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The New Paragone

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The New Paragone: The Cinema and Vanguard Art Movements

SPEAKERS


ABSTRACTS

Lived Reflection, Embodied Memory

Megan Andrews, York University

In this presentation, I will discuss my self-solo performance of Stone (2006), a twenty-two minute structured improvisation using movement and extended vocalization in a visceral and sensory exploration of states of balance and imbalance. I have been working through a methodological process of moving and writing, provisionally described as "auto-ethno-phenomenology", in order to deepen my understanding of performance experience and somaesthetic meaning-making in contemporary dance practice. My work is informed by my background in Laban Movement Analysis, and draws on phenomenological description and the role of language in psychoanalytic theory. My questions turn on the relationship between movement and language, and the lived body as experiential mediator between psyche and environment, self and other. My discussion will be supported by visual material from a DVD recording of my performance.

Biographical note:

Megan Andrews (MA, CMA) is a dance artist, teacher and freelance writer/editor originally from Vancouver. In 1998, she initiated the Canadian dance magazine, The Dance Current, and continues as Publisher/Founding Editor. Her performance work derives from improvisation-based practice and she teaches studio and seminar courses in the dance department at York University. Megan is a Certified Laban Movement Analyst and recently completed her comprehensive exams for doctoral studies in Communication and Culture at York University.

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The feminine and the sacred poetics in Angela Joosse's Shapes Eat Shapes

Natalya Androsova, York/Ryerson University

In this paper Ms. Androsova will make the natural extension of her research interests to the medium of film which offers new dynamic possibilities for the manifestation of the semiotic. This paper addresses the tension between the symbolic and the semiotic modalities of language, as suggested by Julia Kristeva. Kristeva associates the symbolic with language rules, social order, and paternal law, while the semiotic is connected to the body and to the idea of the chora, formed by the unconscious and its drives. Chora is a primal affective totality that resists signification and is oriented towards the maternal and pre-Oedipal imaginary. From this theoretical position, I will argue that Angela Joosse’s film Shapes Eat Shapes (2006) reflects this paradoxical nature of our experience as constantly revolving between the two modalities.

Biographical note:

Natalya Androsova has received her BA and MA in Romance-Germanic Philology from Donetsk State University in Ukraine. She then completed her MS in Human Resource Development and EdS in Higher Education at Pittsburg State University, KS, USA.

Natalya is presently pursuing her PhD in the Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture at York/Ryerson Universities in Toronto under careful supervision and guidance of R. Bruce Elder. Her current research intends to articulate a special relationship between the feminine experience of the sacred and its reflection in a new unique “feminine” language. Since starting her doctoral studies in this joint program at Ryerson and York Universities, Natalya has had a chance to disseminate her ideas at a number of international conferences in the UK, USA and Jamaica, each resulting in a publication.

Natalya has taught various writing courses at Ryerson University, Pittsburg State University, Donetsk State University, George Brown College and other private colleges.

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Adventures in (Neo-)Avant-Garde Adaptation

Ian Balfour, York University

Filmic adaptation of literature often falls between two stools, conducive neither to pure film criticism nor to pure literary criticism. When the topic is addressed by literary or film critics, it is done overwhelmingly in relation to mainstream films, for which Jane Austen adaptations might be paradigm and the cliché. Yet there is a counter-tradition or quasi-tradition of far more adventurous adaptation, either downright avant-garde or close to it, with all or much of the experimentation one associates with non-narrative cinema. Such avant-gard(ish) adaptation revels in the signifier, imagistic and verbal, in non-linear narrative, often entailing something quite different from a literalistic fidelity in relation to its literary original. Among the instances to be considered will be Jan Svankmaker’s The Castle of Otranto and Claire Denis’ L’Intrus (The Intruder).

Biographical note:

Ian Balfour is a professor of English and of Social & Political Thought at York University. He is the author of Northrop Frye (1988), The Rhetoric of Romantic Prophecy (2002) and of numerous essays on Romanticism, literary theory, topics in popular culture (including Pee Wee Herman and the Pet Shop Boys) and catalogue essays on Garine Torossian, Bill Burns, and German thinking about the Laocoon group.

He recently co-edited with Atom Egoyan, Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film and with Eduardo Cadava, And Justice for All?: The Claims of Human Rights. He has taught as a visitor at Stanford, the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Cornell and Williams College, among others. In 2005-06 and again in 2008 Balfour was a Fellow at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. He is currently completing a book on the language of the sublime.

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The Dancing Body in the work of Marie Chouinard

Katherine Cornell, Ryerson University

Quebec artist Marie Chouinard stands out as one of Canada’s most successful and internationally recognized contemporary choreographers. She began her career as a solo body artist, blurring the lines between dance and performance art. Her solo and group works often explore identity and gender in dance with a focus on the visceral body. This presentation considers Chouinard’s use and manipulation of the dancing body.

