Spaces of Imagination Symposium. Abstracts and biographical notes:
Lucy Carty, Artist in Residence for the Scott Polar Research Institute.
Touching Ice. Lucy Carty uses nature as a metaphor for the creative process. She sees the earth as a work in progress with ever-changing natural environments being modelled, carved and coloured by the laws of nature and it is these natural forces and processes – gravity, tectonic movement, flooding, weathering and erosion, for example that inspire her use of materials. In 2014, Lucy travelled to Iceland where volcanic and geothermal activity make for a dynamic, volatile and exquisite landscape which she translated into encaustic and mixed media artworks quite literally made of fire. She is the current Artist in Residence for The Scott Polar Research Institute and travelled to Antarctica in February and March of this year on the Royal Navy ice patrol ship, HMS Protector.
Lucy Carty studied Biology and Environmental Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and previously worked as a landscape architect before becoming an artist. She studied figurative sculpture at The Art Academy in London and the techniques and methods she learnt there have translated into work that unites a love of science and nature with inquisitiveness and joyful creativity.
Jan Faull, Royal Holloway, University of London.
‘Saint Noel of the Cameras’ – the cinematographer and entrepreneur Captain John Noel and The Epic of Everest. The official film of the 1924 expedition to climb Mount Everest, made under the auspices of the Joint Committee of The Royal Geographical Society and The Alpine Club, was independently financed by its cameraman who also managed the film’s exhibition and distribution. This provides a unique case study into the life history of the film, its technical achievement, its marketing and promotion, lecture tours, international exhibition and indeed its continued existence. The film has now moved into the digital world – a full scale HD restoration by the BFI in 2013 has won new accolades and new audiences. This paper will address the issues surrounding digital restoration and presentation. It will also aim to reassess the role of the cinematographer and the experimental nature of his work in the 1920s and his own continued quest to enhance and regenerate the film.
Jan Faull is a former Archive Production Curator at the BFI. She is currently conducting research into the form and function of expeditionary film in the first half of the twentieth century, specifically the production, distribution and presentation of films made on various Everest expeditions between 1922 and 1953. This is a CDA with Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal Geographical Society – IBG. Jan’s career at the BFI involved developing, negotiating and delivering archive co-productions with broadcasters, producing DVDs and supervising the digitisation of archival collections. She was lead curator on the restoration of The Epic of Everest (1924) and co-programmed a season of mountaineering films for BFI Southbank.
Dr Eirik Frisvold Hanssen, National Library of Norway.
Roald Amundsen’s Colours: Film, Writing, and Perception. In this paper I will consider the use of applied colour in film material from Roald Amundsen’s polar expeditions in the 1910s and 1920s, and the digital dissemination of such material. The films will be placed within the film historical context of how colour was used in non-fiction cinema during the silent period, as well as within a broader intermedial context relating to Amundsen’s expeditions as media events. Colour is prevalent in several of the contemporary medial manifestations of his endeavors. In connection with the South Pole Expedition, for example, there are not only tinted and toned film images, but also intensely colourised glass plates (used recurrently by Amundsen in connection with lectures), along with other forms of photographic and printed objects. In addition, a number of striking descriptions of colour in Amundsen’s own account of the expedition, published in 1912, suggest a variety of ways of thinking about colour, including experiential, perceptual, material and technological approaches that both seem to underscore and also, to a certain extent, destabilize the colonial and nationalist connotations associated with polar exploration.
Eirik Frisvold Hanssen is Head of the Film and Broadcasting section in the Department of Research and Collections at the National Library of Norway. He has a PhD in Cinema Studies from Stockholm University (PhD) and has written extensively on colour and cinema, intermediality and visual culture in journals including Film History, Journal of Visual Anthropology, Montage AV, Screening the Past, and in numerous edited collections. He has co-edited Adaptation Studies: New Challenges, New Directions (with Jørgen Bruhn and Anne Gjelsvik, 2013) and is currently co-editing an anthology on Norwegian expedition films.
Dr Hanna Hölling, University College London.
