International Conference of the Junior Fellow Program
»Theory and History of Cinematographic Objects«
July 11-13, 2012, IKKM, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
In recent years, studies in the history of science, social sciences, and ethnology have prompted cultural theorists to return to the realm of things. However, the potential contributions of film and the study of film to our understanding of what constitutes a thing or object, and how they operate for and within film, remains an open question. One may ask, for instance: “What do things do in or to film?” And conversely: “How do film and media theory affect objects and existing concepts of objecthood?”
Films are assemblages of things: suitcases, revolvers, cars, shower curtains, bones that turn into spaceships within a split second. Insofar as these »things« make their peculiar appearance on film, they can be called cinematographic objects. The complexity of cinematographic objects resides in the fact that their very definition is always implicated in an ever-evolving network of associations with: 1) things on film, 2) the materiality of filmic images, and 3) the mechanical and operational relationships between the apparatuses necessary for their production (i.e. cameras, editing equipment, projectors, microphones, etc.)
»Cinematographic objects« are characterized by a specific relationship between thing and operation. The screen is full of props, artifacts, material objects either made explicitly for the cinematographic apparatus or merely picked up and recorded by it. Yet these things and objects only acquire certain cinematic qualities once the lights in the theater dim and their visual and temporal configurations unfold. It is only here that they begin to move, change shape, emerge, then vanish through zooms, tracking shots, pans, cuts, and editing. It is only here that they are enlarged and isolated in close-ups, arranged and gathered in ensemble-staging medium shots, and rendered landscapes and scenery with the long-shot. Likewise, things find a particular form of expression in filmic diegesis and narration when they align the various looks and gazes, motivate the development of the plot, distinguish characters, and circulate between protagonists. And not least of all, the film seems to chart the extra-filmic routes along which a cinematographic object as an artifact will migrate—as a piece of cinephilic memorabilia or in an exhibition in a film museum, or as iconic gestures associated with six-shooters, sunglasses, and cars—as visual motifs in art, as archival objects, or as fetishized images.
Following the »Cinematographic Objects« workshop in 2011, the conference »Cinematographic Objects II: Things and Operations« is organized around precisely these relations between artifact and operation. On the one hand, it seeks to closely interrogate the specificities of film and cinema according to film and media theoretical concerns with the cinematographic operations of object construction, as well as the peculiar nature and properties of things objects, and artifacts in film. And on the other hand, it also welcomes discourses on the transformations and migrations of things between film and other disciplines and areas of study such as art history, natural sciences, politics, and the everyday.