My essay on Mediascapes has just been published in Perspecta issue #51 on “Medium” (edited by Shayari de Silva, Dante Furioso and Samantha Jaff).
▎The current evolution of media is surprising. Media are conceived to be available everywhere, and yet their way of working and ultimately their identities depend on where they are located. This is true for traditional media: their survival is tied to migration. Cinema exits the movie theater and reaches domestic and individual contexts; newspaper travels from sheets to electronic pages; videogames quit arcades and consoles and turn up in the palms of our hands. This is even truer for more recent media: their performances regard space. Surveillance cameras provide protection from the outside; hand held devices can create an existential bubble in which users can find an intimacy and refuge even in public spaces; Global Positioning Systems (GPS) parse territories; pixelated media-facades envelop and enmesh entire buildings. Both established and emerging media increasingly! work through, within, and on the territory. As a consequence, space is no longer a neutral container in which media can simply take place or come to pass; it responds to the presence of media, aligning their actions with its assets and in turn readjusting its internal configuration to the media’s affordances. Space grounds media, and media reshape space. We can even expand the picture. When the convergence of media and space reaches a certain degree, it elicits a mutual transformation. Indeed, if understood as components of physical and social landscapes, media display a distinctive and decisive set of qualities: more than tools for recording, storing, and transmitting information, they appear as resources for negotiating with reality and with others within a particular situation. Media ultimately become tools for a situated mediation. Conversely, space appears not just as the place where information circulates and becomes available, but as the environment where a situation comes into being and consequently where a negotiation becomes necessary. This allows a space to acquire in itself a certain quality of mediation: space mediates—it becomes a medium. Rooted in space, media reveal their decisive nature. Pervaded by media, space becomes the bedrock of mediation. The idea of a mediascape provides a concep-tual grid able to explain these processes and their contextual and conjunctural implications.
Read the full essay ⇲
Media landscapes are far from being homogeneous. Media diverge not only because they perform diverse functions and elicit different practices, but also because they recall distinct stages in the media history. We deal with a number of “obsolete” media that nevertheless we still find useful and friendly—and whose ultimate destiny will be either to be discharged in a dump, or to be located in a museum. But how does the past speak to the present? The talk will challenge the idea of memory and illustrate its role in our cultural practices. It will do that through a radical re-reading of few “primeval scenes” that are often recalled by film theory when it focuses on the origins of screens and screened images: the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon, the legend of Boutades’ daughter and the origin of portraiture, the chronicle of Brunelleschi’s invention of perspective. This re-reading of a number of well-known episodes will hopefully help to retrace the main operations that we perform when we “adapt” old media to new assemblages. Casetti will draw some final and critical considerations about the concepts of “propensity” and “disposition” often used to explain media evolution.
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, in Time. Ideas of physical, social, revolutionary time, internal time consciousness, or historical experience are far from settled in their respective discourses and practices. Yet attempts to harmonize or correlate the understanding of time and temporal phenomena generated in different disciplines all-too quickly resort to normative, if not teleological ideas of progress, efficiency, or experiential plenitude. Can the heterogenous relations between discordant conceptions of time and temporality be understood as being ‘erratically’ structured, that is, as marked by inherent misapprehensions, a dissonance that defies regulation, and an unexpected variability?
More videos and pictures on the ICI website.
One of the Young Turks of semiotic film theory in the 1970s, counting Umberto Eco and Christian Metz among his mentors, Francesco Casetti established himself as a major figure in the field of film studies in Italy, and his synoptic overview of the discipline’s theoretical lineage, Theories of Cinema, 1945-1990, is still a crucial reference work. Since 2010, he has been the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Humanities and Film & Media Studies at Yale University. In recent years, his research interests have taken him away from the semiotic tradition, and towards a critical evaluation of contemporary trends in media technologies, as seen in his latest monograph The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come. He is currently working on the iconophobic tradition in western culture and its relation to anxieties aroused by technological changes in contemporary media, and recently co-edited the anthology Early Film Theories in Italy 1896-1922.
