view sees only the severing of the images’ indexical relations to world, hence turning all digital image production and screening into animation. But in the end, the ubiquity of “animation” that is introduced through digital rendering processes should perhaps be taken literally, as the artificial creation of (something like) life, itself equivalent with the gap of affectivity, or the production of duration through the delay of causal-mechanical stimulus-response circuits; the interruption of photographic indexicality through digital processing is thus the introduction of duration = affect = life. Discorrelated images, in this respect, are autonomous, quasi-living images in Bergson’s sense, having transcended and gained a degree of autonomy from the mechanicity that previously kept them subservient to human perception. Apparently “crazy,” because discorrelated from the molar perspectives of phenomenal subjects and objects, cameras now mediate post-perceptual flows and confront us everywhere with their own affective indeterminacy.

Another way to put this is to say that post-cinematic cameras and images are metabolic processes or agencies, and their insertion into the environment alters the interactive pathways that define our own material, biological, and ecological forms of being, largely bypassing our cognitive processing to impinge upon us at the level of our own metabolic processing of duration. Metabolism is a process that is neither in my subjective control nor even confined to my body (as object) but which articulates organism and environment together from the perspective of a pre-individuated agency. Metabolism is affect without feeling or emotion – affect as the transformative power of “passion” that, as Brian Massumi reminds us, Spinoza identifies as that unknown power of embodiment that is neither wholly active nor wholly passive. Metabolic processes are the zero degree of transformative agency, at once intimately familiar and terrifyingly alien, conjoining inside/outside, me/not-me, life/death, old/novel, as the basic power of transitionality – marking not only biological processes but also global changes that encompass life and its environment. By insinuating themselves into the molecular flows of affect, prior to the possibility of perception and action, metabolic images have a direct impact on “the way we tick” — i.e. on the material production and modulation of time and temporal experience.

In many ways, the original assemblage of Paik’s Triangle already demonstrated what I call the metabolic work of microtemporal image processing. Today, however, it provides further opportunities for experimentation with the spatial and temporal parameters of our existence in conjunction with the many cameras and screens that connect us with our contemporary environment. Expanding the variables of the work’s “and/or” configurations, our cameras can hook into Paik’s assemblage, enter into its feedback loops, but also transport those loops into larger contexts of metabolic processing and transport. Images circulate within and beyond, effectively confounding distinctions between object and process, thing and environment. By engaging with the work and aiming our cameras at it in this way, we too are hooked into the system, and our own embodied perception is displaced as it is integrated into the molar and molecular configurations that situate and underpin conscious experience. In this way, Paik’s work continues today to probe the technical modulations of time and affective life in the era of convergence, computation, and our properly post-cinematic environment.

Popular Seriality — Round Two!

popular_seriality_logo_550_300I am very excited to announce today that the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft / German Research Foundation) has now officially approved the application of the Research Unit “Popular Seriality — Aesthetics and Practice” for a second 3-year funding period! From October 2013 through September 2016, we will continue our research on serial forms and processes in popular culture, this time around through seven newly developed projects:

Serial Politicization: On the Cultural Work of American City Mysteries, 1844-1860 (Daniel Stein, Berlin)

Serial Narration in Popular German-Language Periodicals from 1850 to 1890 (Claudia Stockinger and Stefan Scherer, Göttingen and Karslruhe)

Serializing Mass Culture: Popular Film Serials and Serial Structures in the United States, 1910-1940 (Ruth Mayer, with Ilka Brasch, Hannover)

Writing Series: The Occupational Culture of Present-Day German Televised Entertainment (Regina Bendix, Göttingen)

Retrospective Serialization: Remaking as a Method of Cinematic Self-Historicizing (Frank Kelleter and Kathleen Loock, Berlin)

Digital Seriality: The Serial Aesthetics and Practice of Digital Games (Shane Denson and Andreas Jahn-Sudmann, Hannover and Berlin)

Real-Life Storytelling: The Threefold Formal Structure of Reality TV as a Procedure of Cumulative Serialization (Christian Hißnauer, Göttingen)

For more information about the Research Unit — our past and present projects, publications, news, events, and other information — please refer to our official homepage: here.

Transnational Comics Studies

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Recently, I discovered an alternative cover concept — seen above — for Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives: Comics at the Crossroads (which I co-edited along with Christina Meyer and Daniel Stein). I found this on the webpage of Daniel Benneworth-Gray, the designer who was also responsible for the final book cover. In the end, I have to say I like the final cover better, but I think this is a nice concept, and it gives me a kind of a parallel universe / Bizarro world / “What-if?” / retcon kinda feeling, which I think is quite appropriate for a book about comics.

Speaking of the book, Daniel Stein, Christina Meyer, and I will be doing just that: i.e. speaking about the book and the broader field of “Transnational Comics Studies” on October 9, at the Berliner Kolloquium zur Comicforschung. The meeting will take place at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I’ll post the exact time and place as soon as I know more.