Post-cinema: practices of research and creation | Journal Images Secondes (Nº3, 2021)
Chloé Galibert-Laîné, PhD candidate, École normale supérieure de Paris & Gala Hernández López, PhD candidate, Université Paris 8.
The third issue of the French journal Images secondes questions the heuristic and critical potential of the notion of “post-cinema” in the context of a general reflection on the “reconfigurations” (de Rosa and Hediger, 2016) of the cinematic medium in the age of networked digital media. We agree with Shane Denson and Julia Leyda that if post-cinematic media “concern the emergence of a new ‘structure of feeling’ or ‘episteme’, new forms of affect or sensibility”, then “traditional scholarly forms and methods for investigating these issues are unlikely to provide adequate answers” (Denson & Leyda, 2016: 6).
For this reason, this issue of Images secondes will give priority to contributions that depart from the traditional forms of academic publishing to develop formats which explore the unique potentialities of online dissemination. As the goal of this issue is to investigate the complex and polyhedral relationships between cinema and online new media, we see this as an ideal opportunity to explore the epistemological potential of practice- based research, artistic research, research-creation and “performative” research (Haseman, 2006). We therefore invite contributors to propose written articles, but also video formats, hypertexts, visual, sound, interactive, hypermedia works…
For several years now, theories about post-cinema and the post-cinematic condition have gained visibility in the international academic community. Although its meaning varies between authors, the term “post-cinema” generally refers to forms of the moving image born with the digital turn that transcend certain properties of the cinematographic medium – including the indexicality specific to analog film, the convention of projecting works in a dark screening room and a relatively immediate link to an existing canon of filmic production and the century of critical literature corresponding to the latter. According to Denson and Leyda, post-cinematic media differ from cinema in that they are “essentially digital, interactive, networked, ludic, miniaturized, mobile, social, processual, algorithmic, aggregative, environmental, or convergent, among other things” (Denson & Leyda, 2016: 1). Despite these structural differences, to use the term “post- cinema” is to trace a filiation between cinema and new media, the meaning of which is worth exploring both aesthetically and theoretically.
This emphasis on what new media inherits from cinema seems to recall Serge Daney’s conviction that it is relevant to “use cinema to question other images – and vice versa” (Daney, 2015: 23). In this way, our own critical project welcomes an ensemble of reflections that can be led only collectively and across disciplines: we need to analyze the ways in which cinema represents and engages with contemporary images and visual practices; to observe how the traditional cinematic experience is “remediated” (Bolter and Grusin, 1998) and “relocated” (Casetti, 2017) in the age of networked media; to identify and reactivate, among the conceptual tools developed to think the cinema of the past century, those that can help us grasp the current evolutionary tendencies of the moving image.
Because it reveals the need to explore theoretically and creatively these different modalities of encounter between cinema and new media, the notion of post-cinema is worth mobilizing—and its different meanings should be carefully described. It has been suggested that the study of post- cinematic “reconfigurations” could compensate, albeit partially, for an inevitable backlog of theory with regards to contemporary art practices, because “in order to come to grips with social and technological change, we need a ‘constant revolutionising’ of our methods of critical reflection as well. In this regard, cultural theory lags far behind actual artistic production” (Shaviro, 2010: 133). According to this logic, post-cinematic works are, because of their relations to new media technologies and their “accelerationist aesthetics”, directly engaged in this very type of proleptic exploration. Their critical analysis thus represents an attempt to somehow remedy the backlog to which Shaviro refers.
Other authors argue that post-cinema is a possibility inherent to cinema itself: “within the post-perceptual ecology of twenty-first-century media, […] the difference ‘cinema/post-cinema’ itself might become not only imperceptible, but also, ultimately, ineffectual” (Denson, 2017: 23). According to Denson, rather than a change of medium, what new media have introduced is a new “post-perceptual mediation”. He argues that networked images do not modify our cultural productions as much as they alter our senses and our subjective modes of perception. This analysis aligns closely with other recent inquiries exploring the “politics of distraction” (to borrow the name of a research project led since 2016 by Paul Sztulman and Dork Zabunyan) and the “ecology of attention” (Yves Citton, 2014), that seek to reflect on the effects of new media on our bodies, our senses and our affective predilections. These studies are strongly anchored in our contemporary times, but also inherit much from the canonical writings of Walter Benjamin and Sigfried Kracauer, who developed a critical, phenomenological and political approach to film theory in the early twentieth century.
