Film, Photography and their World Dependence

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Friday, November 22, 2013 - 16:00
Université Concordia
John Hunting and Trevor Mowchun, 
Nov 22, 16h, EV 5,615
Trevor Mowchun explores the “world dependence” of film through a reconsideration of the conditions of both the presence and absence of the world onscreen. He argues that the space-time presence of the world outweighs the implications of its material absence, but that in turn such presence is equally outweighed by its insignificance or poverty as a cinematic subject in its own right. Balancing Martin Heidegger's ambivalent critique of technology as the concealment of Being with Stanley Cavell's conception of the mechanical automatism of film as “world projection,” he puts forth the possibility that the camera is a special type of technology whose primary function is to reveal without purpose and to no end. A poetics of presence in film emerges when the camera is projected back into the image, marking it as a site or clearing for what Heidegger calls "the happening of the world."
John Hunting queries the relevance of Levinas’ notion of the face for photography and film. Levinas’ descriptions of radical passivity in mind, Hunting proposes that to experience the photographic as a trace is to experience the world as undergone. In this regard the photographic can attest to otherness in novel ways. But if photography betrays the world it depends upon by producing still images and film registers worldly encounters in their potentially disrupting endurance, film also lends itself to overarching continuities that photography disrupts, short-circuiting the very renewal that all temporal unities imply. Hence Hunting explains how a Levinasian aesthetics of photography and film might offer how both potentially sponsor and foreclose attestations to what Levinas meant by ethics.

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