Biographical note:

Katherine Cornell (B.A. History, University of Guelph; M.A. Dance, York University; PhD Communication and Culture, Ryerson and York Universities) Contract Faculty, Theatre School, Ryerson University

Katherine Cornell’s research focuses on dance as an expression of Canadian culture. Cornell has been published in several anthologies and magazines; in 1998, she co-wrote Toronto Dance Theatre: Stages in a Journey. As a dance historian and education specialist, she teaches several courses for the Theatre School at Ryerson University.

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On ‘Abstract Cinema - Chromatic Music’: the Futurists, the InterArts and Early Avant-Garde Cinema

Kelly Egan, York/Ryerson University

In the early twentieth century, the Futurists actively sought to engage with film in order to explore its potential as an artistic medium. With manifestoes such as "Abstract Cinema – Chromatic Music," "The Futurist Cinema" and even to some extent "The Painting of Sounds, Noises and Smells," the Futurists marked the potentiality of film to change our understanding of the paragone of the Fine Arts. Although experimentation with music and colour was not a new phenomenon, InterArts correlations was changed dramatically by the film medium. This presentation will discuss the lasting effects on film made by the Futurists.

Biographical note:

Kelly Egan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from Carleton University (2001), a Master of Arts in Communication and Culture from York/Ryerson University (2003), a Master of Fine Arts in Film/Video from Bard College (2006), and is currently working towards a doctoral degree in the York/Ryerson Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture. Her films have been screened at major festivals across Canada and internationally, including the Toronto International Film Festival, Images Film and Video Festival, the New York Film Festival, and the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

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Drawing/Colouring as:
  • Physical performance (Energy)
  • Making a Mark (Material)
  • Making a Whole (Harmony)
  • Making Movement (Music)
  • Making a World (Representation)
  • Making Thought (Reflection)
  • Making a self (Expression)
Nicolas de Staël, Pablo Picasso, Michael Snow—all this in six (not so easy) pieces

R. Bruce Elder, Ryerson University

Biographical note:

Filmmaker, author, and critic, R. Bruce Elder inspires and enjoys debate. His books include Image and Identity: Reflections on Canadian Film and Culture (WLUP, 1989), A Body of Vision (WLUP, 1998), and The Films of Stan Brakhage in the American Tradition of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Olson (WLUP, 1999). His films have been exhibited internationally and his polemical piece, "The Cinema We Need," remains one of the most discussed pieces of writing on Canadian film. In 2007, R. Bruce Elder received the Governor General's Award in Media Arts. Elder is the program director at Ryerson for the Graduate Program in Communication and Culture.

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The Man With the Movie Camera, The Participatory Global Remake

Seth Feldman, York University

Dziga.perrybard.net is an online project that has elicited hundreds of individual contributions in an effort to make a contemporary version of Vertov’s original film. My paper, drawing partially upon the work of Lev Manovich, will use the project as a means to raise the question of whether, in fact, the constructivist filmmaking advocated by Vertov was part of the modernist project. This, of course, leads to the larger issue of whether avant-garde movements, with their deliberately circumscribed life spans, are constructed as statements whose ultimate function is to be quoted.

Biographical note:

BA (The Johns Hopkins University) Ph.D (State University of New York at Buffalo)

A senior scholar in cinema and media studies, Seth Feldman is also known for his work as a broadcaster and administrator. His numerous publications have included some of the first collections of work on Canadian cinema, two books on the Soviet documentary filmmaker Dziga Vertov, and, most recently, a monograph of the Canadian director, Allan King. Professor Feldman is also the writer and presenter of twenty-five radio documentaries for the CBC program, IDEAS for which he has been awarded both a George Armstrong International Radio Award and a New York Festivals Gold Medal. A founder and President of the Film Studies Association of Canada, he has served as Dean of Fine Arts at York University Chair of the Canadian Association of Fine Arts and Robarts Chair in Canadian Studies. His current research focuses on the changing nature of documentary film with particular reference to the place of documentary in the Canadian experience. He is also Principal Investigator on a SSHRC Standard Research Grant on the Canadian Films of Expo ’67 as well as Principal Investigator on a SSHRC Research/Creation grant on the visual presence of concentration camps in German and Austrian towns sharing their names.