Nonetheless, the term post-cinema also raises some difficulties. In addition to the potentially problematic scope of its field of application, its etymology itself can be interrogated: should the prefix be understood as suggesting that post-cinema comes “after”, and thus replaces cinema? The good health of the contemporary film industry decisively contradicts those who have expressed fears that new forms of media would spell the end of cinema as an art form and as a popular entertainment. Are we then to recognize in this prefix an enthralment with theories of postmodernism, understood as a singular period of our collective relation to the world, to history and to images, as much as as an aesthetic theory in its own right? What can we say about our times and our relations to moving images when we consider new media as “post-cinematic”? In the era of the “convergence” of various audiovisual media (Jenkins, 2006) and after the advent of the computer code as a form of “monomedia” (Manovich, 2016), about which some argue that, by phagocytizing the other media, it “annihilates the idea of the medium” itself (Doane, 2007: 130), is it still relevant to defend the distinction between cinema and post-cinema at all?
We propose four main axes of reflection, which aim to map in a symmetrical (although necessarily fragmented) way the exchanges and dialogues between cinema and new media :
AXIS 1: Leaving the cinema
The first axis of reflection aims to identify, among the aesthetic forms and concepts inherited from the history of cinema, the most useful tools for observing, describing and thinking about the discourses, spectator experiences and interactive practices related to new media. This work was initiated by Lev Manovich, who pointed out among other things that images generated by computers (CGI), if they renounce the realism in which André Bazin saw the ontology of cinema, also inherit from the earliest techniques of animation (the magic lantern, the Thaumatrope, Zoetrope, Praxinoscope, etc.) that are often considered to be at the origins of the cinematic medium (Manovich, 2016: 23). Other works have pushed forward and sideways this line of thinking, as Dork Zabunyan did in his critical analysis of the videos produced during the Arab uprisings of 2011 (The Insistance of Strugle, 2019). Contributions exploring these questions may focus on such topics as: – the different implications of the term “post-cinema” in reference to networked media and the social practices they enable;
- the different implications of the term “post-cinema” in reference to networked media and the social practices they enable;
- the reactivation of concepts inherited from the theoretical and critical literature on cinema in the context of new media analysis, perhaps including a case study of a particular post-cinematic medium;
- the study of the aesthetic (dis)continuities between cinematic practices before and after new media (e.g., considering artists working with pixelization and glitch as an actualization of the work made by “materialist” experimental filmmakers …).
AXIS 2: Post-cinema on screen
The second axis seeks to observe the different ways in which contemporary cinema reflects and responds to the forms of visual practice that appeared with the growth of new networked technologies. Cinema can train us to apprehend the complexity and the unthinkable amplitude of cyberspace, which has now become a “hyper-object” (Morton, 2018) that exceeds our scale, and thereby help us to to situate ourselves in the globalized and hyper-connected media ecosystem. Contributions in this axis could explore such themes as:
- representations and figurations of new media and the forms of sociability that they enable in contemporary cinematic fictions (for example, in Michael Haneke’s Happy End, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper…); – the influence of the language of new media on the work and style of contemporary filmmakers (“amateur aesthetics “, vertical framing, fictions told from the graphical interface of a desktop, horror movies made out of fake digital found footage…);
- the critical study of documentary and netnographic films made with footage from the Internet (The Uprising, Peter Snowdon, 2013; Roman national, Grégoire Beil, 2018); and of audiovisual works exploring digital imagery that are designed for both the cinema and as museum installations (Grosse fatigue, Camille Henrot, 2013 ; All that is solid, Louis Henderson, 2014).