Time, Change, and Identity in Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film. How do works of art endure over time in the face of aging materials and changing interpretations of their meaning? How do decay, technological obsolescence, and the blending of old and new media affect what an artwork is and can become? And how can changeable artworks encourage us to rethink our assumptions of art as fixed and static? Can the continuing life of an artwork be related to the physical and virtual archive? In my presentation, I will explore these questions by focusing on a single artwork, Zen for Film, also known as Fluxfilm no. 1, one of the most evocative works by Korean-American artist Nam June Paik. Created during the early 1960s, this piece consists of a several-minutes-long screening of blank film; as the film ages and wears in the projector, the viewer is confronted with a constantly evolving work. Because of this mutability, the project undermines any assumption that art can be subject to a single interpretation. In addition, I will reflect on my recent curatorial project, Revisions—Zen for Film at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York (September 17, 2015—February 22, 2016), which focused on Zen for Film and unfolded its inspirations, transitions, and residues. Published also as a book (Bard Graduate Center/Chicago University Press, 2015), Revisions asks questions of what, how and when an artwork might be and offers an in-depth look at how materiality enhances visual knowledge.
Hanna Hölling is Lecturer in the History of Art and Material Studies at the Department of History of Art, University College London. She works on the intersections of art history and theory, material culture studies and conservation. Her research, writing and teaching focus on the art and cultural developments since the 1960s and 70s and on aspects of time, change, materiality and archive in relation to how we conceive of artworks in terms of objects that endure. She has published and received awards internationally. Among her books are Revisions-Zen for Film (Bard Graduate Center, 2015) and the forthcoming Paik’s Virtual Archive: On Time, Change and Materiality in Media Art (University of California Press, 2017). She was awarded the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship, Cultures of Conservation, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York (2013-2015) and, most recently, the Getty Foundation residential grant for the project Object in Flux (2016/17, GCI).
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
In Search of the Lost Context: Views of the Ottoman Empire. The History of Ottoman Cinema does not exist: by the time film history started to be written down, the Ottoman Empire had already vanished. After its collapse, the empire’s cultural history was abandoned and left unclaimed, or even disowned. However, in 1895, when cinema was born, it very quickly arrived at various parts of the empire. Thus the archival presentation project ‘Views of the Ottoman Empire’ is based on an imaginary film history. Rather than aiming to rewrite film history, it explores and questions some of the mainstream concepts that are not productive for looking into early cinema in general, suggesting alternative ways to watch the film footage. Film history, as we know it, tends to comply with fixed ideas, like the development of nation states. The films are documented and defined by nationality, language, borders, financing and other production methods. However, multi-ethnic, polyglot empires of the past and the cinemas adhering to them function differently and do not fit into these categories. The film archives and their catalogues also appear incompatible and unable to accommodate such films. The images related to the Ottoman history become thus impossible to describe and seem to lose their relevance altogether. Employing the imaginary context of ‘Ottomanness’ provides the background to bring these otherwise neglected films back to the audiences.
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi is Curator of Silent Film at EYE. After completing her BA in English Literature at the Bosphorus University in Istanbul and her MA at the University of Amsterdam/Film Studies (focusing on national film histories), she has moved into the field of film archiving through the EU-funded Archimedia Project from 1997 onwards. She has been employed at EYE/Filmmuseum since 1999. Her particular area of interest within the archive concerns the re-evaluation of the lost, obscure and forgotten areas of film history. She has been involved in the discovery and restoration of formerly lost films starring Rudolph Valentino (Beyond the Rocks, 1922), Mabel Normand, Sessue Hayakawa, Olive Thomas, Mary Miles Minter, and many others. She is one of the curators who initiated ‘Views of the Ottoman Empire’, a travelling archival presentation project, that has been screened in various countries since the summer of 2014.
Andy Moore, University of Leeds
Fluid Forms: Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab & the Blurred Boundaries of Non-Fiction Film. In this paper, I examine the invigorating potential of documentary’s ‘blurred boundaries’ (Nichols, 1994) through the lens of work produced by Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL). SEL work has been hailed by many as a formally radical and apparently unprecedented new mode of documentary filmmaking. The lab’s most commercially and critically successful film to date, 2012’s Leviathan, has been described as a ‘nonfiction game-changer’ (Greene, 2013), and a film that ‘look[s] and sound[s] like no other documentary in memory’ (Lim, 2012). But while their films undoubtedly signal an exciting moment in the history of non-fiction film, they are by no means without precedent. SEL work draws upon a rich seam of earlier non-fiction filmmaking, from within as well as outside of the disciplinary confines of visual anthropology. The lab’s films sit somewhere on a continuum between documentary and ethnographic film, between theatrically released cinema and the gallery film, and between narrative film and the avant-garde. SEL filmmakers probe the critically and institutionally policed boundaries around these forms of filmmaking, but always with an awareness of the history and significance of these boundaries. How can the formal innovations of the lab’s films be understood within the context of this oppositional, hybrid and liminal nature? And how does this nature manifest itself within the kinds of cinematic techniques that SEL filmmakers utilise? My paper explores these questions through an analysis of two paradigmatic examples of the SEL’s work, Leviathan and Manakamana (2013).