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Round-table discussion: The Challenges of Preserving the Legacy of the Avant-garde Cinema

  • Robert Haller, Anthology Film Archives
  • Gerald O’Grady, Center for Media Studies, State University of New York
  • Susan Oxtoby, Pacific Film Archive
  • Michael Prokopow, Ryerson University

The future of our film heritage depends greatly upon the skills of knowledgeable professionals and their commitment to the stewardship of films, particularly in their original film formats. In recent years, the technologies of moving image production have undergone massive changes: photochemical technologies are being replaced by electronic technologies and video and other digital media have an ever-increasing online presence. This transformation has created a crisis for our film heritage. How this heritage will be preserved and passed down to future generations is anything but clear. While reports to the government of Canada have stressed the urgency of protecting our film heritage, the numbers of people skilled in film processing and printing have diminished startlingly, and laboratory skills have become more the responsibility of the film conservator and less that of entrepreneurs and technical staff who once had marketplace advantage. The legacy of the avant-garde cinema is especially imperiled, as commercial interests provide it no shelter.

Our panel on the avant-garde and film preservation, which brings together some key players in the preservation of avant-garde films, will discuss the challenges they face, comment on what they have learned about meeting these challenges, and offer recommendations for what some of us might do.

Biographical notes:

Robert Haller

Director of Collections and Special Projects, Anthology Film Archives

Robert Haller is a film historian and photographer who is currently completing books on cine-dance film-maker Amy Greenfield and abstract film-maker Jim Davis. Projects in the near future are books on Fritz Lang, a biographical encyclopedia on North American avant-garde film-makers, and "Center of the World," a collection of photographs of megaliths and nudes.

Gerald O'Grady

*Unfortunately Gerald O'Grady will no longer be able to speak at the symposium.

Twelve essays by Gerry O'Grady appear in Buffalo Heads Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990 (MIT, 2008)

Edited by Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel

Art by James Blue, Tony Conrad, Hollis Frampton, Gerald O'Grady, Paul Sharits, Steina, Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel

The publisher's blurb for the book reads: "Twentieth-century art history is not just a history of individuals, but of collectives, groups. Universities and colleges have had much to do with this through their support of artistic communities and creative interactions. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Bauhaus was known for this. In the 1940s, Black Mountain College became a leader in community-based visual art practice and education. And in the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Media Study at the State University of New York at Buffalo was the place to be. It was there, in 1973, well before any other university had a program explicitly devoted to media art, that Gerald O'Grady founded a media study program that is now legendary. Artists—including avant-garde filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, and Paul Sharits, documentary maker James Blue, video artists Woody Vasulka and Steina, and Viennese action artist Peter Weibel—investigated, taught, and made media art in all forms, and founded the first Digital Arts Laboratory. These Buffalo faculty members were not just practicing artists, but also theorists who wrote and spoke on issues raised by their work. They set the terms for the development of media art and paved the way for the triumph of video installation art in the 1990s.

The images and texts in Buffalo Heads bear witness to the groundbreaking events at the Buffalo Center for Media Study. The book presents not just a tribute to a famous media department finally receiving its due; it is a rich inventory of primary texts (many never before published), works that will improve our understanding of media, amplify our cultural memory, and offer a perspective on contemporary issues."

Susan Oxtoby

Senior Film Curator, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Susan Oxtoby joined the staff of the Pacific Film Archive (PFA) in October 2005, relocating to Berkeley from Toronto, Canada. PFA presents 500 public programmes annually and is widely recognized for the strength of its curatorial direction, archival holdings, preservation work which has an emphasis on Bay Area avant-garde film and video, and involvement in teaching at the University of California, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. For twelve years immediately prior to that, Ms. Oxtoby worked for Cinematheque Ontario, the year-round screening programme of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, where she was the Director of Programming from 1997 to 2005. During this period, she also programmed the first five editions of Wavelengths, a forum for avant-garde film at the Toronto International Film Festival. For the past decade, Ms. Oxtoby has been actively involved in the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), where she served as a member of the FIAF Executive Committee for four years. In 2005, she was appointed to the National Film Preservation Board, an advisory body organized by the Library of Congress (LC) comprised of film critics, academics, filmmakers, programmers, and studio representatives, who advise the LC on films named to the National Registry. Ms. Oxtoby’s other professional experience includes guest programming the 50th Anniversary of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar at Vassar College in 2004; working for three years as a film distributor at the Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Centre (CFMDC); as a researcher on Canadian experimental film employed by York University and by the Art Gallery of Ontario; and as an independent filmmaker employed by Toronto filmmakers R. Bruce Elder and Amy Bodman. Ms. Oxtoby completed two degrees between 1981 and 1988: one in English and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto and another in Media Studies at Ryerson University. She has two 16mm experimental films in distribution through the CFMDC.

