de Ville, Donna
I'd like to begin this final post with the contemplation of a word I have not heard bandied about so much in the course of a week--jouissance. Admittedly, I have never had the pleasure (intended) of delving deeply into Lacanian theory, so I tred warily here. But it seems if ever a word existed that so appropriately represented the antithesis of an intensive conference experience, it is jouissance. Don't get me wrong, there is much pleasure to be derived from the exchange of ideas and the witnessing of paradigm wars being played out on the academic battlefield. It is, however, a restrained pleasure, and by day 4 or 7, depending on one's organizational affiliations, it's bordering on sadomasochistic (please excuse my overindulgence in dramatic excess here, though the ear splitting noises emitted from the microphones yesterday were actually painful).
I, like my fellow bloggers, am feeling mentally and physically exhausted after a week of intense conferencing. It was frightening to see the transformation of once vibrant beings into a zombie-like state. Oh, the debilitating effects of heady epistemological marathons. However, it did make for a wilder and more absurd post-conference ventilsitten (thanks to all who came to the birthday celebration - you are troopers).
Ok, on to content… I thought it very appropriate that the final presentation, Katie Russell's talk on essay films and their archival role, centered on the pedagogical nature of cinema. While I was troubled by the notion of filmmakers as archivists, especially those exercising an educational agenda, I do agree that by default they are documenting for posterity certain moments in history (even if these moments are selected by an individual with a unique subject position thereby making these filmic accounts as historical 'fact' dubious). It is true that we can learn much about a very narrow slice of a prior era by watching films - if for nothing more than observing shifts in manners of speaking, senses of humor, fashion, design, etc. or, in the case of The Exiles, the appropriation and gentrification of urban space by those in power. Again, though, we should acknowledge the fact that these archives are incomplete and heavily biased. And this is what I understood Katie to be demonstrating through her examples. It brings me back to something I mentioned in yesterday's post, which is our (film scholars') role as archaeologists of cinematic detritus, and Katie's talk seemed to underscore this by pointing to film archives or (essay) films themselves as fertile ground for mining. As Gunning pointed out in the closing discussion, we can only interpret past phenomena from our current historical position. And because of this, there is an inexhaustible amount of material to investigate and re-investigate as we, as a society and discipline, develop new ways of seeing and thinking and we, as archaeologists, discover new objects to decipher.