Matthew Wilson Smith: The Nostalgia of VR

Smith poster DAW 2018

On Tuesday, May 15th, we’ll have our fourth and final Digital Aesthetics Workshop of the Spring quarter, “The Nostalgia of Virtual Reality” with Matthew Wilson Smith, at 4 PM in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room. In this workshop, we will discuss the degree to which emergent technologies of virtual reality are indebted to longstanding concepts of presence and disembodied consciousness.

Matthew Wilson Smith is an Associate Professor of German Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies at Stanford University. His  interests include modern theatre; modernism and media; and relations between technology, science, and the arts. His book The Nervous Stage: 19th-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theatre explores historical intersections between the performing arts and the neurological sciences and traces the construction of a “neural subject” over the course of the nineteenth century. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. His previous book, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Routledge, 2007), presents a history and theory of modern artistic synthesis, placing such diverse figures as Wagner, Moholy-Nagy, Brecht, Riefenstahl, Disney, Warhol, and contemporary cyber-artists within a genealogy of totalizing performance.

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Ends of Cinema: Center for 21st Century Studies 2018 Conference at UW Milwaukee

C21-Ends-of-Cinema-poster

I am excited to be participating in the Ends of Cinema conference at the Center for 21st Century Studies, taking place May 3-5, 2018 at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. There are some great keynote speakers, including my colleague Jean Ma and lots of other wonderful people. The C21, under the expert leadership of Richard Grusin (who is now back at the helm after a short hiatus), has put on some of my personal favorite conferences, and I expect this one to be no less exciting and thought-provoking.

My own contribution will be a paper titled “Post-Cinematic Realism” — work in progress for my current book project Discorrelated Images. Here is the abstract:

Post-Cinematic Realism

Shane Denson, Stanford University

In its classical formulation, cinematic realism is based in the photographic ontology of film, i.e. in the photograph’s indexical relation to the world, which grants to film its unique purchase on reality; upon this relation also hinged, for many realist filmmakers, the political promise of realism. Digital media, meanwhile, are widely credited with disrupting indexicality and instituting an alternative ontology of the image. David Rodowick, for example, argues that the interjection of digital code disrupts film’s “automatisms” and eradicates the index in favor of the symbolic. But while such arguments are in many respects compelling, I contend that the disruption of photographic indexicality might also be seen to open up spaces in which to explore new automatisms that communicate reality and/or realism with and through post-indexical technologies.

Whereas André Bazin privileged techniques like the long take and deep focus for their power to approximate our natural perception of time and space, theorists like Maurizio Lazzarato and Mark Hansen emphasize post-cinematic media’s ability to approximate the sub-perceptual processing of duration executed by our pre-personal bodies. The perceptual discorrelation of computational images gives way, in other words, to a more precise calibration of machinic and embodied temporalities; simultaneously, the perceptual richness of Bazin’s images becomes less important, while “poor images” (in Hito Steyerl’s term) communicate more directly the material and political realities of a post-cinematic environment. As I will demonstrate with reference to a variety of moving-image texts employing glitches, drones, and other computational objects, post-cinematic media might in fact be credited with a newly intensified political relevance through their institution of a new, post-cinematic realism.

Twenty-First Century Mediations of Subjectivity, ACLA 2018 #ACLA2018

acla-seminar

At this year’s conference of the American Comparative Literature Association, taking place March 29 – April 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, I will be participating in a great seminar/panel stream on “Twenty-First Century Mediations of Subjectivity,” organized by Jim Hodge of Northwestern University.

I’m looking forward to all of the talks, on such a rich set of topics. Here is the abstract for my talk:

Post-Cinema and the Phenomenology of External Time-Consciousness

Shane Denson

Something about the temporality of media has changed, and with it the relation of media to the temporality of subjective experience. In Technics and Time, Bernard Stiegler famously argued for just such a change, which he located in the advent of “tertiary memories” – externalized, reproducible experiences stored by industrial media objects. Using the term “cinema” to designate not only a specific apparatus but also the broad media regime or epoch instituted by recording technologies from photography and phonography to television and digital technologies, Stiegler identifies a threat to our subjective experience – exacerbated with the advent of live media in “the televisual epoch of cinema” – whereby media colonize consciousness by pre-formatting our immediate awareness (primary retention) with the images of tertiary retention. One thing Stiegler’s argument fails to account for, however, is the emergence of a protentional dimension that distinguishes computational media as decidedly “post-cinematic.” No longer simply memorial or mnemotechnical, post-cinema’s protentional images are generated on the fly according to compression algorithms rather than photochemical processes, thus disrupting the stability of tertiary memory while producing an external homologue to internal time-consciousness. This paper seeks to trace the impact of post-cinematic temporality on the production of subjective experience.

Horror and New Media, and the Horror of New Media #SCMS18 #SCMS2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 12.17.49 PM

Looking forward to speaking on this panel, alongside Cecilia Sayad, Adam Hart, and Kevin Chabot at the 2018 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Toronto. Panel L13, Friday, March 16, 2018 (3:15pm – 5:00pm).

Thesis of my paper: “Post-cinematic horror is a side-channel attack on our affective processing of time itself.”

Screenshot Genealogies: Jacob Gaboury at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

SHC Gaboury Poster 2-6

On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Jacob Gaboury will present new work on a genealogy of the screenshot, drawn from an ongoing project on the history of computer screens and visualization.

Jacob Gaboury is an Assistant Professor of New Media History and Theory in the Department of Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley. His work engages the history and theory of digital media, with particular focus on digital images and visual culture. His work has appeared in a wide range of popular and academic publications, including most recently the Journal of Visual CultureCamera ObscuraDebates in the Digital HumanitiesRhizomecontinent., and Art Papers.

The event will take place from 4-6pm in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room as part of the Geballe Research Workshop on Digital Aesthetics: Critical Approaches to Computational Culture. All are welcome!

Essays in Sight and Sound: An Exhibition of Video Essays

Essays in Sight and Sound-web

Essays in Sight and Sound: An Exhibition of Video Essays brings together a number of works produced in the Fall 2017 course “The Video Essay: Writing with Video about Film and Media.”

The assembled videos deal with cinema, television, video games, and online media, which they approach from a variety of angles. Together, these works not only probe our changing media landscape but explore the critical affordances of the video essay as a means of writing with sight and sound.

The exhibition will be on view January 12 – 26, 2018 in the Gunn Foyer of the McMurtry Building, home of the Department of Art & Art History, on the Stanford University campus.

Rethinking Temporalities in Cinema and Digital Media, SLSA 2017

SLSA-2017

At this year’s SLSA conference, “Out of Time,” hosted by Arizona State University, I will be chairing a panel titled “Rethinking Temporalities in Cinema and Digital Media” (Saturday, November 11, 2017; 4:00-5:30pm). My own talk is titled “Pre-Sponsive Gestures: Post-Cinema Out of Time.” Here is the complete list of panelists and topics:

2017-11-04 12.29.24 pm