Screen Genealogies

Screen Genealogies. From Optical Device to Environmental Medium

Edited by Craig Buckley, Rüdiger Campe and Francesco Casetti
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019

Against the grain of the growing literature on screens, Screen Genealogies argues that the present excess of screens cannot be understood as an expansion and multiplication of the movie screen nor of the video display. Rather, screens continually exceed the optical histories in which they are most commonly inscribed. As contemporary screens become increasingly decomposed into a distributed field of technologically interconnected surfaces and interfaces, we more readily recognize the deeper spatial and environmental interventions that have long been a property of screens. For most of its history, a screen was a filter, a divide, a shelter, or a camouflage. A genealogy stressing transformation and descent rather than origins and roots emphasizes a deeper set of intersecting and competing definitions of the screen, enabling new thinking about what the screen might yet become.


Mediascapes: A Decalogue

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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

Early Film Theories in Italy


Early Film Theories in Italy, 1896-1922
Edited by Francesco Casetti with Silvio Alovisio and Luca Mazzei
Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2017

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.


Table of contents and Introduction

A new era in cinema

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

The Lumière Galaxy won Limina Award for the Best International Film Studies Book

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).

mHJZJO623cWEyunowoSiKcwThis 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.



The Lumière Galaxy. Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come

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Whether we experience film in the theater, on our hand-held devices, in galleries and museums, onboard and in flight, or up in the clouds in the bits we download, cinema continues to provide us an enjoyment. It is still living, even though convergence gives media new identities and new functions. If we want to fully grasp such a persistence of cinema, we must not only engage ourselves in an exciting travel from the remote corners of film history and theory to the most surprising sites on the internet and in our cities; moreover, we need to switch our minds far from the usual approaches based on concepts like canon, repetition, apparatus, and spectatorship, in favor of new words and ideas, including expansion, relocation, assemblage, and performance. The result will be, hopefully, an innovative understanding of cinema’s place in our lives and culture, along with a critical sea-change in the way we study the art. What eventually we will able to capture is that the more the nature of cinema transforms, the more it discovers its own identity: the “relocated cinema” is the one that fulfills the galaxy of possibilities embedded in the medium since its inception.

Columbia University Press, New York, Forthcoming February 2015

Trajectories of Relocation

Cinema Lost and Found: Trajectories of Relocation
in Screening the Past, No. 32, ‘Screen Attachments’.

“While film scholarship deepens its reflection on what the new digital revolution and its multiple windows are adding or taking away from cinema as we have known it for over a century, Casetti urges us to look backwards and not just forwards. He proposes that in order to find out what really happens to cinema once it leaves the movie theatre or the “Motherland” that has been its predominant location, we should refocus on the filmic experience itself. In so doing we might understand how cinema’s unique identity separates it from other media experience.

In the essay he has contributed to this special issue, Francesco Casetti goes a step further in his analysis of cinema’s relocation both theoretically and historically and directly addresses the main issues involved in the theorization of what we have referred to as screen attachments. He explains spectators’ new attachments to cinema’s relocated screens and explores the breaking of the “original” unity of the filmic experience following two main “paths”. The first path he re-traces is based on delivery and the second on setting. According to Casetti, in the first path, we recognize cinema because what we watch is still the film object (narrative cinema) that we used to watch in the movie theatre, even though it is delivered on other screens that, unlike in the movie theatre, presuppose interrupted and fragmented viewing. In the second path, we recognize cinema because of how we are watching, that is in a setting that mimics the movie theatre, even if the film object (narrative cinema) may have been substituted for other objects. In the two paths for relocation cinema is both “faithfully” reconstructed and “treacherously” transformed.”

from Screen Attachments: An Introduction, by Paola Voci and Catherine Fowler

Back to the Motherland

Welcome on my website and weblog on cinema in the post-media age. Please add your voice to the debate by posting a comment. Let’s start from my essay Back to the Motherland: the film theatre in the postmedia age, that has just been published on Screen, No, 52 : 1, Spring 2011. In this article I argue that Artaud Double Bill (2007) by Atom Egoyan is the perfect illustration of the emergence of a new style of filmic vision. Egoyan’s film opposes two female spectators: Nana who watches La passion de Jeanne d’Arc in a clip from Vivre sa vie by Godard; and Anna who watches Vivre sa vie and sends the clip through her mobile phone to her friend Nicole, who is sitting in another film theatre. The opposition underlines four passages: from a text to the hypertext (Nana watches a film, Anna watches a film, a clip inside this film, messages on her mobile phone, and so on); from a centralized gaze to a decentralized glance (Nana gives attention only to a film; Anna displays a multitasking attention); from being immersed to surfing (Nana dives into the world represented on the screen, to the point where she experiences a catharsis; Anna keeps the film as a series of single sequences, and reacts with admiration but without participation); from isolation to connection (Nana abolishes any relation with the exterior world; Anna stays in touch with her friend). These changes draw a new paradigm for spectatorship: from the attendance, tied with classical cinema, to the performance, typical of the cinema ‘outside the film theatres’. Nevertheless, as Egoyan’s film claims, we apply the new paradigm to a theatrical situation too: we are irremediably post-spectators.