Dziga Vertov and the Paradoxes of a Revolutionary Materialist Film Practice

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Talk
Friday, March 28, 2014 - 16:00
Concordia University, MB 2,270

John MacKay's talk: Dziga Vertov and the Paradoxes of a Revolutionary Materialist Film Practice, March 28, 16h, MB 2,270

The reception of Dziga Vertov has been marked by differences over how to categorize his achievement, differences emerging both out of his own unstable aesthetic and out of our conflicted attitude toward his art and the time and place in which he worked. We have Vertov the founder of Soviet non-fiction and newsreel film; the constructivist avant-gardist; the propagandist and falsifier extraordinaire; the progenitor of "intellectual cinema"; the inspiration for political modernist practice; the sinister surveillance technician; the prophet of new media "database" art; and so on, including various combinations of these alternatives. My own work on Vertov attempts less to adjudicate between these different Vertovs than to reflect on their salient conditions of possibility. In this talk, I'd like to discuss some of those conditions, expressed in terms of several ideological binaries that structure Vertov's thought and work: the tension between the drive toward industrial "modernization" on the cinema front and a concomitant insistence on creative autonomy; the problem of generating meaning through a cinematic practice that strives to be rigorously materialist; and a conception of modern society that takes its members to be at once fundamentally linked, sundered (in class, ethnic and gender terms) and in flux.

John MacKay is professor of Slavic and East European languages and literatures and film studies and chair of the film studies program at Yale University. He is author of Inscription and Modernity: From Wordsworth to Mandelstam and editor and translator of Four Russian Serf Narratives.

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