Michael Prokopow

Ph.D Harvard (History)
Michael Prokopow is a specialist in material culture, history of North America, design history and aesthetics. He teaches in the Communication and Culture Program at York/Ryerson, with an emphasis on Visual Cultural studies and popular culture. He also teaches undergraduate courses in North American Material Culture, Meaning and Practice in Historic and Contemporary design. Prokopow has served as the Curator of the Design Exchange and am currently working on a project on middle class taste in North America, 1945-1975.

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Fragmented Views Recomposed : Photography after Cinema

Christian Lebrat, independent artist

I came to photography through a preoccupation with cinematic concerns: decomposition of movement, discontinuity of shots, and re-composition of time. This I worked through three different kinds of images: The Photographic scrolls and panoramas, the Self portraits, and the Curtain series. In my treatment of a wide selection of images, I will show on one hand how cinema can become photographic, and on the other hand, I will show how photography, in its essential confrontation with cinema (and to a lesser extent painting), finds unexpected resources.

Biographical note:

Christian Lebrat is an internationally acclaimed artist with a career spanning over 30 years. He is a filmmaker, video artist, performance artist and photographer, as well as a publisher, curator and writer.

Since 1976 he has created over twenty experimental films, videos, and film performances, along with a formidable body of photographic work. In the last ten years he has had over a dozen major retrospectives of his films in different international cities. He began working in photography in 1978 and has been exhibiting regularly since 1982. Two recent solo exhibitions in Marseille (France) and Italy show new works in film, video and photography. His works are in several public collections, such as: Musée national d'art moderne (Centre Georges Pompidou), FNAC, FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Bibliothèque nationale de France. In 1985 he founded Paris Expérimental (http://www.paris-experimental.asso.fr), a publishing company entirely devoted to publishing theoretical and historical texts on avant-garde and experimental cinema. He has published several essential books on the subject and edited the monumental anthology on French avant-garde film, Jeune, Dure et Pure! Une histoire du cinéma d'avant-garde et experimental en France (2001). He has also published a collection of essays and lectures on his own films (Between images, Paris Expérimental, 1997) and a compilation of his texts (Radical cinema, Paris Expérimental, 2008). As a curator he has also organized several retrospectives, amongst them Jeune, dure et pure! Une histoire du cinéma d'avant-garde et expérimental en France (Cinémathèque française, Paris, 2001), Le Cinéma visionnaire: l'avant-garde américaine (Paris and Rome, 2002), and Maurice Lemaître et le cinéma (Paris, 2005). His most recent recognitions include: 2007 Prize of the MoCCA (Museum of Contemporary Cinema, in Madrid) for Ultra, film performance for 2 x 16 mm projectors and loops;2007 Best Experimental Film Prize for Out of (K)nowhere: A Film by Anne Prat (2003-2006, video) at the 39e Big Muddy Film Festival (Carbondale); and his video V1 (Vortex) has just been acquired by the Fonds National d'Art Contemporain (French public collection). He lives and works in Paris, France. Web site of the artist: http://www.christian-lebrat.net

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California Dante: New Reflections on the Old Paragone

James Miller, University of Western Ontario

Though Leonardo da Vinci is credited with the first theoretical formulation of the inter-arts comparison in Italian aesthetics, Dante prophetically allegorized the rivalry between verba and visio in the tenth canto of Purgatorio by comparing the limited descriptive powers of mortal poets (including, with strained humility, himself) to the Divine Artist’s miraculous animation of the sculpted panels on the cornice of the Proud. In doing so, Dante also anticipated the invention of cinema as an art of heightened vision and envisioned its competitive relation to both literature and the premodern visual arts. Against this medieval background I shall examine the contemporary aesthetic implications of two provocative postmodern efforts to update and “paragonize” Dante’s allegory through the medium of moving pictures. Both updates emanate from California: Sandow Birk’s animated film of The Inferno based on his Dante illustrations (2004); and Ty Bugghati’s gay porno Dante’s Inferno: The Measure of a Man (2008).

Biographical note:

James Miller received his doctorate in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto in 1979. After teaching in the English Department at Harvard University from 1979 to 1985, he joined the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Western Ontario, where he shocked almost no one by coming out of the closet in 1989. In 1997 he founded the Pride Library at Western by donating 80 books by gay and lesbian authors to an open bookshelf in his office. Now his office is in the Pride Library, which has grown over the years into a significant research collection of over 7,000 volumes. His own books include Measures of Wisdom: the Cosmic Dance in Classical and Christian Antiquity (1986), Fluid Exchanges: Artists and Critics in the AIDS Crisis (1992), and Dante & the Unorthodox: The Aesthetics of Transgression (2005). He has recently returned from an extended research trip in India. Having narrowly escaped the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008, he is now certain that his dharma is to complete his book, Shiva at Stonewall, on the imagery of the dance in gay Indian film, drama, poetry, and fiction.

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Luis Buñuel an Accidental Mexican?

