The (Un)bearable Lightness of Media

Critical Approaches to “Sustainability” in Film and Audiovisual Production, Circulation and Preservation
Udine (IT), November 2nd - 4th 2022

As an increasingly crucial concept recurring in the public domain as well as in transnational cooperation politics, “sustainability” is not only an ambitious societal goal but also a key-term (and, to some extent, a buzzword) that has begun entering and reshaping the agenda of Film and Media practitioners, critics and scholars. The XXIX FilmForum edition will be devoted to question the many possible meanings of this notion whenever applied to the realm of media, by moving from two crucial areas and perspectives of
inquiry

Ecological Sustainability. Film, Media and the Environment. In the last decade or so, ecocriticism and ecomaterialism have taken shape as the two alternative approaches for tackling film and environmental sustainability. Scholars in this field have focused alternatively on issues of representation (Cubitt 2020; Willoquet & Maricondi 2010) or on the material impact that film and television production and distribution practices have on the biophysical world (Vaughan 2019; Kääpä 2018; Starosielski & Walker 2016; Bozak 2012). Taking cue from these distinct strands of reflection, we encourage on the one hand ecocritical discussion about how film and media offered representations of natural or human-provoked catastrophes,
utopian or dystopian futures caused by climate change (Kaplan 2016), environmental issues (Olausson & Berglez 2014) and how they contributed to raising environmental awareness (Parham 2016). On the other hand, ecomaterialist approaches may assess either the way in which film or media industries have been participating in capitalist-fossil fueled economies, weighting on the mining (Parikka 2015; Wan 2019) and the extraction of raw materials (Grieveson & Jaikumar 2021) and to the production of waste (Zimanyi 2022), or the increasingly relevant of environmental awareness underlying the field of film and media production.

Media Sustainability. Economies, Politics and Infrastructures. The notion of sustainability doesn’t exclusively include environmental issues but also presents political, ethical, and economic implications. The discussion can thus be furthered to all the logics by which film and media production, circulation and preservation organize their own “resources”, be them hardware or content-related, laborers or consumers’, human or non-human. From a materialist point of view, the sustainability of media can be measured through an “infrastructural approach”, focusing on short-term marginal and local practices or on the longstanding maintenance policies through which socio-technical systems are kept “alive” (Krebs & Weber
2021). The awareness that “we are never looking solely at media” (Mattern 2015) but dealing instead with a complex of human communities, tacit knowledges and techno-cultural assemblages, calls also for a deeper understanding of gender, race, class, labour and geopolitical inequalities, and to which extent they are implied in the archiving, access and distribution of resources and data. Moreover, a different perspective, a re-thinking of the proliferation, accumulation, reuses and misuses of images may raise questions on the cultural and ethical sustainability of affective visual ecologies (Shaviro 2010; Ivakhiv 2013; Weik von Mossner 2017) and of state of saturation of the current iconosphere (Fontcuberta 2016). Following Marran (2017)’s critique of ecocriticism our very concept of “visual culture” must be radically reshaped, decentring the ethno-centric and anthropo-centric views to make room also for animal and other non-human elements.

As a final provocation, the discourse on sustainability can also take a self-reflexive turn, interrogating the possibilities and forms of developments of and within film and media studies. Digitisation practices and “datafication” impact research habits and challenge traditional qualitative approaches to knowledge, even in the humanities (Schäfer & van Es 2017; Dencik 2020). Concurrently, our field is increasingly migrating into other domains, and a dialectical questioning between synchronic excavation and diachronic transmission of knowledge arises (Keilbach & Pabiś-Orzeszyna 2021): as scholars, how far can we go with mining and how should we deal with so much cumulative knowledge, the preservation and transmission
of which is progressively less sustainable? How much can our networks of data, knowledge and practice exchanges be considered sustainable, in a material, conceptual and ethical sense? We encourage our scholar community to confront these questions as integral part of a critical assessment, that should be also
self-critical, of the concept and role of sustainability at large.

Starting from these general areas of interest, we encourage contributions addressing (but not limited to)
the following topics:

  • The role of cinema and media in building a“hydrocarbon imagination”
  • Ecoimperialism and the media I: “exploitative” histories of media and film industries
  • Ecoimperialism and the media II: film and media in the public image of extractive industries
  • Media-Waste and Wasteful Media
  • Ecojustice, Ecoinclusivity, Ecoactivism and the media
  • Practices and policies of “greenwashing” in public media campaigns
  • Greening film shooting and post-production
  • Greening theatrical venues and cinema spaces
  • Sustainability and alternative distribution networks, minor archives, radical communities, local infrastructures
  • Reuse, recycle and repair as sustainable practices in media and audiovisual economies
  • Sustainability and film/media archival infrastructures, economies, preservation practices and policies
  • Sustainability and transnational, transgeographical balances and cooperation (North/South divide, East/West divide,
  • rural/urban divide)
  • Sustainability and archival and museum film and media objects preservation, caregiving, and exhibition
  • Sustainability and platform economy
  • Sustainability and digitization, digital archiving, digital access
  • Sustainability and scientific research (knowledge exchange, sharing practices, digital humanities, datafication, and research infrastructures in film and media studies)

We invite proposals for papers or panels of up to 700 characters with spaces.

Please make sure to attach a short biographical note (up to 400 characters for each contribution). The deadline for submission is August 30th, 2022

To send your application and to ask for more information, please contact us at udineconference@gmail.com

The conference will be held in presence in Udine. The following registration fees will be applied:
- Tenured professors: 50 Euros (Early Bird Registration) 70 Euros (Full Registration)
- Lecturers and Researchers: 30 euros (Early Bird Registration) 45 Euros (Full Registration)

No fee will be charged for Ph.D. students and candidates.