February 17th, 2017 – Gary Kafer

Please join us on Friday, February 17th at 10AM in Cobb 311 for our fourth Winter Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Gary Kafer, PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. Gary will be presenting an article in progress titled “Believing is Being: Selfies, Referentiality, and the Politics of Belief in Amalia Ulman’s Instagram.”

Gary’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

_________________________________________________________________________________

“Believing is Being: Selfies, Referentiality, and the Politics of Belief in Amalia Ulman’s Instagram”

Over the course of five months, Ulman scripted a series of photos, videos, and text in her Instagram-based performance Excellences & Perfections (2014) to imagine a brief fictional life that she could enact on social media. In this project, Ulman charts her experiences as she moves to the city, enters romantic relationships, and travels abroad by channeling a range of mutable personality types that are reflected in platforms specific features and selfie practices. Rather than advancing an argument based on one’s ability to discern the fictional or factual elements of the media on her Instagram, this paper proposes understanding Ulman’s project through what will be termed a politics of belief. Here, Ulman’s selfies become referential to the artist not only because of the production or aesthetic design of the image, but also through a networked participation of beliefs about the image which cite particular identities onto Ulman’s body. What emerges from this approach is an understanding of the selfie not as a stable image or representation, but as a social space in which the coalescence of beliefs through normative socio-techno practices in the form of comments, likes, and shares determine the ways in which the selfie can be said to be referential to a specific person. Importantly, while Ulman’s project deploys explicitly fictional modes of selfie production, such concerns pertain more broadly to a range of cultural attitudes in our post-truth moment, in which what is regarded as real or truthful depends appeals to our emotions, experiences, and beliefs instead of empirical facts.

Gary Kafer is a PhD candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. He holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Visual Studies and Cinema Studies, as well as a M.A. from the Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. His research interests include histories and practices of surveillance, aesthetics of digital media and algorithms, queer theory and cinema, and visual neuroscience and perception.

February 10th, 2017 – Robert Bird

Please join us on Friday, February 10th at 10AM in Cobb 311 for the third Winter Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Dr. Robert Bird, Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the College. Robert Bird will be presenting a chapter from his book-in-progress on Soviet special effects in the 1930s, entitled “Framed Prospects, or Lenin v.s King Kong.”

Robert Bird’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

 

January 27th, Tom Gunning and Travis Preston – Fantômas: Revenge of the Image (A Preview)

Please join us on Friday, January 27th at 10AM in LOGAN 201 [Please note alternative location] for our second Winter Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we are delighted to welcome Tom Gunning, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies and Art History & Travis Preston, Dean of Theater at The California Institute of the Arts. Our guests this week are gracing us with a sneak preview of their collaborative theater project, “Fantômas: Revenge of the Image.”

Reading materials, courtesy of Tom Gunning, are entirely optional this week, but include a talk delivered on Fantômas and an outline of the project itself. As always, please do not distribute these without permission. The link is here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

 


Fantômas – Revenge of the Image: a Preview
Film historian Tom Gunning and theater director Travis Preston, Dean of Theater at The California Institute of the Arts, working through The Center for New Performance, have over the last five years been collaborating on a theatrical piece based on the figure of French serial literature and films, Fantômas, the phantom bandit and urban terrorist.

Scheduled to premiere this coming October at a theater festival in China, the work involves an experimental approach to the zone between theater and cinema, employing a mobile seating unit to create a transforming imagistic space. All the texts (primarily based in French symbolist and surrealist works) will be spoken by one voice, while a group of actors (including Mirjana Jokovic, known most prominently for her work in the films of Emir Kusturica) interact in and expanded field, mediated by a mobile view, framed through an aperture.  Themes of violence and terror explore the figure of Fantômas and the roots of urban terror from the French serial to the Master criminals of the Weimar era.

January 20, 2016 – Shannon Tarbell

Please join us on Friday, January 20th at 10AM in Cobb 311 for the our first Winter Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Shannon Tarbell, PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. Shannon will be presenting a chapter of her dissertation titled “Visual Conversation in Late Silent / Early Sound Film.”

Shannon’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

_________________________________________________________________________________

“Visual Conversation in Late Silent/Early Sound Film”

This paper, a draft of a dissertation chapter, considers two early masterpieces of synchronized sound, Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927) and Lonesome (Paul Fejos, 1928) in order to show how each film presents key scenes of dialogue, or visual conversation, with special effects that reveal rather than conceal the ordinariness of these conversations. In both of the films studied in this chapter, the ordinary occurs not simply in the sense of telling a story about regular, common people, but precisely in moments of perceiving the ordinary as momentarily strange or extraordinary. The films are therefore revelatory of the ordinary as Stanley Cavell describes it.

 

Shannon Tarbell is a PhD candidate in the department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She holds an M.A. in Film and Media Studies from Emory University. Her dissertation, “Small Talk: Film Dialogue and the Ordinary,” explores film dialogue’s integral yet often critically and theoretically neglected place in narrative cinema as a function of its ordinariness.

December 2, 2016 – Dr. Constantine V. Nakassis

Please join us on  Friday, December 2nd at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the next meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Dr. Constantine V. Nakassis, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the College at the University of Chicago. Professor Nakassis will be presenting a paper entitled “The Hero’s Mass and the Ontological Politics of the Image in Tamil Cinema.

Dr. Nakassis’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham


 

“The Hero’s Mass and the Ontological Politics of the Image in Tamil Cinema”

This paper looks at so-called mass heroes of the Tamil film industry of South India, auratic figures that are bombastic and larger than life on and off the screen. Abiding a particular aesthetic and political regime of the image, the screen image of a mass hero is less a representation of his personage than a presencing of his being. Such presence affords a range of affective performativities, whereby representations of the mass hero constitute performative acts by/on the actor himself. Drawing on interviews with fans and filmmakers of a recent mass-hero film (“the Ultimate Star” Ajith Kumar’s 2011 Mankatha), the paper interrogates this form of presence and the ontology of the image it instates; in particular, it asks what happens when the mass-hero’s affecting presence is framed within a representationalist realist aesthetics whose liberal politics eschews the populist politics immanent/imminent in the mass-hero’s presence? Putting these ethnographic and textual materials in dialogue with classic questions of the “ontology” of the film image, the paper argues that in Mankatha one can detect the uneasy play of a multiplicity of ontological tendencies and forces that unsettles any attempt to account for “the” ontology of any image-type. This unsettling suggests that questions about the ontologies of images must be posed relative to the open-ended political processes through which images come into being.

Constantine V. Nakassis is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of the 2016 book, Doing Style: Youth and Mass Mediation in South India (University of Chicago Press, Orient Blackswan), and has published essays on Tamil film, trademark law and piracy in the US and India, youth cultural practice in south India, and the semiotics of performativity and citationality. He is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively entitled Onscreen/Offscreen: Ontologies of the Image in Tamil Cinema.