Exposing the Moving Image (2018 cfp)

The Cinematic Medium across World Fairs, Art Museums, and Cultural Exhibitions.
XXV International Film Studies Conference
February 28th - March 3rd 2018, Gorizia.

During the last twenty years, the Udine – Gorizia Conference has promoted a new research perspective on the notions of film authorship, style, and genre, with the aim of rearticulating their theoretical definition. Drawing on these past experiences, in 2014 the Conference has launched a project entitled “History of Cinema Without Names”, whose first scientific outcomes have been presented at its 2015, 2016 and 2017 edition. Every edition has been characterized by a great variety of proposals and approaches, and by a rich and lively debate among the participants, with the result of consistently broadening the scope of the project itself. Alongside the issues of film authorship, style, and genre, the next developments of the research will in fact encompass (and problematize) all the categories, processes, and methods that shape and enable cinema-object itself. The “2018 edition” will draw on the outcomes of the “History of Cinema Without Names” conferences and meetings, aiming to focus on a more specific epistemic object: Exposing the Moving Image: the Cinematic Medium across World Fairs, Art Museums, and Cultural Exhibitions.

The  projects aims to shed light on the meaningful interrelations between moving images, media and arts throughout modernity and postmodernity – which means during the “pre-cinema, cinema and post-cinema” eras, with a specific focus on Universal Expositions.

In fact, universal expositions proved to be crucial for the investigations on the emergence of the cinematic medium and on its fluctuant re-configurations within the broad “media landscape” of the modern era. Historically, World Fairs are not only places of self-reflexion, self-representation and self-promotion, but also moments of “identity construction” for a social community. They configure themselves as arenas of interdisciplinary exchanges and of cultural eclecticism (Jeffrey T. Schnapp 2012). Not by chance, French historian Pascal Ory discussed eight multi-layered, recurrent and basic functions for these events, which correspond to eight across-the-board “functions of modernity” (Ory 2010): technological, commercial, architectural, urbanistic, artistic, propagandistic, diplomatic, and the popular/playful one.

Thus investigating the role of the moving image in this context means to

problematize the “exhibition frameworks and forms” as strategies for the legitimization and institutionalization of the moving image culture (Hagener 2007);
to put the cinematic medium and the moving image in relation to other cultural and industrial functions: for instance, given the significant role international “Expos” have been playing in representing “other” cultures and displaying ethnographic findings, world fairs and universal exhibitions could represent a major concern for retracing connections between the moving image and the anthropological discourse (especially as regards non-western visual cultures);
to show how cinema has taken part (until nowadays) in the economic cycle, configuring itself as a useful tool for commerce within the large “expo and world’s fair context”.
Consequently, the Exposing the Moving Image: the Cinematic Medium across World Fairs, Art Museums, and Cultural Exhibitions project discloses three major research paths for media and cultural scholars:

by granting a deep time perspective (Zielinski 2006), to stress the redundancies, recurrences and variations of moving image apparatuses and devices from the very beginning of the “Universal Exposition experience” until nowadays. In this sense, our general frameworks will be the archaeology of the mobile vision and the archaeology of screens, displays and technological novelties (Huhtamo 2013);
to highlight how audiovisual texts (film, analog videos, digital videos, and so on) and, more broadly, the moving image work within these exhibition contexts in an inter-medial and inter-textual way – more specifically “across” and/or “outside” the “movie theatre context”;
by maintaining a global scope, to stress the advantages of an intertwined approach to wide media-phenomena in the wake of the so called “entangled history”, which “implies a shift of attention towards the interconnectedness of the world we live in: entangled history opens the focus on interaction, interdependence and complexity” and aims to overcome a mere comparative approach (Hagener 2015).
This kind of epistemological framework, which stems from an historical investigation of World Fairs and International Exhibitions, can be applied to other modalities of “exhibiting and exposing” cinema. In other words, the shift towards the notion of entangled history through a “deep time” investigation (Zielinski) and a “screenological” approach (Huhtamo) could be a proper tool that highlights how musealisation processes affected – and still affect – past and contemporary cinematographic practices, shaping exhibition modalities that are “always already new”.

Thus, although our CFP is more focused on the use of the cinematic medium within the World Fairs and International Exhibitions context, we will also welcome proposals regarding the use of moving images in other exhibition contexts: the first and more obvious references are, of course, the transition from cinema to museum, film installations, the exposed cinema, the “expanded” or “extended” cinema, and so on.

In other words, we aim to map the possible interrelationships between the notion of moving image and the notion of “exhibition” in the broadest possible sense. Not by chance, then, we will welcome proposals regarding also small-gauge film and amateur technology exhibitions, art exhibition contexts, professional technical objects exhibitions, visualization modalities for “film exhibitions”, digital media exhibitions, exhibition practices in non-art museums, and so on.

In this sense, we will try to answer the following questions: how have films and film technologies been exposed not only in “aesthetically relevant contexts”, but also in “culturally relevant contexts”? Did these cultural expositions develop “working objects” (Daston, Galison 2007) that affected specific cultural and scientific fields throughout modernity and post-modernity? Which are the consequences of certain “dislocative” and “paracinematic” practices (Levi 2012) stemming from cultural exhibitions of cinematic artefacts and technologies? Which means: how do film and film technology expositions work in didactic contexts (such as experimental media-archaeology laboratories, for instance) or in cultural exhibitions (such as in film culture and film heritage institutions exhibitions apparatuses, industrial archaeology exhibitions, technology exhibitions, and so on)?