Arturo Nagel, Ontario College of Art and Design

The critical reception of the films of Luis Bunuel (1900-1983) has focussed on his early and late work. His first films, Un Chien Andalou (1928-29) and L'Age d'or (1930), assured him a place in both the history of Avant-Garde film and Surrealism itself.
In 1946, Bunuel went to Mexico City to collaborate on a film. He stayed on, becoming a Mexican citizen in 1949. Bunuel directed some twenty films during his Mexican period. Many of these films were rejected and orphaned by Bunuel himself. However, the posthumous reception of Bunuel's work has seen a shift in emphasis and a new and sustained interest in the Mexican period has emerged. Works as diverse in content as Los Olvidados (1950), Mexican Bus Ride (1951), and The Exterminating Angel (1962) are making their way into a revised Bunuel canon.

Biographical note:

Arturo Nagel is an artist and art historian. Born in Mexico City in 1945, he emigrated to Canada in 1974. Arturo Nagel was educated in Mexico and the United States and holds two degrees (BA in art, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1968 and MFA, Instituto Allende, San Miguel Allende, Mexico, 1971). He is a long-standing faculty member at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He chaired the Department of Liberal Studies at OCAD between 1983 and 1988 and has taught both studio practice and art history. He currently teaches the history of modern art, Dada and Surrealism, nineteenth and twentieth century European art as well as Modern Mexican art.

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Vertov and Vygotsky: Speculations on "zhivago"

Gerald O’Grady, Center for Media Studies, State University of New York

Biographical note:

Twelve essays by Gerry O'Grady appear in Buffalo Heads Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990 (MIT, 2008)

Edited by Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel

Art by James Blue, Tony Conrad, Hollis Frampton, Gerald O'Grady, Paul Sharits, Steina, Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel

The publisher's blurb for the book reads: "Twentieth-century art history is not just a history of individuals, but of collectives, groups. Universities and colleges have had much to do with this through their support of artistic communities and creative interactions. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Bauhaus was known for this. In the 1940s, Black Mountain College became a leader in community-based visual art practice and education. And in the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Media Study at the State University of New York at Buffalo was the place to be. It was there, in 1973, well before any other university had a program explicitly devoted to media art, that Gerald O'Grady founded a media study program that is now legendary. Artists—including avant-garde filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, and Paul Sharits, documentary maker James Blue, video artists Woody Vasulka and Steina, and Viennese action artist Peter Weibel—investigated, taught, and made media art in all forms, and founded the first Digital Arts Laboratory. These Buffalo faculty members were not just practicing artists, but also theorists who wrote and spoke on issues raised by their work. They set the terms for the development of media art and paved the way for the triumph of video installation art in the 1990s.

The images and texts in Buffalo Heads bear witness to the groundbreaking events at the Buffalo Center for Media Study. The book presents not just a tribute to a famous media department finally receiving its due; it is a rich inventory of primary texts (many never before published), works that will improve our understanding of media, amplify our cultural memory, and offer a perspective on contemporary issues."

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Perception, Temporality, and Love in R. Bruce Elder’s Aesthetics

Boris Pantev, Ryerson/York University

This paper explores the key function of temporality in R. Bruce Elder’s aesthetics. Proceeding from the premise that his writings and films operate on several distinct and interconnected ideas of time, it attempts to explicate the temporal features central for his aesthetic notions such as perception, violence, and love.

The paper distinguishes between three modes of temporal experience: narrative, generative, and infinite. It analyzes the correlation between these modes in order to show how in Elder’s work they determine different stages in the constitution of consciousness and its primary orientation to the ‘Other.’ The author’s main argument is that Elder’s phenomenology of infinite temporality articulates the capacity of art and artistic experience to reactivate our original bodily relation with others and to secure the inherently moral nature of our life in society.

Biographical note:

Boris Pantev is currently in the second year of his Ph.D. studies in the Joint Communication and Culture program at Ryerson and York Universities. He received his first MA degree in philosophy from Sofia University and another Master’s in philosophy at the University of Toronto. His interests include phenomenology of communication, cultural definitions of alterity, philosophy of technology, and the relation between temporality, the body, and politics. His research is mainly conducted in phenomenological, post-structuralist, and critical contexts.

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Technomorphism and the Aesthetics of Futurism

John Picchione, York University

This paper examines the relationship between new technologies and the aesthetic conceptions of Futurism. Particular attention is paid to Futurist manifestos that centre around the crisis of mimetic representation, the materiality of the artistic medium, the autonomy of art, and new notions of subjectivity.

