Cinema of Vision, talk by Tom Gunning
Known for his concept of "cinema of attractions" (developed together with film historian André Gaudreault in the late 1980s), in which he presents early cinema not as a storytelling medium but as a striking visual experience full of shocks and surprises, in this talk Tom Gunning will address avant-garde cinema as a medium that embodies the visual experience in all its variants, going on a journey from pre-cinematographic experiments and their optical devices to cinematic forms that focus precisely on how to convey and express this visual experience.
Using examples of abstract animation (by authors such as Jordan Belson, Oskar Fischinger and Harry Smith) and films that impressionistically capture the visual dimensions of experience (such as Joris Ivens' Regen (1929) and Stan Brakhage's metaphors of vision), Gunning will present his concept of cinema as a unique power to harness visibility, placing it beyond the literary models of poetry and discourses on the obsolescence of celluloid, approaching it as a constantly changing technology in which both the camera and projector are (and were) central to understanding this kind of vision. To end this session, Tacita Dean's Kodak (2006) will be screened, a reflection on the future of cinema and photochemical film as an endangered technology. This film documents the last days of film production at the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, which was demolished in 2007. Shot on 16 mm film, in rooms and corridors where cameras had never been allowed before, Kodak follows the sophisticated celluloid manufacturing process through several kilometres of machinery, revealing a secret world of colour and beauty.
Throughout her work, Tacita Dean has dealt with themes such as anachronism, obsolescence and loss, taking an interest in things that are out of time or on the verge of disappearing but which once stood as visions of the future. The aesthetic qualities of film as a physical medium are fundamental to the work of this British artist, one of the foremost activists in the fight for the survival of analogue film.