Andy Moore is a PhD student in World Cinemas at the University of Leeds. His work explores the intersections between ethnographic film, documentary and avant-garde film, with a particular focus on the work of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab. In 2014 Andy spent three months as a visiting researcher at Harvard University. Alongside his academic pursuits Andy has worked for several years in the independent exhibition sector of the UK film industry, where film programming has been a key component of his professional activity. Andy has programmed screenings and events for Leeds International Film Festival, The Harvard Film Archive, and The Hyde Park Picture House. His research is generously supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
Professor Griselda Pollock, University of Leeds
Chantal Akerman and the Primal Scene of Cinema in a post cinematic age. In the year after Akerman’s death put a punctuation point to a cinematic oeuvre that expanded into installation work and concluded with two works in 2014 – No Home Movie and an installation Now – this paper reflects on her career. Akerman’s work expanded cinema cinematically, yet concluded in its engagements with the current technologies of contact. The two works of 2014 are not final, but new beginnings which specifically involve issues of sound to reopen a perspective based on returning to the economics of filmmaking and sound recording in the 1970s when Ackerman first made films.
Griselda Pollock is Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art and Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory & History (CentreCATH) at the University of Leeds. Her many books and articles address feminist challenges to modernist art history, her current interests focus on the image and time, on trauma and aesthetic transformation, and feminist interventions in psychoanalytical aesthetics as well as cultural memory and the Holocaust. Her recent publications include After-images/After-Effects: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation in the Virtual Feminist Museum (Manchester University Press, 2013) and Art in the Time-Space of Memory and Migration: Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Bracha Ettinger in the Freud Museum (Wild Pansy Press and Freud Museum, 2013) She is editor of Visual Politics and Psychoanalysis: Art & the Image in Post-Traumatic Cultures (I B Tauris 2013) and with Max Silverman, co-editor of Concentrationary Memories: Totalitarian Terror and Popular Culture (2013) and Concentrationary Imaginaries: Tracing Totalitarian Violence in Popular Culture (2015) She has just completed a twenty-year project: The Nameless Artist: Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre? (Yale University Press) and is writing Is Feminism a Bad Memory? (Verso) and editing with Anna Johnson Bracha Ettinger: The Matrixial Reader (Palgrave MacMillan). Her book on Marilyn Monroe’s Mov(i)es will appear in 2017.
Professor Ulrich Ruedel, HTW – University of Applied Sciences, Berlin.
Colours and Projection: The Materiality of Film in Restoration and Digitisation. The colours of silent film offer specific challenges and opportunities in the restoration and digitisation of moving images, both in practical terms as well as in furthering materials- and colour-scientific approaches. In this presentation, different case studies on the analog and digital restoration of silent film colors from the past several years will be reviewed and discussed. For the method of tinting, analog photographic chemistry has produced a feasible method in the Desmet method, which photographically simulates tinting colors in the analog motion picture domain. Yet methods of reviving the dye-chemical methods or approximating them more closely in the digital remain both present very attractive fields of scrutiny, as does their more accurate measurement and cataloguing of their visual properties.
Analytical-chemical study, in light of historic documentation, ascertained the various metal and dye chemistries of the colour of toning, and revealed the incorrect approaches taken in recreating colors of specific dye tones in either analog or digital, while still posing substantial questions about the physico-chemical roots about colour appearance differences of given materials under varying illumination. Questions of authenticity of modern analog or digital surrogates for the original silver, dye and pigment chemistry of silent films will be explored along with the improvements chemical study of these film colours and colorants will offer, and future avenues of research will be discussed.
Ulrich Ruedel holds a doctorate in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Muenster, Germany and has worked on optical biochemical sensors and intellectual property rights before turning to the practice and science of film preservation. As a 2005 graduate of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, he has explored heritage color systems such as Technicolor as archivist at the George Eastman House. More recently, he has worked as Research and Development Manager at Haghefilm Conservation and, concurrently, as Project Manager for the non-profit Haghefilm Foundation. Following employment as Conservation Technology Manager at the British Film Institute’s J. Paul Getty Jr Conservation Centre, he accepted a position as Professor of Conservation and Restoration at HTW – University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, to focus on teaching and researching the preservation of film, photos, video and related modern media.
