CALL FOR PAPERS
White Rose University Consortium
Mixed Cinema Network
University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, University of York
The Centre for World Cinemas, School of Modern Languages and Cultures,
University of Leeds
WREAC – White Rose East Asia Centre, University of Leeds
Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Approaches to World Cinema
2-5 December 2010
Leeds Art Gallery
Conference convenor: Professor Lúcia Nagib, University of Leeds
Professor Dudley Andrew, Yale University
Professor Griselda Pollock, University of Leeds
Professor Jacques Rancière, Emeritus Professor University of Paris 8 (tbc)
Professor Robert Stam, New York University
Dr Jonathan Wood, Henry Moore Institute
This will be the first overarching conference organised by the Mixed Cinema Network, an international body devoted to the study of cinema as a fundamentally interdisciplinary and intercultural subject area.
The title of the network, as much as that of the conference, draws on André Bazin’s famous article, ‘Pour un cinéma impur: défense de l’adaptation’. This article has been translated into English simply as ‘In Defense of Mixed Cinema’, probably to avoid any uncomfortable sexual or racial resonances the word ‘impure’ might have. This conference goes back to Bazin’s original title precisely for its defence of impurity, which refers, on the one hand, to cinema’s interbreeding with other arts and, on the other, to its ability to convey and promote cultural diversity.
Cinema has been widely acknowledged as a meeting point of all other arts. Joseph L. Anderson, for example, commenting on the ‘commingling media’ which participated in the genesis of Japanese cinema, reminds us of an old Buddhist saying, according to which ‘all arts are one in essence’. In the same vein, Bazin even prophesied that the critic of the year 2050 would find ‘not a novel out of which a play and a film had been “made,” but rather a single work reflected through three art forms, an artistic pyramid with three sides, all equal in the eyes of the critic’. Bazin’s statement responds to a tendency, prevalent in the 1950s among French new wave critics and future filmmakers, of locating and privileging cinema’s specificity as a medium, through which they hoped to safeguard the director’s status as an auteur. Truffaut, for example, provocatively contended that a literary adaptation was valid ‘only when written by a man of the cinema’. A first question thus derives from this conundrum: would an auteur cinema automatically oppose an ‘impure’ or mixed cinema, that is, one which openly relates to or draws on other arts?
It has also been argued that accepting cinema’s impure nature would automatically reduce it to a ‘weaker’ medium, that is, to a mere ‘stage’ in the development of more stable art forms. On this basis, evolutionist approaches have regularly decreed cinema’s death, first in the early 1980s with the emergence of the videotape, then in the 1990s with the advent of digital recording and editing technologies, and more recently with the spread of the internet as a distribution platform. Would this not be yet another kind of purism, one which glorifies technology above art? Bazin is certainly an example of someone who saw all arts in relation to each other in an evolutionary chain. However, he avoided the purist approach by placing technology at the service of realism. Thus, for example, photography and film, rather than superseding painting, would have simply ‘liberated’ it from its mimetic obsession.
Since poststructuralism, ideas of purity, essence and origin have come under suspicion in film studies, leading, in our day, to favourable approaches to ‘hybridisation’, ‘transnationalism’, ‘multiculturalism’ and cross-fertilisations of all sorts. One could however ask whether cinema’s multidisciplinarity automatically entails cultural hybridity. Stam offers an affirmative answer to this question, by ascribing a ‘multicultural nature’ to artistic intertextuality. More importantly, he defends intertextual approaches to cinema as a means to ‘desegregate’ and ‘transnationalise’ criticism itself. This conference will combine cinema’s interdisciplinary and intercultural aspects as a means to contribute to the deprovincialisation of criticism and bridge the divide between aesthetic and cultural studies. It will necessarily contemplate intermedia translations, including literary and theatrical adaptations, as well as cross-media citations. But it will reach beyond this, by locating and analysing the ways in which multiple media share strategic narrative and aesthetic devices which can only be properly understood if their cultural determinants are taken into account.
The conference will be open to a variety of approaches. Film has been seen as directly derived from painting (Aumont), a perspective which defines the film pioneer Lumière as ‘the last impressionist painter’. As such, the celluloid’s flat surface could be understood as a kind of canvas, whose illusory tri-dimensionality is comparable to painting’s ‘trompe l’oeil’ (Botnitzer). Filmmakers and critics, starting with Bazin and Kracauer, have unearthed from the film medium an indexical element derived from its photographic support, through which cinema becomes ‘truth 24 times a second’ (Godard) – or ‘death 24 times a second’, in Mulvey’s suggestive formulation, referring to cinema’s inherent photographic stillness. However, cinema’s indexical properties cease to offer a safe theoretical base when the celluloid gives way to the digital (Rodowick), suggesting further interdisciplinary approaches to virtual media which challenge the relation between humans and their environment (Manovich).
Moving from the sphere of the visual to that of the aural, cinema finds in music its most kindred spirit, with which it shares the element of time. This so much fascinated a filmmaker such as Eisenstein that he developed his famous theory of vertical montage on the basis of musical scores. Another world opens up when we turn to performance. Japanese cinema could not be imagined without the dancing geishas, the first moving subject to be filmed in the country, and even less without the kabuki theatre, in whose houses it developed. Dance and theatre, together with music and singing, also lie at the core of Indian, Chinese and many other world cinema traditions.
Finally, film and philosophy, a growing subject in film studies, will also be central to the focus of the conference, not least because one of the most influential philosophers of our time, Gilles Deleuze, devoted two volumes to the cinema, which have changed the ways in which film theory is conceived today.
Abstracts are invited on the following sub-themes:
• Film and cross-media intertextuality
• Intercultural aesthetics and narratives in the cinema
• Authorship and hybrid cinema
• Screen adaptations: theory and practice
• Music for film, film to music
• Film and new technologies
• Film and photography
• Film and visual arts
• Film and performance arts
• Film and philosophy
Please send abstracts of between 200-300 words, together with biographic details of 200 words max., to Jenni Rauch, J.S.Rauch@leeds.ac.uk, by 24 May 2010. Selected papers will be announced by 28 June 2010.