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Call for Papers: Surfaces and Interfaces. Aesthetics and Politics of Filmic Images on New Screens

International Film Conference, March 21­23, 2013, University of Basel, Switzerland

hosted by the research module Fields and Frequencies in Cinema Perception (eikones – NCCR Iconic Criticism) and the department of Media Studies of Basel University

The surfaces of filmic images increasingly attract our attention as films are shown on different devices, in different configurations of spectatorship, gradually dissolving and replacing the old dispositif of the cinema — if this was ever a stable form of viewing to begin with. Films appear on new gadgets and screens, analog and digital, small and large, as layers on LCD monitors or as interactive devices, portable pads as well as projections on a larger scale. Furthermore, surfaces in daily practices have subtly turned into interfaces. Screens not only transmit images, they communicate and change our behaviour toward images. Surfaces have become relevant for film theory, as well as for filmic practices themselves. In filmic vision, the surfaces of cinema turn into effects and affects instead of remaining transparent. As a matter of fact, avant­garde cinema has always addressed a film’s surface by accentuating different forms of colour processing, by exposing the visible grain, or by manipulating the filmic skin. Thus, aesthetic forms point to political intentions. Currently, as studies of Screen Dynamics or Screen Studies demonstrate, surfaces have become of concern to film studies and of film art as well. The recent films of Jean­Luc Godard, Lars von Trier, Michael Mann, and Christopher Nolan introduce surfaces as topologies. Leos Carax, dreaming of a cinema beyond screens, withdraws the relation to surface altogether. Filmic surfaces may imitate those of other images, formats, or game worlds. Newer filmic surfaces are neither wholly cinematic, nor do they completely imitate game worlds; they are neither merely images, nor do they fully represent space. The surfaces connect filmic images with different forms of media effects. The hybridity of cinematic worlds draws attention to affects, decisions, and movements, forms of behaviour to which we are exposed in cinematic screenings. In order to discuss the aesthetics and politics of new filmic surfaces we propose the following issues: 1. Entanglements of bodies and media: Over the course of the 19th century, chronophotographic and filmic surfaces have operated as interfaces to organize and economise on forms of locomotion and movement. New filmic surfaces and their dynamics also interfere with modes of movements. Movements of the martial arts, parkour or forms of surfing and skating emerge as amalgamations of human and technical locomotion. In this respect, cinema acts as a device of disciplinary procedures and transmissions. Imitation and mimesis appear as technologies of the self, connecting habitus and social power relations. 2. Entanglements of filmic surfaces and space: The question is to what degree filmic images that imitate forms of navigational media, engage us differently in the plots and actions of films. The experience of navigating through urban spaces or landscapes with the help of localizing media screens has transformed orientation in filmic spaces. Given that films are viewed on ubiquitous small screens and mobile devices, the inherent time and the heterotopic space of cinema is lost. On the other hand, the same practices of viewing, are constantly accompanied by imaginary spaces.


3. Visual devices and communicative surfaces change our behaviour toward images. New forms of filmic perception are much more incidental than theories of distraction in modernity ventured to diagnose. While classical film theory systematically considered the experience of shock as central to modernity and mass media, cinema, in terms of post足media, introduces new forms and experiences of collectivity and connectivity. This also concerns spectatorship. The new cinemas do not generate the formation of masses. Instead, its crowds and multitudes take shape on the internet, in blogs, newsgroups, or forums. 4. The digitally controlled aspects of images have changed our engagement with imaginary worlds. Computed surfaces of films remind us of computable game surfaces. Through surface markers, we seem to be able to intervene into actions, while we remain spectators. Filmplots have started to play with this option. The question is whether those forms of remediation recall old or new expectations, and behavioral potentials. 5. Finally, the impact of the surface becomes increasingly important. Current projects of digitalisation and archiving need to reconstruct surface qualities. In digitalising old film forms, new surface structures have to be construed. Genuinely filmic aesthetics necessarily disappear. Questions of how the new surfaces of old films have to be designed are also of concern to film historians, conservationists, and archivists. We inivite proposals for papers until December 6th. Please send them to: irina.kaldrack@unibas.ch. The conference will be held in Basel in close cooperation with the communal cinema, the Stadtkino, in order to screen films and project film clips under conditions appropriate to the old cinematic dispositif. Papers should be no more than 40 minutes in length, to be followed by 20 minutes of discussion. Travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed for invited speakers.


Call for Papers