Biographical note:

John Picchione teaches Italian literature and culture at York University. He has published extensively on twentieth-century Italian poetry, avant-garde movements, and theory of literature. He has edited and co-edited a number of books, including Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry: An Anthology (Toronto: 1993). He is the author of Introduzione a Antonio Porta (Rome: 1995) and The New Avant-Garde in Italy: Theoretical Debate and Poetic Practices (Toronto: 2004). For this latter publication he was awarded the 2005 book prize of the American Association for Italian Studies.

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Light, Looks, and The Lodger

Murray Pomerance, Ryerson University

This paper examines Hitchcock's 1927 film as a paradigm of the modern "attentiveness" described by Crary, with specific focus on new patterns of urban illumination and the relation of light to staging and performance. Early cinema was both a kind of lichtspiel and a focus of audience regard upon the principle of regard itself. The Lodger extrematizes the judgmental and castigating "look," as well as highlighting its own critical practice through the agency of a character's equivocal treatment of framed imagery.

Biographical note:

Murray Pomerance is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University. Author of The Horse Who Drank the Sky: Film Experience Beyond Narrative and Theory (Rutgers 2008), Johnny Depp Starts Here (Rugters 2005), An Eye for Hitchcock (Rutgers 2004), Savage Time (Oberon 2005), and Magia D'Amore (Sun and Moon, 1999), he has edited or co-edited numerous volumes, including A Family Affair: Cinema Calls Home (Wallflower 2008), City That Never Sleeps: New York and the Filmic Imagination (Rutgers 2007), Cinema and Modernity (Rutgers 2006), From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings (Rodopi 2006), American Cinema of the 1950s: Themes and Variations (Rutgers 2005), Where the Boys Are: Cinemas of Masculinity and Youth (Wayne State 2005), BAD: Infamy, Darkness, Evil, and Slime on Screen (State University of New York Press 2004), and Enfant Terrible! Jerry Lewis in American Film (New York University Press 2002). He is at work on a book about the color films of Michelangelo Antonioni. He is editor of the Horizons of Cinema series at State University of New York Press and, with Lester D. Friedman and Adrienne L. McLean respectively, co-editor of both the Screen Decades and Star Decades series at Rutgers University Press.

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The Deren Paradigm

John Pruitt, Bard College

Maya Deren's stance towards cinema unites formalism, the dominant theoretical trend of film theory in the silent era, and the radical shift towards photographic realism that much theory represented in the period following World War II. It can be used as a paradigm to look forwards or backwards in film history. For instance, through a reconsideration of Deren's dynamic synthesis, we can achieve a critical understanding of certain avant-garde practitioners like Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer and others, whose aggressive manipulation of image or radically graphic approach to the medium appears as either a kind of assault on or outright denial of the camera; and yet, in a way that Deren would have predicted, the same artists were inevitably drawn back to the photographic image and a meditation on its indexical status. In a current context, Deren's ideas would also presuppose that the age of cinema per se has been radically eclipsed by the rise of digital media, whose aesthetic implications in effect create another paradigm altogether.

Biographical note:

John Pruitt has published articles on avant-garde film in numerous journals including Millennium Film Journal, Field of Vision, and Motion Picture. Most recently, essays on Michael Snow and Maya Deren have respectively appeared in two collections, A Principality of Its Own and Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema. He has taught Film History at Bard College since 1981.

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The Charity of Erotic Experience in R. Bruce Elder’s The Dream of the Last Historian

Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof, Ryerson University

In R. Bruce Elder’s film The Dream of the Last Historian (1985) there appears a passage that juxtaposes a choral rendition of the famous conversion passage that appears in Book Eight, Chapter XII of Augustine’s Confessions with images of lovemaking that Stan Brakhage declared the most “beautiful rendering of lovemaking in the history of cinema.” I wish to deal with Elder’s recasting of the cited passage by asking what the point of this strange juxtaposition is. In some measure, surely, the juxtaposition suggests that same forward-then-backsliding rhythm that every seeker experiences and Augustine famously lamented (Confessions, Book 10, Chapter XL). Beyond that, the juxtaposition suggests memory, the scenes of wantonness that plague the writer/filmmaker, even as he gives thanks for having been lifted out of the life of sin.

But these explanations capture only a part of the truth the juxtaposition conveys. I will argue that the famous conversion passage in Augustine’s Confessions represents the moment when Augustine inward being comes to know God. For Bruce Elder, only erotic experience can shake humans deeply enough to open them to the Divine. Thus, the juxtaposition represents a sincere attempt suggesting in film the event that Augustine treats in this section of the Confessions, the moment of metanoia when the soul is changed as it opens to God. The passage’s juxtaposition of text and image thus represents a juxtaposition of type and modern antitype.

