Film as an Environmental Medium

We usually consider film as an optical medium. The etymology of the word “screen” and some lateral but not marginal film theories authorize another interpretation: film is an environmental medium. Film’s re-definition changes the assessment both of its birth and its alleged death. Its archaeology can include different ancestors and different descendants. Yet, what is a medium’s birth and death? Which kind of rules govern media history?

Francesco Casetti at the Center for 21st Century Studies’ “Ends of Cinema” Conference. Friday, May 4, 2018.

Media Anachronism / Lecture at ICI Berlin

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.