Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The aesthetics of film and video: the legacy of some early industrial factors

TV is the New Cinema: Exploring the Erosion of Boundaries between two Media

Thursday 22 May 2014

12.30-7.30 pm
David Woods will be presenting a paper on the one-day symposium “TV is the New Cinema” organised by the Department of Communication and Media, University of Liverpool and the Department of Film Studies, Liverpool John Moores University.

The increasing erosion of boundaries between film and television is a phenomenon increasingly discussed among scholars, critics and other stakeholders. Publications such as the New Yorker (January 2012) and Sight and Sound (September 2013) have explored the matter in special dossiers. Filmmakers have increasingly been working across the two media (eg. David Fincher and Netflix’s House of Cards; Greg Motolla and HBO’s The Newsroom), while others seem to have found a more or less permanent home on television than cinema (Frank Darabont and AMC’s The Walking Dead) or even to pronounce an early retirement from cinema in order to work exclusively for television (Steven Soderbergh). Furthermore, year’s end Top Ten lists have started including television series, with episodes of Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire making some of the 2013 lists next to Academy Award nominated films such as Nebraska and The Wolf of Wall Street. Even major film festivals premiere episodes from television series (two episodes from House of Cards were offered a special screening at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival).  Successful television shows are now habitually adapted for the cinema and become entry points to huge franchises (Sex and the City), while television producers are invited to direct and produce major film properties such as Star Trek (J.J Abrams) and Avengers Assemble (Josh Whedon).

What do all these developments mean for the current state of the two media? Is the future of film and television intertwined? Is medium specificity not important anymore as a defining characteristic of each medium? To what extent can we still talk about film and television as different media industries? What is the impact of recent developments on the aesthetics associated with each medium? In what ways has the history of each medium influenced their current state? What is the role of the global entertainment conglomerates that control both film and television in this convergence between the two media?

TV is the New Cinema will explore these and a host of other questions, with a view to bring together film and television scholars to discuss the ways in which research and knowledge from both fields can help us understand the present and the future of these media. 
Woods’ paper examines an aspect of the historical and industrial grounding of the technologies of cinema and television. It argues that a key aspect of their strikingly different looks can be attributed to the different temporal resolution of the two formats, and that the reasons for this difference can be accounted for in terms of the technological strategies the two industries developed historically to minimise the use of expensive resources specific to their medium. The cultural complexities of the aesthetics associated with cinema and film were well demonstrated by the release of The Hobbit in high framerate in 2012, and the paper briefly outlines some implications of the often highly charged popular responses which this provoked.

For the event details:

Thursday, 24 April 2014

On the Gimp

Gary Needham has recently published an article on the gimp as an image of SM in popular culture very much in the spirit of Gayle Rubin’s work in seeking to understand why sex is so terrifying for mainstream culture. The article appears in Fashion Theory Vol.18 No.2

The article investigates the cultural power associated with the gimp and the gimp mask. The gimp is a clothed or costumed SM body, frequently a submissive that often wears a leather or rubber costume that covers and effectuates the entire body including the face. The gimp is also a representation of SM that circulates throughout fashion and film and other forms of popular culture. Since the gimp’s first public outing and naming in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction it has become the byword for the head-to-toe leather SM look that has been appropriated by a number of designers as way of exploring and exploiting the relationship between fashion, fetishism, and transgression. As a counterpoint to the popular image of SM in fashion and popular film, the article also explores how the artists Catherine Opie and Robert Mapplethorpe have represented the gimp, not as an index of horror or transgressive style rather as an affirmative image of their own SM communities that, while still intended to shock and confront, is a defiant attempt to rescue or reclaim the gimp from its negative associations.

Here’s an extract from the article on Catherine Opie’s iconic work Self-Portrait/Pervert (1994):