Biographical note:

Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof is a Toronto-based experimental filmmaker and an assistant professor at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University. She obtained her B.A.A. in the Media Arts Program at Ryerson University (1997), M.A. in the Communication and Culture Programme at York University (2003), and has just defended her Ph.D. in the Communication and Culture Programme at York University (2008). Her doctoral project concentrated on identifying the feminine aesthetics in the avant-garde cinema and body art by drawing on Julia Kristeva’s and Luce Irigaray’s ideas on poetry and language. Izabella’s film and video projects have screened in numerous group shows at international film festivals, cinematheques, galleries and art centres, including: Toronto International Film Festival; Rotterdam International Film Festival; New York International Film Festival; Sundance Film Festival; Centre George Pompidou in Paris, France; Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria; Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, U.S.; Museum of Civilization, Ottawa; New York Kunsthalle; ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe, Germany. More recently, solo screenings of her works have been presented at the Diagonal Film Archive in Seoul, South Korea, at the 10th Festival des Cinéma Différent de Paris in France, and at Canadian Film Institute: CAFÉ eX in Ottawa, Canada. Izabella’s works have received several awards from festivals and artist-run centres, and have received support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, the NFB, and LIFT. She has also contributed in various capacities to the Toronto arts community: as a filmmaker, as an administrator, as a programmer and as a member of numerous local arts organizations. Izabella is the co-founder and an active member of the Loop Collective.

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Alchemical Features of R. Bruce Elder’s The Young Prince

Christian Roy, independent scholar

True to a strand within Modernism, Elder’s current film cycle The Book of Praise unfolds as an alchemical process of transmutation of base materials into precious metals. This aspect of it culminates in The Young Prince (2007) as the achievement of gold at the “red” stage (rubedo), clarifying features incipient at the “black” stage (nigredo) where the cycle started with A Man Whose Life Was Full of Woe Has Been Surprised by Joy (1997) before undergoing the ordeal of Crack, Brutal, Grief (2000), whose intense inwardness The Young Prince echoes (in bright rather than dark mode), in contrast to the ecstatic embrace of the outside world at the “white” stage (albedo) in Eros and Wonder (2003) and Infunde Lumen Cordibus (2004). This film is still about discarding a small, mortal self in favour of a boundless, deathless self, in the mystic marriage of opposites as the androgyn, evoked with graphic sexuality, subtle poetry, aural metaphors of linguistic duality, visual metaphors of squaring the circle, and the polyrhythmic counterpoint of aleatory hand-processing and breath-taking digital effects.

Biographical note:

Independent scholar Christian Roy is the author of Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia (ABC-Clio, 2005), in addition to numerous articles and papers mainly in his discipline of intellectual history, but also in Film Studies and on R. Bruce Elder, e.g. in the magazine Vice Versa (Montreal 1983-96), in the catalogue of the 2007 Governor General’s Awards or as an introductory booklet to Cinematheque Ontario’s 2008 screening of The Book of All the Dead. He is a board member of the Darling Foundry contemporary art centre in Montreal, where he also co-leads a film-based psychoanalytic seminar on twentieth-century history.

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Michael Snow

For information about Michael Snow, please refer this essay on the artist prepared by R. Bruce Elder

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Cubist and Surrealist Poetry: The Paragone and French Modernism

John Stout, McMaster University

Modernism in the first decades of the twentieth century came into existence as poets and visual artists collaborated on a shared project of “making it new.” Poets Pierre Reverdy and Guillaume Apollinaire wrote insightful and influential criticism on Cubist painting while developing new experimental aesthetic techniques based on Cubist principles such as simultaneity and fragmentation. Then, in the 1920's and 1930's, Surrealist painters and poets sought new techniques for attaining and presenting le merveilleux, using dreams and automatic procedures as creative tools. In this paper I will explore the interactions between these poets and visual artists working to build a new modernist aesthetic.

Biographical note:

John Stout teaches French and Comparative Literature at McMaster University. He is the author of Antonin Artaud's Alternate Genealogies (1996). He is completing a book on poetry and still life in twentieth-century France, entitled Objects Observed. He is also beginning a study of contemporary experimental poetry and poetics in Canada, the USA and France.

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The Unstable Eye: Paolo Gioli’s Film Practice Seen through Paul Virilio

Bart Testa, University of Toronto

Now 68, Paulo Gioli is an experimental filmmaker who has worked in Italy and lived near Bologna since 1969 after two years (1967-1969) in New York where he was inspired by avant-garde films he saw. Gioli makes films without much notice taken and in the absence of a cogent Italian film avant-garde. Little analytical-interpretative approach to his work has appeared so far. Giloli’s account of his films are mainly about his practices. These involve an aggressive montage/optical printing and a radical technical bricolage with the camera apparatus affecting shutters and lens. This paper will attempt a small portion of Gioli’s films centering on the idea of the instability of the eye/lens/image relation.

