Live Update: Cinema as art
If the film clubs of today are initiated to emphasise the shared experience of watching films, how does that communal viewing become a form of critical reception?
Ian White’s argument – that cinema is primarily constituted in the act of looking – situates the subject within material place. This has important implications for ideas of sociality: it acknowledges the forces that bear down on the subject, countering a tendency of mainstream cinema to be understood as ideologically neutral.
The displacement of the moving image from cinema to gallery both complicates and foregrounds the complicity of cinema’s architecture in the creation of spectacle. The question, implicitly posed but left unanswered today, is how a manner of looking can engage and maintain a critical consciousness.
17.59 ILY: Mike Sperlinger has concluded the panel. Ran out of time! Discussion likely to continue in the ICA bar…
17.57 ILY: Jones responds by example of her recent work The Struggle Against Ourselves, a project examining the possibilities of an embodied cinema that scrambles the moment of 1920s Russia with Busby Berkley:
A reanimation of historical cinema within artists practice is expansive, and malleable – you can play with it.
17.54 ILY: Audience observation:
There seems to be a tension between criticality and community in this debate. Is the restaging of cinemas within the gallery environment is a hopefully reimagining of cinema.
17.49 ILY: Switching to a panel discussion now, and Jones is talking about 12 Angry Films:
You begin as an audience member, you engage with the programme and then you become a producer. It becomes a feedback look in terms of a form of cinema.
17.43 ILY: Ian White’s closing remarks:
With regard to this question of embodiment, it is inseparable from a discussion of audience and sociality. My interest here is not only excess but also interference and obstruction. It sets a lot of things into a provisional condition or situation (though this might not necessarily be called a ‘community’). I’ve been curious as to whether this is part of a curatorial or an artistic tendency… Cinema is constituted in the act of looking.
17.38 JPW: His presentation is accompanied by “live concrete poetry flow diagrams”. Accident, simultaneity, disruption, disorder, political threat, television, feedback loop. immediacy, community… Keywords in his vocabulary for moving image practice.
17.35 ILY: Ian White is now speaking.
17.33 ILY: Reynolds concludes with a proposition to move towards a “waywardly marginal experience of cinema”, the pinnacle of which is Robert Beavers 2004 and 2008 screening project in Temenos.
17.27 JPW: Mark Aerial Waller’s Wayward Canon is exemplary of what Reynolds calls ‘new cinephelia’. The new cinephile is concerned with rehabilitating mainstream cinema that has fallen to the wayside. Waller encourages sideways interpretations of these films. Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man as exploration of schizophrenia. Last time I attended Wayward Canon we drank bourbon all night.
17.26 ILY: The Wayward Canon is being used as an example of artists cinema.
17.22 ILY: Reynolds maps out the history of the early Cine Clubs as a format whose role was to give access to otherwise hard-to-see films and to lobby for greater access to titles. That has changed with the huge amount of access we now have to all types of moving image. The film clubs of today are therefore initiated to emphasise the shared experience of watching films, and how that communal viewing might become a form of critical reception.
17.19 JPW: Reynolds introduces the concept of ‘para-cinema’ that has emerged recently within the art gallery. Rather than screening films, para-cinema references the cinema and its apparatus.
17.18 ILY: Reynolds uses Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Ways as an example of a more ‘critical cinema’ than the disembodied viewing space of the traditional auditorium. Perhaps its just my reaction to the installations of Julien, but I wonder if this is indeed the case, or whether its more to do with a diversification of traditional fixed-perspective spectacle? Is a moving body really more critical than a stationary one? Or isn’t it more the case that cinema in a gallery might produce shorter forms of attention, punctuated by (possibly also short) periods reflection?
17.30 JPW: Peter Osborne’s Distracted Reception: Time, Art and Technology (2003) is a key text in the debate about modes of attention and moving image.
17.10 JPW: Reynolds suggests that cinephelia is perhaps configuring in a different way now in the gallery space. A space between the gallery and auditorium that invites participation. It recognises and moves beyond the ‘apparatus theories’ of the 1970s that describe cinema architecture as a pacifying space. Expanded cinema posited a more critical space that permitted a mobile audience, multiple perspectives.
17.09 JPW: Reynolds cites Christian Keathley‘s observation of home video and cinema’s import into the private space.
17.09 ILY: Lucy Reynolds is now speaking. She’s thrown up a Susan Sontag quotation:
Each art breeds its fanatics. The love that cinema inspired, however, was special. It was born of the conviction that cinema was an art unlike any other: quintessentially modern; distinctively accessible; poetic and mysterious and erotic and moral – all at the same time. Cinema had apostles. (It was like religion.) Cinema was a crusade. For cinephiles, the movies encapsulated everything. Cinema was both the book of art and the book of life.
17.07 ILY: And here it is:
17.03 ILY: Jones discusses how the constituency of the drive-in project was radically changed by the growing number of asylum seekers who began to attend after hearing of free film screenings and filmmaking workshops. The drive-in became a space of social exception, exhibiting the public/private boundaries of people’s cars.
17.00 JPW: Cinema of Exception: Herbert Biberman’s Salt of the Earth (1954) screening in Jones’ 12 Angry Films. The bilingual soundtrack (English/Spanish) is broadcast over a frequency of the car radio. Cinema goers tune in.
16.58 JPW: The drive-in cinema is a physical space lodged in the popular consciousness of cinema-goer.
16.57 ILY: Jesse Jones is now talking about her 12 Angry Films, a project from 2006-07.
16.54 ILY: Connolly asks whether an artist who works with cinema might consider the viewer as an individual, or if the cinema setting is part of a social reality. She asks the panellists how important is the notion of embodiment in these artists’ practice.
16.53 JPW: Clemens Von Wedemeyer’s Sun Cinema (2010) is sculpturally and materially manifest: used by film clubs for screenings and by music festivals as a sculptural object.
16.52 ILY: Connolly is running through a number of cinema examples by artists and architects, including Jesse Jones, Bik van der Pol, and Tobias Putrih. Here’s a pic of the Tobias Putrih plywood cinema.
16.48 JPW: Tobias Putrih and Luka Melon’s Venetian Atmospheric (2007): concerned with the illusionistic but materially manifested environment of the cinema. A cinema space that contends with the virtual spaces on screen.
16.42 JONATHAN P WATTS: Three participants will respond to a series of specific questions Maeve Connolly has posed to them beforehand. Starting point for the conversation: an article Maeve wrote for Afterall called ‘Temporality, Sociality and Publicness: Cinema as Art Project.” The article responds to the commissioning of (mainly temporary) cinemas as public art projects. Sociality, spaces of gathering and counter-publics.
15.01 ISLA LEAVER-YAP: As its primary site of display, the LUX/ICA Biennial occupies two spaces: the traditional cinema auditorium, and the theatre stage. The gallery is left unused.
What does this mean for artists’ moving image when the durational flux of the exhibition installation is absent from the biennial? Cinema as Art, a panel discussion chaired by Maeve Connolly, will endeavour to provide some answers. Connolly is joined by Jesse Jones, Ian White and Lucy Reynolds. This is what the programme says they’ll be talking about:
Considering the cinema as a suitable site for Artists’ Film and Moving Image, the panel discusses the shifting contexts of collective viewing and investigates how showing moving image work in the gallery, cinema or screening room can challenge the ways we engage with Artists’ Moving Image.
- How did the absence of exhibition-based installation work affect the inclusion/exclusion of artists work in this biennial?
- Is there a mismatch between viewing behaviour permitted in the gallery and the cinema. How can these be reconciled? What is the bodily affect?
- Has television ceased to be a place for artists’ moving image?