Professor Sarah Street, University of Bristol
Intermediality, Fashion and the Fiction Film: The Affairs of Anatol (De Mille, 1921). Color’s impact on the consumer was increasingly harnessed in the 1920s. Inherent to the drive for standardization, manufacturers were interested in appealing to consumers by drawing on a range of chromatic methods and media. In addition to print, film became increasingly important for the advertisement of products and fashions, particularly as theorists advocated the advantages of using color in mass marketing campaigns. While the short and promotional film market was highly appropriate for showcasing fashions in clothes, furniture, décor, etc., fiction films presented further opportunities, both directly and indirectly. This paper discusses Cecil B. DeMille’s strategy to surround himself with experts from the fields of costume, interior décor and set design for ‘modern photoplays’ such as For Better, For Worse (1919), Why Change Your Wife? (1920) and The Affairs of Anatol (1921), comedies which, as Charles Eckert notes, ‘perfected a display aimed at the fashion-conscious’. The Affairs of Anatol is analysed as an extravaganza of modern design, orientalist-inspired décor and ornate fashions. A showcase for consumerist desires, three episodes, particularly the first and last, involve the conspicuous display of jewels, clothes and other goods. The film’s multifarious connections with the intermedial world of fashion are further embellished with a hybrid use of color, particularly the visually striking Handschiegl /Wyckoff process for intertitles and key details. The paper concludes with ideas about intermedial connections between film and fashion as a means of understanding the complexity of cultural fields, market competition and taste cultures during the 1920s.
Sarah Street is Professor of Film at the University of Bristol. Since 2007 she has led three major research projects on colour film: The Negotiation of Innovation: Colour Films in Britain, 1900-55 (AHRC, 2007-10), Colour in the 1920s: Cinema and its Intermedial Contexts (Leverhulme Trust, 2012-15) and The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955-85 (AHRC, 2016-19). Her most recent book, Colour Films in Britain: The Negotiation of Innovation (2012) won first prize for best monograph awarded by the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies. She is currently co-authoring: with Joshua Yumibe Chromatic Modernity: Color, Cinema and Media of the 1920s, to be published by Columbia University Press.
Dr Liz Watkins, University of Leeds.
Artificial Light, Photography, Temporality and Colour: of Silence, Film and Antarctic Exploration. The indexicality of the photographic image, inscribed by light at that time and place, is associated with a discourse of authenticity that is complicated by the status of the photographic print as duplicate. An analysis of the Herbert G Ponting’s work as camera artist to Captain Scott’s fated 1910-13 Antarctic expedition tracks the duplication of images across different media – still photography circulated as prints, lantern slides and edited into narrative film, single frames of which were selected and used again in new contexts. By tracing the recurrence of certain images a pattern begins to emerge, indicating the photographer’s interest in aspects of the environment that elude direct registration, in this instance, colour. Ponting’s intention to study colour in the Antarctic – as experiment with autochrome plates, a fascination with the Aurora Australis for their hue, movement and height – was complicated by the technical limitations of the materials that were available. His notes (letters, publications), however, underscore his use of applied colour in lantern slides, photographs and films as an artistic practice that shifts uneasily between fascination with the spectacle of the environment, a study of the work of the expedition and the camera technology itself. Expedition correspondence, journal entries and the work of Edward A Wilson in producing ‘note-sketches’, watercolour paintings and experiments with colour dyes on lantern slides made in the Antarctic, indicate colour as a source of pleasure and scientific interest. The artificial light of flashlight photography and the temporality of colour are vital to reading the landscapes configured for exhibition to geographically diverse audiences persists from its early forms as lantern slides lectures for public and scientific interest. This paper discusses the shifting formations of materials and technologies that trace the transience of observation and experimentation toward narratives formed in disorderly stitches across past and present and that link colour to the impermanence of subjectivity and perception. ‘Intermediality’ facilitates a study of colour a sense and perception that evaded direct registration and replication and yet was vital in conveying an understanding of the landscape and the interactions of body and environment.
Liz Watkins’ research interests include the history, technologies and aesthetics of colour in narrative cinema, feminist theory, and gesture as register of discontent in the interactions of body and language. Her research includes a focus on intermediality, senses and perceptions – colour, sounds, touch – in silent cinema through discourse on polar expedition films and photography. She has worked as postdoctoral research fellow and lecturer in history of art and film at the Universities of Bristol and Leeds. She is co-editor of Color and the Moving Image (Routledge, 2013), Gesture and Film: Signaling New Critical Perspectives (Taylor and Francis, 2016) and has published essays in Screen, Paragraph, Journal of British Cinema and Television, NECSUS – European Journal of Media Studies and the Journal for Cultural Research. Her book, The Residual Image, which explores the history and theory of colour, sexuality and perception in film will be published with Routledge in 2017.