* * *
DF: I’d like to talk about the state of the field, but also the way that the state of the field reflects the state of the world. Do you think that a lot of the anxiety around our object of study in the last 10-20 years is a reflection of a deeper political uncertainty?
FC: There is a great deal of rhetoric around the idea that digital revolution implies the death of cinema and ultimately the death of film studies. When I look at what is happening in our field, my feeling is that the field is expanding. There is always a new object available. So, the risk is not that our object is getting lost. The risk, on the contrary, is that the different objects in the field are becoming more and more insular. It is increasingly difficult to conceive cinema in its entirety and film studies as an all-embracing approach: the dialogue between the different branches often appears impossible. I think this situation reflects a twofold aspect. On the one hand, it echoes the tendency of the contemporary world not towards globalisation, but towards fragmentation and isolation. On the other hand, it echoes the triumph of neoliberal ideology, in which you are said to be able to choose the commodities and lifestyles you want. Let’s be frank: our field, today, is a great marketplace in which everybody can find the department store that better fits his or her alleged needs; what is scarce, is the willingness to cope with a comprehensive approach – to challenge, through a transversal look, the intricate network that keeps together our landscape in its different aspects. It’s post-theory… I am not complaining. I am just underlining the distance from the years of my intellectual formation in Paris and Italy, in which the desire to find a rigorous approach to film language was paired with the dream (naïve, but not stupid as Bordwell and Carrol have depicted it) to keep language and social, economic, and psychological processes together.
Read full interview by Daniel Fairfax on senses of cinema.
How Italian writers, scholars, clergymen, psychologists, members of parliament and philosophers reacted to the advent of cinema? How they established a common language to discuss an invention that exceeded habits and expectations, and that transcended existing forms and categories of thought? This anthology for the first time gathers a large number of social discourses that in Italy tried to define and contextualize cinema from the 1890s to 1920s. What results is an impressive picture of a culture at distress with a “scandalous” event and eager to appropriate it for the sake of modernization.
Early Film Theories in Italy, 1896-1922
edited by Francesco Casetti with Silvio Alovisio and Luca Mazzei
Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2017
Table of contents and Introduction
In conversation: Francesco Casetti on a new era in cinema
YaleNews, April 7, 2016
Francesco Casetti, winner of the Limina Prize for Best International Film Studies Book. (Photo by Laila Pozzo)
Francesco Casetti, chair of the Film and Media Studies Program, recently received one of the most prestigious European awards in film and media studies — the XIV annual Limina Prize for Best International Film Studies Book.
Casetti, who is also the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Humanities and professor of film studies, was honored with the award for his 2015 book, “The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come.” The prize is given by the editorial board of Cinéma & Cie. International Film Studies Journal, which includes 50 world-renowned film and media scholars.
Casetti recently met with YaleNews to talk about the impetus for his book, the new emerging era in cinema aesthetics, and why the Yale scholar believes it is important to have “novel insights into ideas in the present that were fed by the past.”
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Read the conversation
Udine, 18 February 2016 – FilmForum Udine-Gorizia in association with CUC – Consulta Universitaria del Cinema and Cinéma&Cie – International Film Studies Journal are pleased to announce the winner of the Best International Film Studies Book section of the fourteenth annual Limina Prize: The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come by Francesco Casetti (Columbia University Press, 2015).
This volume argues that in the age of convergence, when the various media have tended to mutate and merge, not only has cinema survived but in fact it is flourishing once again. We find cinema in theaters, but also in our houses, in galleries and museums, on modes of transportation or in waiting rooms, on our mobile devices and online. The Seven Key Words proposed by the author help us to comprehend the ways in which cinema has opened up to new horizons, while nonetheless keeping its own distinct identity.
The Prize for Best International Film Studies Book is awarded by Editorial Board of the prestigious academic journal Cinéma & Cie. International Film Studies Journal, which is composed of world-renown international film and media scholars.
The prize-giving ceremony took place in Gorizia at FilmForum 2016, the XXIII Udine International Film Studies Conference/XIV MAGIS International Film Studies Spring School.