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January 1995, Week 4


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Corey Creekmur <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 24 Jan 1995 12:15:17 CST
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>I have a question for those involved with experimental cinema.
>Frequently experimental cinema reaches a level of imagistic complexity
>-figuration, abstraction- not found elsewhere.  For me this is one of the
>most rewarding parts of experimental cinema.  Unfortunately this aspect of
>the work appears to be frequently ignored by viewers and by those individuals
>writing about the work.  I wonder about the idea of visual competence.  As I
>think we will agree cinema study has been dominated by narrative and thematic
>forms of analysis such as psychoanalysis, semeiotics, feminist theory, autre,
>genre,  and cultural theory etc.  It appears to me that methods of analyzing
>the cinema that emphasize visual competence, over narrative competence and
>that work on the level of the image, specifically the abstract image, do not
>exist.  Is there a mode of analysis that I am not aware of?  If so please
>suggest references.  Further, for those who teach how do you present filmic
>abstraction to your students,  what modes of analysis do you think are proper
>or useful?
>any thoughts?
>-Douglas Hunter
While I'm not committed to such approaches myself, you seem to be
describing a kind of formalist analysis quite common in discussions of
avant-garde film before more contextual approaches came into favor, as
represented in early work by David Curtis, Parker Tyler, Standish Lawder,
and Sheldon Renan, among others. (Annette Michelson and P. Adams Sitney,
though working with theoretical elements, would also fit here).   More
recent work that considers abstract images very directly includes Maureen
Turim's Abstraction in Avant-Garde Films, William Wees's Light Moving in
Time, and Lois Meldelson's study of Robert Breer.  For me, the most subtle
criticism of the "image for image's sake" approach is David James's
Allegories of Cinema or Constance Penley's two essays on the avant-garde in
her The Future of an Illusion.