Towards non-anthropocentric moving images: examples of a counter-history A lecture by Jonathan Walley – Live


Towards non-anthropocentric moving images: examples of a counter-history
A lecture by Jonathan Walley

172 Classon Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11205

Join us on Tuesday, June 21 at 7 p.m. in the e-flux screening room for Towards Non-Anthropocentric Moving Images: Exemplars of a Counter-History, a talk by Jonathan Wally. This is the second lecture in the monthly lecture series Movie beyond movie at e-flux Screening Room, by scholars whose work has shaped discourse at the intersection of modern and contemporary art and film, and which focuses on the stories of artists’ films, situating them in wider aesthetic, political and economic contexts.

The conference will also be broadcast live on this page.

Towards non-anthropocentric moving images: examples of a counter-history

For the film machine to become an artistic medium, it had to be absolved of its automaticity. To complicate matters, its automation was threefold: it was an industrial machine, an optical device and a photochemical process, its actions being determined by the physical properties of light, the optics of the lens and the invisible chemical actions occurring on an emulsion superimposed on a tape. plastic, and driven by cogs and spindles by a motor set in motion at the touch of a button – operating on the same principles as machine guns and sewing machines. The primordial forces and laws have come together in a box housing a range of industrial products.

For cinema to become an art form, its automaticity had to be relegated to the background, the machine recast as a tool of creation, its operations determined by individual human will rather than non-human natural and mechanical forces. To do this, filmmakers and critics refashioned the cinematic machine into an extension of the human body, and, moreover, a machine that could be used creatively and generatively, not a mere prosthesis but an instrument of action and of creative thinking. In short, it was about anthropomorphizing the moving image. This took a multiplicity of forms: Vertov’s camera eye, Brakhage’s camera eye/I, analogies between film and human consciousness emerging from phenomenological readings of structural film, countless comparisons of film to human skin made by filmmakers continuing to work with celluloid, etc. Analogies invest a non-human object, and what is more an industrial object (not to mention a certain toxic chemistry), with meaning and value. We sympathize with the machine because we can see ourselves in it.

What might the opposite of that look like? How could moving image artists, using their technological mediums, see these mediums not as extensions, but rather concessions of their humanity – their artistry, their sensibility, their consciousness – to the machine? Not in the sense of a conceptual or “systemic” art, in which, as Sol Le Witt wrote, “the idea becomes the machine that makes the art”, but in which the machine is the machine that makes the art — the movement-image machine, whether analog or digital. The artist serves as an extension of the machine rather than the other way around, surrendering his humanity to it, albeit to varying degrees.

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