What was it all about? A more or less loose transcription of the roundtable discussion summing up the conference

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Author(s): 
Robbins, Papagena

I thought I'd include my notes of the final roundtable for anyone who missed it or for those who want to recall specific points. What is written bellow is part quotation, part paraphrase. Please exuse any gaps or mischaracterizations. Not being a stenographer, I did the best I could to keep up with the discussion and write what I heard, or thought I heard. If there are any major mistakes, please include a comment to clarify.

 
Also, I invite you to use the comment function on this post to start a conversation about these last remarks and summaries.
 
Enjoy!
 
Roundtable discussion on ATHEMIS conference presentations, June 7, 2010
 
Martin Lefebvre: In the call for papers, we asked for contributions on epistemology, history, institutions, technologies, and cinephilia. We moved from more philosophical to material conditions as the conference progressed. Klinger, Chateau, and Cassetti will reflect on what we did.
 
Barbara Klinger: Here is an outline of some of the themes and variations I saw in this conference: the place of the avant-garde in contemporary moving image studies, the place of science and philosophy in cinema studies (what science are we speculating about? Its relationship to the empirical and a sense of rigor seems to be a desire); cinema’s relationship to other media and other places (prisons, education, non-theatrical sites); the relationship between film theory and film history (not worked out, not sure how they are bridged); the apparatus; the return of 70s film theory (its place); and the place that gender studies and identity politics have in all of this. Those who work in cultural studies may presume that identity politics is always front and center but that might not always be the case. The questions are asked under epistemology on the website. But, how is film to be approached aesthetically, ethically, and logically? There’s a multifariousness about what’s going on in the field that is, on the one hand, exhilarating, and one the other hand, leads to questions, and an identity crisis.
 
Dominique Chateau: Difficult to summarize the conference because there are such a great variety of POVs. There were lectures asking old questions about new objects, and vice versa. No old questions about old object, thankfully. We might consider if we can find some bridges. Can we go from cinephilia to cinephilo? The main difference between our lectures is the state of mind from which they develop. By state of mind I mean something precise. We, in academic conditions, are designed for that. Three ways: the development of objects nourished by information, the develoment of theories nourished by argument, and a combination of the two (?).  I am interested by the fact that lectures are often on the second degree (self-reflexive?) of study about film studies. Two features: an encounter of information and concept, and a discipline with theory of this discipline.
 
Francesco Casetti: Three movements: 1. The attempt to give sense to the theory through rationality, concepts, etc. To define the sense of unity or not. We could go back to the experience of the spectator's experience. I’m impressed by Gunning’s work on this. 2. The attempt to trace and do archaeology. The concern to discover our past, and different pasts until today. As Benjamin advocates in The Arcades Project, we have to improve our sense of history. We have to start from a dialectical image of today to start an archaeology. 3. Where is cinema today? Again, I want to look at dialectical movements. Where is the iconoclasm today? Where is the cinephobie today? To go back to experience as a starting point…
 
Audience response
 
Michael Zyrd: Can you expand on how our histories need to start from today? Do we always need to do our histories in such an explicitly self-motivated way? [Responding to Casetti's comment that the screen he is closet to these days is his I-phone and that we could start from there to talk about how screens of the past matter.]
 
Francesco Casetti: I suspect that we have defined the past of the cinema because now we are dealing with the end. Any historical identity is posthumous, even the cinema. The more I read this section of Benjamin, the more I understand we have to be conscious that the drives are not so evident.
 
Eric Prince: I would like to know Dr. Carroll’s point of view.
 
Noël Carroll: Thank you. What struck me as interesting. I should remind you that I teach mostly in the philosophy department. I did see a kind of bifurcation, a kind of old and new. Some of the material I lived through in the 70s and 80s, revivals, theory wars, but then there were ideas less accessable to me, projection, institution, education, things that were not art centered and film centered in the way that I’m familiar with. That emphasis on the institution and technology was something that was new to my experience. I was familiar with half and unfamiliar with the other half.
 
Martin Lefebvre: When we formed the research team, we were interested in some of the conditions of possibility for studying this object, film. Institutions have also played a role. Accessing a film always requires some form of technology, these different devices have an idea of what the film is. So when the dvd and vcr comes into being, you can stop, you look at films differently. These different ways of looking all pertain to the ways of studying film.
 
Tom Gunning: A friend of mine was living under one of the last Stalinest regimes, in Romania, and he said, “The future’s the only thing I can count on because the past is so unstable.” History is not just an accumulation of events. People often quote Lumiere that "film is an invention without a future," and Frampton said, "no, he is right, you can’t have a future without a past."
 
Francesco Casetti: If we go back to Benjamin’s dialectic image. Cinema is right now in a dialectical situation. It’s not a problem of subjectivity or objectivity, but understanding our reality.
 
Tom Gunning: Yes, Benjamin said that dialectics emerge from a moment of peril and we should remember that.
 
John Caldwell : The degree of complexity in some of these projects is intense. Zyrd’s work on the avant-garde made me think. As for [Colin] Burnett, why don’t you give the agency to the system, why do you give it to the individual? Latour's (sp?) actor network theory might be helpful. [To Burnett] Your paper helped me distill the past few days, because you are trying to juggle these complicated histories we’re dealing with. I love the fact that you’re diving into a cultural economy. This theoretical need to explain things generally.
 
Rosanna Maule: I appreciate the variety of perspectives. This is a conference about film studies as it has consolidated itself, not from a transnational perspective. Who are the users? We talk about media, intermediality, users of media, but as a self-criticism, I do auteur theory. I was formed in a traditional film studies context. I’m wondering how to open up a little bit in a transcultural context.
 
Noël Carroll: One thing that is also missing, partly my fault, there was no representation in there area of cognitive science. They probably invited me to talk about that. If we are looking to the future there should be some focus on that. There are some studies of Indian cinema in this regard.
 
Martin Lefebvre: Two years from now we will look at technology.
 

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