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April 2007, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Michael Witt <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 25 Apr 2007 20:01:02 +0100
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Please find below final details of the "Now (and Again): Re-enactment and the Moving Image" symposium taking place at BFI Southbank, London, on Friday and Saturday this week.


In 1898, American Vitagraph re-enacted the Battle of Santiago Bay in a bathtub with paper boats and cigar smoke. Since cinema's first years, re-enactment has been a central, if controversial, practice in documentary, but it has grown increasingly important to a range of other moving image forms. Fiction filmmakers and artists have staged re-enactments to explore the vicissitudes of memory and historical imagination, or to frame the drama of identity as it is performed in social space. As theatre or therapy, re-enactment offers new ways of understanding the media and the social world. In conversations between artists, filmmakers, curators and writers, we explore the particular contemporary resonance of reenactment and the moving image.


Cinema's first images are not originals, but re-enactments. Four different versions of Lumière's "Workers Leaving the Factory" were shot (the initial print soon destroyed by repeated projection), each version a meticulous re-enactment of cinema's original wonder. Cinema promised to show us the world anew, but it was a world made anew not only by the cinematic act of reframing it, but also by the theatrical gesture of re-staging it. Naval battles were re-staged in bathtubs and boxing matches replayed in studios (using blow-by-blow newspaper accounts as shooting scripts). Everything from coronations to executions, anything that would sell was re-enacted for film.

Such re-enactments were sometimes passed off as actuality, at others their artifice was an attraction in itself. Repetition and theatricality seem, perhaps perversely, to have intensified the charge of immediacy and sense of authenticity felt by early audiences. Re-enactment allowed a sense of being present, after the fact.

Some hundred years and countless centuries of recorded and preserved moving pictures after cinema's birth, we stand 'after the fact' of its passing into something else: into a universe of technologies and economies that recycle and replicate images across media with a greater intensity than could have ever been imagined in the days of the kinetoscope, bioscope, vitagraph or cinematograph.

After this fact, the practice of re-enactment persists, and perhaps more variously than ever. A perennial strategy of the mass media (from the Hollywood re-makes of European art house to the news feature crime reconstruction), it is also an instrument of those critiquing it - increasingly deployed by artists working with moving image in gallery contexts, by documentary filmmakers and independent fiction filmmakers alike. And as a browse of youtube will demonstrate, re-enactment is also a pursuit of enthusiastic amateurs.

As a creative strategy it has opened space for new modes of performance, addressed challenging political and philosophical issues, raised sometimes troubling ethical questions, and led to new ways of understanding the media and the social world.

"After the Fact", a season of cinema and studio screenings, events and an international symposium, all running parallel to Jennifer and Kevin McCoy's major gallery exhibition, explores the historical and contemporary significance of re-enactment for moving image cultures. In particular the season considers the way in which the theatricality of re-enactment reveals the drama of our social roles, offers new angles on the telling of histories and the remembering of the past; but above all, the season asks, if unconscious repetition is often a symptom of trauma, how might re-enactment offer insights into the fraught relations between the image and trauma today?

Symposium Programme:

Friday 27th April (18.15-20.25) NFT2

18.15  Introduction: Michael Witt (Roehampton University)

18.25  Screening of three films on the theme of re-enactment, memory and trauma:
"Latha" (1925, 2.40 mins)
"War Neuroses Version B" (1917-1918, 15 mins) British Pathé
"Le Mystère des roches de Kador"/"In the Grip of the Vampire" (Léonce Perret, 1912, 45 mins)

19.25  Conversation
Vivienne Gaskin (curator)
Rod Dickinson (artist)
Chair: Michael Uwemedimo (Roehampton University)

Saturday 28th April (11.00-17.30) NFT 3

11.00  Keynote:
Steve Rushton (writer): 'Masters of Reality: The Media of Stimulus and Response'
Chair: Michael Witt

12.00  Discussion and screening:
Nina Pope (artist/filmmaker)
Chair: Sarah Cook (University of Sunderland)
Screening: R&D footage and trailer for "Living with the Tudors" (20mins)

13.00  LUNCH

14.00  Discussion and screening:
Amie Siegel (artist/filmmaker)
Chair: Michele Pierson (Kings College, University of London)
Screening: "Berlin Remake" and work-in-progress (extracts: 25mins)

15.00  Discussion and screening:
Penny Woolcock (filmmaker)
Chair: Paul Sutton (Roehampton University)
Screening: "Tina Goes Shopping", "The Death of Klinghoffer", "Mischief Night" (extracts: 20mins)


16.30  Roundtable:
Paul Sutton: 'On afterwardsness'
Jeremy Deller (artist): 'Re-enactment, resistance, memory'
Alisa Lebow (Brunel University): 'Pre-enactment'
Chair: Steve Rushton (writer)

For full details, visit:

Organised by the Centre for Research in Film and Audiovisual Cultures at Roehampton University and UnReal in collaboration with BFI Southbank, this symposium forms part of the "After the Fact: Re-enactments" season of screenings, exhibitions and events currently taking place in the cinemas, studio and gallery at BFI Southbank.

Ticket information:

Friday 27 April: £8.60, concs £6.25
Saturday 28 April: £14.75, concs £10.75
Joint ticket for both days: £20, concs £15
(Members of BFI Southbank pay £1 less)

To book, call the box office on +44-(0)20-7928-3232 or visit:

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