Edited by Miriam De Rosa and Vinzenz Hediger
If we live in a post-media and post-cinema condition, how much longer will it last, and how will it end? Picking up on the recent debate about post-media and post-cinema, this special issue of Cinéma & Cie addresses the question of temporality and periodization in media history and asks what exactly the ‘post’ in post-cinema means. The contributions approach this question from a variety of perspectives and discuss a number of key issues, from the question of medium ontology to that of medium specificity, from the development of digital and hybrid cinematic forms to the problems and pitfalls of preservation. Exploring new analytical and theoretical frameworks that account for the moving image in the multiplicity of its configurations, the contributions open up new avenues of research and provide a sense of what may lie beyond our current post-medium and post-cinema condition.
Miriam De Rosa and Vinzenz Hediger, Post-what? Post-when? A Conversation on the ‘Posts’ of Post-media and Post-cinema
The text retraces the current debate around the notions of post-cinema and post-media. Employing a dialogic approach, the editors propose a theoretical framework to provide context for the main contributions on these topics published in recent years, highlighting the conceptual connections to the previous scholarship. The resulting reflection serves as a platform to introduce and situate the contributions to this special issue. In particular, the editors propose to use the term configuration to account for the various aspects and facets of contemporary cinematic experience.
Shane Denson, Speculation, Transition, and the Passing of Post-cinema
What comes after post-cinema? Such a question calls for speculation as a central mode of inquiry. However, this speculative turn is engaged not only by the question of what comes after the ‘post’; for post-cinema, at its best, is itself already a speculative term — despite the fact that it grows, historically, out of theories of loss (the loss of the index, the end of celluloid, the demise of cinema as an institution). Against this backdrop of mourning and melancholia, postcinema is speculative in at least two senses. First, the concept of post-cinema is future-oriented at root, as it purports to gain purchase on movements along an unfinished trajectory, hence speculating of necessity about its own future course as a determinant of present actuality. Second, post-cinema refers to media engaged materially in a speculative probing of the present. The ‘presence’ of experience is now more radically than ever — because materially, medially — dispersed, not just as a play of signifiers but across and within an ecology that is materially redefining the parameters for life and agency itself in post-cinematic times. Accordingly, the question of post-cinema’s passing is the question of time’s passing in the space of post-perceptual mediation.
Ted Nannicelli and Malcom Turvey, Against Post-cinema
This essay contests one version of the post-cinema thesis, namely, that the cinema is no longer a distinct medium because it has merged with other media into a monomedium of digital code or software due to digital technology. The cinema remains a distinct medium, the authors argue, identified and individuated in much the same way as before the digital era. Proponents of the ‘monomedium’ version of the post-cinema thesis arrive at their unwarranted conclusions, the authors show, because they are ‘medium materialists’, defining a medium by way of its materials. Hence, because digital materials have replaced celluloid-based ones in filmmaking, and other media use these digital materials, monomedium advocates conclude that the medium of cinema has been subsumed into a digital monomedium. However, a medium cannot be individuated by its materials, but is instead defined, in part, by the practice of using materials. Hence, a transformation in the artistic medium of cinema would require a revolution in the practices governing the use of materials in the cinema. Yet if we examine those practices, as the authors do in this essay, there is no evidence that the artistic medium of cinema has been subsumed into a monomedium by digital technologies.
Sabrina Negri, Simulating the Past: Digital Preservation of Moving Images and the ‘End of Cinema’
In the past decade, the discourse around digital cinema has flourished and given birth to a long series of ontological and phenomenological reflections around the status of the medium in the digital age. Can digital cinema still be called ‘cinema?’. Does cinema conserve its indexical nature, or is digital cinema just a simulation? What are the effects of the proliferation of screens, and the consequent loss of the centrality of movie theaters as the place for consumption of moving images? With my essay, I would like to investigate the status of digital preservation within the world of digital cinema. How is digital preservation different from analog preservation, if at all? And how are digitally restored moving images different from a film shot digitally? If a digital image is a simulation of reality, rather than a trace left by it (as the analog image supposedly was), what is the status of the digitization of an analog photographic image? I will argue that digital preservation forces us to reconsider the analog-digital opposition, and provides a framework through which to rethink not only the present state of cinema, but also its past and the future of its history.