Experimental films often play on a variety of concepts of vision, often with the goal of achieving a sincere and truthful cinematic account of the acts of seeing, or, at the other end of concepts to expose distortions of vision that the cinematic apparatus entails. Avant-garde films concerns with vision give rise to a concentration of the vision/cinema relation. Hence, experimental cinema has forged counter-histories of vision (explored by R. Bruce Elder’s Harmony and Dissent). Gioli is a figure in this history. The French theorist Paul Virilio is another but discursive figure. His own eccentric history of modern vision, tied to his theses on speed (in his terms “dromology”), military history, modern physics, digital and televisual technologies, and urban design. Virilio believes the destabilization of human vision as measure of the image begins with cinema. The notion has interesting resonances with Gioli’s filmmaking – or at least this paper will claim.

Biographical note:

Bart Testa teaches at the Cinema Studies Institute, Innis College, University of Toronto, and also serves as its Graduate Coordinator. His courses cover a wide range but he is especially interested in Chinese films, European art cinema and the avant-garde film, having written two books, Back and Forth: Early Cinema and the Avant-Garde and Spirit in the Landscape on the subject, as well as articles and anthologized essays. His most recent experimental film essays, on Stan Brakhage’s Vancouver Island films, appeared in The Canadian Journal of Film Studies (14/1) in 2005. Testa served on the executive of the International Experimental Film Congress in 1989 and on the jury of Windsor’s Image City in 2007.

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The Aesthetics of R. Bruce Elder

Pierre Tremblay, Ryerson University

Pierre Tremblay will show an extract from his documentary, R. Bruce Elder: Writer, Filmmaker, Professor, and will talk about his collaboration with le Fresnoy.

Biographical note:

Combining new technologies and video, interdisciplinary artist Pierre Tremblay‘s work has been exhibited in France and Canada for over 25 years. An Associate Professor of Visual Studies at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, Tremblay was born in Québec City and lived and worked for many years in Paris, his work can be found at Musée Carnavalet, Bibliothèque Nationale and the Musée Rodin.

Tremblay holds two Bachelor degrees: Graphic Art from Laval University and Photography from Ryerson. He has a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts (Art et Technologies de l’Image) from University of ParisVIII.

Tremblay’s practice over the years has moved through different media. His interest in moving images and sound questions the world in flux and how we see and perceive. In the last few years he has been interested in revisiting the traditional art genres of portraiture and landscape. His latest exploration questioning the traditional genre of landscape and seeing multiple moments at once was screened in festivals in Canada, Australia, China and Brazil. In 2008, Continuum was presented in a multi channel video installation at Glendon Gallery in Toronto. Last December, Continuum was part of Dans la nuit des images at the Grand Palais in Paris. Stella in Wilderness, a short film made in collaboration with composer Udo Kasemets, will be screened at the Festival International du Film sur l'Art (FIFA), in Montréal in 2009.

With collaborator Don Snyder, Tremblay created and organized the 2002 conference Quebec/Ontario NEW FORMS, NEW WORKS. The second edition happened February 9-11, 2006 at Hexagram/UQAM in Montreal; Toronto/Montreal: THE PROLIFERATION OF SCREENS. The third edition was at Ryerson University in 2008, Toronto/Montreal/Lille: TOGETHER ELSEWHERE - a biennial of artistic exchange. We are working on the next conference which will be at le Fresnoy in Lille in 2010.

Tremblay has also been the coordinator for the French visiting artist program at the School of Image Arts since his arrival at Ryerson. This program brought him to create exhibitions, catalogues and to participate in a number of juries in France and Canada. He continues to collaborate actively with the prestigious art school, le Fresnoy, in France – currently wrapping up a joint film series about three Toronto artists and their connections to place – Michael Snow, David Rokeby and R. Bruce Elder.

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Fragmentation and Universality: Sergei Eisenstein and James Joyce

Martin Watson, York/Ryerson University

Perhaps one of the most prominent modern forms of inter-art comparison is that which emerges when a work produced in one medium is reborn in another, a common example of which is the transition from novel to film. Just as avant-garde film makers took, and take, their cues from poetry, mainstream cinema has borrowed a great deal of its structures and themes from the novel, in the process generating much debate as to the superior medium. Rather than focus on any extant adaptation, this paper will examine a transition from novel to screen that never came to fruition: that of Sergei Eisenstein's fleeting plan to film James Joyce's Ulysses, and how these artists' attitudes towards the power of cinema and their engagement with Romantic notions of fragmentation and universality contributed much to artistic and critical engagement with the nature of, and relationship between, their respective media.

Biographical note:

Martin Watson is a PhD student in York and Ryerson Universities' Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture.

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