AXIS 3: Cinema among new networked media
The third line of thought seeks to update decades-long debates over aesthetic and theoretical issues related to the practice of expanded cinema (notably, in France, writings by Jacques Aumont and Raymond Bellour, and internationally, by Gene Youngblood), with a special focus on the role played by new networked media in the transmedial expansion of contemporary cinema. The following themes might be explored with this in mind:
- the phenomenon of “relocation” (Casetti, 2015) and the reception of cinematic works outside of projection rooms, particularly on networked devices: watching films on small screens, on public transportation; the phenomenon of the second screen…;
- the new networked cinephile practices (online discussion forums, cinephile pages and groups on digital social networks, video essays and the transmission of cinephilic knowledge on YouTube and other platforms, fan fictions, remixes and mashups…);
- the development of new cinematic forms in relation to the emergence of new distribution platforms: web- series, transmedial storytelling, web documentary… and their related structures of production (on this subject, see in particular the section “Construction sites” in the 30th issue of the journal Revue Documentaires, “Au milieu des new media”, edited by Alice Lenay and Jacopo Rasmi).
AXIS 4: Returning to the cinema
Finally, the fourth axis serves to stress how the notion of post-cinema is not a new one. This enables (and necessitates) our looking back at the history of cinema, broadening our definition thereof in the process. Additionally, new image technologies offer new digital tools for the study of cinematic history, such as those used in the field of digital humanities. Contributions in this axis might address the following topics:
- redefinitions of the specificity of the cinematographic medium as invited by its extension to include new formats and new practices of the moving image;
- the relative “newness” of new media, with regard to older forms and practices of the moving image (see for instance André Gaudreault’s work on early cinema, or existing literature on the history of video art);
- the contribution of new digital technologies to the study of cinematic history (film annotation softwares, videographic research, data visualization, such as Lev Manovich’s work Visualizing Vertov).
Terms, instructions and schedule
Following the model of other academic journals accepting scientific contributions in forms aside from the traditional written paper (Journal for Artistic Research, Screenworks, [in]Transition…), we are keen to establish an evaluation grid that will enable the scientific committee to judge the quality and seriousness of proposals from contributors, whatever their forms. Contributions experimenting with non-traditional forms of publication will be evaluated with the same rigour as any scientific paper. The consistency and integration of the form and theme of each proposal will be prioritized when it comes to the assessment of contributions.
For contributions employing a non-traditional publication format, the submission should be accompanied by a text of approximately 1500 words, specifying the research question, the methodology used, the sources and references that have fed into the creative work, as well as a justification of the chosen form in relation to the scientific objectives pursued.
For proposals adopting the form of a written academic paper, final texts should come to between 20 000 and 35 000 characters.
Proposals for contributions should be submitted in PDF format before April 20th 2020, to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals, sent as an attached file, should be composed of:
- a title;
- an abstract not exceeding 500 words (plus bibliography) exposing the format of the proposal (written article, video, sound work…) and justifying it with regard to the issue in question.
The identity of the author should not be mentioned in this document, but in a separate one which will include the name of the author, their home institution (if applicable), a short biography (150 words maximum) as well as a presentation of the author’s artistic work (if applicable).
Proposals as well as final contributions may be submitted in French or English. English contributions will be translated into French before publication.
Final contributions must be submitted by September 30th 2020.
The issue will be published at the beginning of 2021 on the journal’s website at www.imagessecondes.fr.
- Receipt of proposals: April 20th
- Notification of acceptance: May 30th
- Receipt of complete articles or creations: September 30th
- Publication: early 2021
- Christa Blümlinger (Université Paris 8 — Vincennes Saint-Denis)
- Camille Bui (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
- Amélie Bussy (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)
- Miriam de Rosa (Coventry University)
- Shane Denson (Stanford University)
- Térésa Faucon (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3)
- Catherine Grant (Birkbeck, University of London)
- Damien Marguet (Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis)
- Caroline San Martin (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
- Sergi Sánchez (Université Pompeu Fabra)
- Antonio Somaini (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3)
- Cécile Sorin (Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis) Barbara Turquier (La Fémis)
- Guillaume Soulez (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3)
- Gwenola Wagon (Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis)
- Dork Zabunyan (Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis)
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