Rachel Schaff, The Photochemical Conditions of the Frame
This paper seeks to contextualize the frame by focusing on the formal properties of its specific medium (film). It looks outside of the frame’s function to think about it as a condition of its material. What defines the frame is that it is a product of its photographic condition: it is a direct result of the photochemical material and process (and is therefore contingent on processes of time and timing). Significantly, even in this ‘post-cinema’ climate, we are still conscious of the frame’s link to the medium of film. With this in mind, this paper proceeds to examine how digital formats (e.g. Red Digital Cinema Cameras, Apple Pro Res 422 HQ (Final Cut), and DNxHD (Avid)) appropriate the language that was once unique to the cinematic apparatus (e.g., frame, film gauge, frame rate, exposure) and argues that these terms do not adequately describe the processes by which digital cinema is produced and experienced. Fundamentally, this paper asks: what is so important about the frame? Is the very concept of the frame a defining feature of cinema?
Saige Walton, Becoming Space in Every Direction: Birdman as Post-cinematic Baroque
While the post-cinematic is typically understood as the passing of film-as-celluloid, the digital expressivity of film need not involve the loss of materiality. Inspired by Giuliana Bruno’s call for cinematic materiality to be re-thought through the substance of material relations rather than through technological definitions, this article examines how the baroque endures in the post-cinematic. Concentrating my analysis on Birdman: Or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014) as one instance of the post-cinematic baroque, it argues for the baroque as being organised by particular vectors of movement that move between the horizontal and the vertical and the inner and the outer, often giving rise to composite and/or highly spatialized displays. Taking inspiration from Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of the fold, art history, media archaeology and film studies, I argue for Iñárritu’s film as enacting baroque configurations of body, space, movement and environment. As with the formal and affective uplift of the musical and superhero film genres as well as the importance of movement in historic baroque forms, Birdman defies the horizontal plane. As I argue it, Birdman reprises the longstanding baroque desire to become space in every direction.
Monica Dall’Asta, GIF Art in the Metamodern Era
This essay offers an exploration of the recent phenomenon of GIF art, in light of the
cultural attitude that has come to be known under the term of ‘metamodernism’. Unlike other recent theories (New Realism, Hypermodernity, Altermodernism, and
so on) that have tried to conceptualize the ‘cultural logic’ of the present age as a kind of neo-modernist dismissal of postmodernism, metamodernism is not intended to dispose of the notion of postmodernism all together. Instead, it is defined as ‘an oscillation between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism’ (Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker). The article argues that GIF art can be held as a major contemporary expression of a truly metamodernist ‘structure of feeling’, following a refunctionalizing, in artistic terms, the Graphics Interchange Format. GIF art is today an extraordinarily vital, well-diffused and fragmented field of experimentation, where new uses of the moving image are continuously developed and tested. Its interest for film studies lies in the fact that it almost literally reinvents the cinematographic device (disposif) in a digital context, to the point that it has been termed ‘a form of mini cinema entirely native to the Internet’ (Tom Moody).
Diego Cavallotti and Elisa Virgili, Queering the Amateur Analog Video Archive: the Case of Bologna’s Countercultural Life in the 80s and the 90s
Drawing on an interdisciplinary approach, this article aims to outline some theoretical issues concerning the archival structure of videos developed during the Eighties and the Nineties in Bologna’s alternative scene. More specifically, we will focus on two archives, Cassero CDOC Centre’s video archive and Home Movies — the Italian National Amateur Film Archive, which host two different video repositories that stemmed from a common background: Bologna’s countercultural environment, in which we can find the “1990 Student Movement” (the so-called Pantera) and the gay and lesbian scene that belonged to Arcigay and Il Cassero. These materials shared not only some production/fruition modalities, but, very often, the same people took part in them: we can see members of the gay community who were, in the meantime, students who participated in the university occupations. Therefore, the main questions we have to answer are: which kind of archival framework is the most appropriate for such materials? Are the current archival practices correct in order to abide by the original context and motivations that fostered their production? Our reply refers to the notion of transarchive.