[…] In contradistinction to Pulp Fiction and the gimp monsters of popular culture and the horror film, in the same year as Pulp Fiction photographer Catherine Opie produced a self-portrait of herself in a gimp mask called Self-Portrait/Pervert (1994). In the self-portrait Opie is sitting in front of chintzy brocade wallpaper, lettering freshly cut in to her bleeding skin which reads ‘pervert’, and she is pierced along each arm with forty-six evenly spaced temporary needles; at the time Opie belonged to the San Francisco SM community. Why would Opie make an image that is so difficult to look at? Why would anyone do that to their body? Why would a self-portrait deny access to the artist’s face? These are important questions the work provokes. In Self-Portrait/Pervert Opie recalls that she ‘wanted to push the whole realm of beauty and elegance, but also to make people scared out of their wits’ (Ferguson 2008: 106). Unlike the scare tactics of Pulp Fiction Opie’s intentions are altogether different. Self-Portrait/Pervert also challenges the conventions of portraiture by having Opie’s head covered by a gimp mask so that the viewer has no access to her face - she denies them a way to access her identity and instead evokes a confrontation with SM and pain and the questions posed above. Indirectly Self-Portrait/Pervert responds to the politics of Pulp Fiction that invokes a popular culture version of SM by making the gimp on/scene, while concurrently the real queers and SM subculture remain obscene, off stage, silenced, censored. Opie in Self-Portrait/Pervert and related works from around this period challenged the ongoing demonization of SM and the censoring of transgressive queer art which includes hostility from ‘normalized’ gays and lesbians. Self-Portrait/Pervert symbolizes the silences and the obliteration of identity that queers experience by heteronormative culture and other gays and lesbians; it is a work born out of the AIDS epidemic, which turns the pain associated with SM into a political statement to the point where the images test the limits of legibility, both in the extremity of the image of cutting and piercing and the gimp mask’s erasure of the face as a point of identification. Opie explains the impetus behind the self-portrait:

‘Perverts’ [sic] is a very angry piece. I was pissed off. I really wanted to make that piece because of what was happening culturally in the US: the [NEA] censorship, the fuss around the Mapplethorpe show and what was happening in mainstream gay culture. All of a sudden mainstream gays and lesbians were calling themselves ‘normal’ and yet a lot of communities were being pushed further and further out in a certain way.’ (Blessing 2008: 16)

Opie also goes on to describe Self-Portrait/Pervert as ‘a decorative image of pride; for people outside that subculture, it is a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down’ (2008: 16) and she means those normalized gays and lesbians as much as the assumed audiences for Pulp Fiction. Despite an obvious delineation of these two texts, Pulp Fiction and Self-Portrait/Pervert, nonetheless get yoked together in reference to Mapplethorpe’s SM pictures as Stockton remarks in her analysis of Pulp Fiction’s black and queer debasement and shaming that ‘Tarantino's film puts into motion images reminiscent of Mapplethorpe's photography' (2006: 104).  Mapplethorpe and the discourses around his photographs of gay leathermen and SM is a thread that links many of the ideas raised in this article about representation, the reification and reception of SM in culture as something risky and to be feared, horror being continually evoked but also as a source of pride and defiance. […]

Monday, 7 April 2014

Jake Yuzna's Open at Kuenstlerhaus Stuttgart

The exhibition at Kuenstlerhaus Stuttgart, Skeptical Thoughts on Love, departs from artistic perspectives that conjecture multiple forms of attachment, intimacy, and obsession. Methodologically speaking, it is inspired from the physical reality, potential impact and transformative power of love. The exhibition speculates on the potentiality of love as if it is the only possible form of resistance for cognitive/collective revolution in our contemporary solitude, demands silence as a conceptual tool to deal with human relationships and art works, and proposes to operate as a testing ground for introspection, self-analysis and self-reflection.

Participating artists:
Natalie Czech, Keren Cytter, Mariechen Danz, Leyla Gediz, Judith Hopf, Matthias Megyeri, Henrik Olesen, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Johannes Paul Raether, Sophie Reinhold, Emily Roysdon, Eva Schmeckenbecher, Jake Yuzna and Adbusters

The show ends with the screening and discussion of Jake Yuzna's film Open (2010). Open generates a strong vision, and contemporary panorama of how gender, sexuality and identity transform through diverse forms of love, attachment and intimacy. It is the first American film to win the Teddy Jury Prize at the Teddy Award (Premier: Berlin Film Festival in 2010). The film also won Best Narrative Film at the TLV Festival in Tel Aviv Israel, Best Performance at Newfest, as well as having the Jake Yuzna named a Four in Focus filmmaker at Outfest. Much of the film was inspired by the artist and musician Genesis P-Orridge, who served as creative consultant on the film and an interview with her made by Yuzna has been shown as part of the installation at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart. 

Cuneyt Cakirlar gives an introductory talk on the film and moderates the post-screening discussion with the curator of the show Adnan Yıldız on 30 March 2014.