From the beginning, cinema has been a peculiarly controversial object: it has been deeply loved by many, who saw in the reality on the screen the fulfilment of their desires, but it has also been hated by many, who were scared by the intensity of the represented world, and by the social effects that such representations could trigger. One of the roots of this controversial attitude is precisely cinema’s technical nature. This will be the subject of my lecture in the congress “The Impact of Technological Innovations on the Theory and Historiography of Cinema,” held at the University of Montreal on 1-6 November 2011. The lecture, entitled The Little Magic Machine. Technology and Iconophobia in Early Film Theories, will retrace the presence in early film theories of an “iconophobic” attitude towards cinema as a “mechanical eye” or as “mechanical art,” as opposed by a more positive appreciation of cinema as a “witness” (even if a “creative” witness). Among the iconophobes, we meet for example Pirandello (who calls cinema a “little magic machine” and claims that a mechanical copy steals life from reality); among the iconophiles we may list Epstein and its idea that the camera provides a gaze “without hesitation or scruples.” Both sides are highlighted in the debate between Paul Souday and Emile Wuillermoz in the mid ‘10s. A late reconsideration of the mechanical nature of cinema is provided during the ‘20s by ideological and anthropological discourses. A re-reading of the book by Eugenio Giovannetti, Il cinema e le arti meccaniche (a complex anticipation of some Benjamin’s issues) will drive the lecture to its end.
I will deliver a keynote speech at the Screen Cultures Conference organized by Dr Catherine Fowler and Dr Paola Voci at the Department of Languages and Cultures of the University of Otago (3rd-4th June 2011).
Some remarks on the relocation of cinema
Friday 3rd June 2011
Thanks to convergence, media now overlap and merge. This does not mean that media have reached their end: although they no longer depend on a specific apparatus, they still have an identity, linked to the specific experience they offer. Cinema survives because there still exists a certain way of wathcting things. Relocation designates the movement through which media migrate to new environments and to new devices, where they reenact their basic mode of experience. The concept of relocation is important for at least three reasons within the context of the digital revolution: it focuses on permanence within a great process of change; it highlights the experiential dimension over the technological one; and it reveals the relevance of a spatial dimension – where space acts both as a phisical environment and as techno-virtual setting.
My essays on relocation are available at the Research page.
I will also lead a masterclass open to postgraduate students and early career researches in film and media studies.
Early film theory and the problem of modernity
Sunday 5th June 2011
A discussions of film, modernity, and iconophobia through a selection of (pre-read) texts. These will include Giovanni Papini’s, Luigi Pirandello’s, Jean Epstein’s, Georg Lukacs’ writings.
Cinema is a peculiarly controversial object: it is deeply loved by many, who see in the reality on the screen the fulfilment of their desires, but i, but i t is also hated by many, who are scared by the intensity of the represented world, and by the social effects that such representations could trigger. More precisely, film is a controversial object as an emblem of modern life: it unfolds all the possibilities, but also all the risks, tied to a new model of life. It is a controversial object from the aesthetic point of view, too: if it is often devoid of any artistic qualities, it also entails another an kind of art – one based on totally new values. And finally it is a controversial object because through its impressive work on space and time, it liberates us from any constraints – it releases our bodies and our minds – but in the meantime, because of its excess of freedom, it needs a control, a discipline, that channels its action towards a positive, though even limited, goal. Film is good and is evil: behind such oscillation of confidence and apprehension, we may read the resurrection of iconophilia and iconophobia (if not iconoclasm), which, in film, find their last battlefield.