Simone Dotto, Notes for a History of Radio-Film: Cinematic Imagination and Intermedia Forms in Early Italian Radio
The article discusses the concept of ‘radio-film’, a term which repetitively entered the vocabulary of practitioners and theoreticians during the transition to sound, and raises several well acknowledged historical notions by adopting a slightly different question: has an idea of cinema as an entirely aural art — i.e. sound cinema as ‘cinema made of sound’ — ever come up in media history? Starting by considering the European scenario and by focusing more specifically on the case of the early Italian radio-play between 1925 and 1935, this article explores this path as a concrete historical possibility: in this context, the surfacing of two hybrid terms such as fonoquadro [phonoscene/phonoframe] and suonomontaggio [sound-montage] will represent the case studies for a discussion on ‘intermediality’ both as an epistemological framework to apply and ‘a state of historical transition’ to investigate. By questioning the role of cinema as an always present term of comparison in the debate on the medium specificity of radio and the ways in which a cinematic imagination has affected the development of entertainment genres in radio production, the essay aims at demonstrating how a hypothesis of aural cinema as a radio art can be grounded in several concrete aesthetic and technological intermedial exchanges.
Francesco Federici, The Experience of Duration and the Manipulation of Time in Exposed Cinema
This paper seeks to weave a path through some of the temporal forms of moving images. These are models that were created with the development of video, videoinstallations and later exposed film, in a crescendo of possibilities dictated by the exploration of technology and the desire to place the viewer in a temporal flow which is controlled to a greater or lesser degree. At least three different lines of temporal forms which determine the image have been developed in the comparison of the “real” duration and the “manipulated” duration of artwork. The first group of forms includes manipulations based on the linearity of the image such as delay and slow motion. A second line is related to the particular practice of the loop, while the third concerns the temporal intermissions caused by the overlaying of several lines, of space and time, within a single piece of work or the itinerary created by the artist. This set of forms shows how the practices of relocation and installation in cinema are the result of the combination of the temporal and spatial values of the works themselves, the places in which they are exhibited and of the spectators.
Kamil Lipiński, Archival Hauntings in the Revenant Narratives from Home in Péter Forgács’ Private Hungary
The paper discusses the haunting narratives of amateur home movies in Péter Forgács’s multipart project Private Hungary (1988-2002), reading found-footage documentaries as a spectral repetition of a past era. It suggests that the tool-character of ‘revenant’ narratives may provide a new interpretative dimension for the archival collection of Central European micro-narratives, presenting photographs, freeze-frames and colour filters as an innovative form of reiteration. The project’s found footage films employ re-personalize film form, re-writing forgotten archival stories over a backdrop of the grand récits (and national upheavals) of the Holocaust and ‘goulash’ communism. In particular, I read two Jewish stories, Dusi & Jenő (1989) and Free Fall (1996), in terms of their intermingling historical narratives, which ‘doubly occupied’ time, and formed the plurality of revenant visions. This ‘aesthetics of ruins’, which is presented as an effect of the coalescence of time, attempts to pose new questions and redefine our understanding of the visual heritage of past generations.
PROJECTS & ABSTRACTS
— Intensive Post-Production and Creative Infrastructures, Allain Daigle / Ph.D. Thesis Project, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
— Les Relations entre la télévision et le cinéma en France et en Suisse romande dans les années cinquante: enjeux techniques, historiographiques et esthétiques, Fabien Le Tinnier / Ph.D. Thesis Project, Universités Rennes 2 / Lausanne
— Towards Non-human Personhood: Relational Animism and the Moving Image, Bogna M. Konior / Ph.D. Thesis Project, Hong Kong Baptist University
— Beyond Post-war Cinema. Historical Experience and Cultural Agency in Post-Yugoslav Film, Asja Makarević / Ph.D. Thesis Project, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
REVIEWS / COMPTES-RENDUS
— Rossella Catanese, Giovanna Fossati and Annie van den Oever (eds.), Exposing the Film Apparatus: The Film Archive as a Research Laboratory (2016)
Vinzenz Hediger, Varda / Cuba exhibition, Centre Pompidou, Paris (November 11, 2015-February 1, 2016)
— Emily Ming Yao, André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion, The End of Cinema? A Medium in Crisis in the Digital Age (2015)