May 5, 2017 – Tien-Tien Jong

Please join us on Friday, May 5th at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the Mass Culture Workshop’s next Spring Quarter meeting. This time, we welcome Tien-Tien Jong, PhD Student in Cinema and Media Studies. Tien-Tien will be presenting a a paper entitled “Missing Pictures, Looks of Silence: Trauma as Child’s Play in The Act of Killing and The Missing Picture.”

Tien-Tien’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

_________________________________________________________________________________

Missing Pictures, Looks of Silence: Trauma as Child’s Play in The Act of Killing and The Missing Picture

What is the minimal amount of figuration that is required for viewer identification and empathy in documentary films? What representational strategies are available to filmmakers for capturing scenes of intense suffering—those categories of experience which lie outside of what is representable by a camera or artist? At their most visceral and jarringly “documentary” level, trauma narratives make an invocation upon the spectator to become a witness. Building on Ariella Azoulay’s work on photography, which argues that photographs function as not only evidence, but also an object which obligates its viewer, I will be looking at the rhetorical and representational strategies used by Rithy Panh and Joshua Oppenheimer to document the traumatic past.
In recounting his experiences in a Khmer Rouge re-education camp in The Missing Picture (2013), Panh constructs dioramas of a world with soulful clay figurines, but curiously unpopulated by living survivors. In Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012), willfully unrepentant killers boastfully re-enact their crimes in Hollywood-inspired stagings. Rather than the realist mode associated with documentary filmmaking, these films use non-traditional forms of representation to explore questions of how to create images of violence and suffering through an interest in participants repeating and working-through their stories, and the different ways in which subjects come to narrativize the traumatic events that have defined their lives. Instead of composing an authoritative narrative about historical events, both filmmakers work with fragments of representation and testimony, diverting our attention to what is happening outside of the frame, as if refusing to fix the traumatic events of the historical past in a single image or narrative. Through close sequence analyses, I will show how Panh and Oppenheimer use “missing pictures” and moments of silence and stillness in these films to draw our attention to what is missing from the historical archive, and what cannot be expressed to the viewer who was never there.

My analysis will conclude that Panh and Oppenheimer’s unconventional methods and materials include an implicit critique of archival footage and photography, the traditional sources relied upon by historical documentaries. In doing so, I argue that both filmmakers stage challenges to the ethics of representation and abstractions of violence.

Tien-Tien Jong is a PhD student in the Department of Cinema & Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She holds a BA in Film & Media Studies from Dartmouth College, where she wrote a thesis entitled “This Waking Dream We Call Human Life: Ballet, Opera and the Unconscious in Musical Film.” Her research interests include melodrama, dance in film, automatons, children’s media, and representations of trauma.

March 31, 2017 – James Rosenow

Please join us on Friday, March 31st at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the Mass Culture Workshop’s first Spring Quarter meeting. This time, we welcome James Rosenow, PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. James will be presenting a draft of her dissertation chapter, entitled “How to–Be Avant-Garde.”

James’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

_________________________________________________________________________________

“How to–Be Avant-Garde”

Fortified by the surge of print and projected media, the 1930s saw a visual turn in American amateur, DIY (“do it yourself”) culture. MGM’s Pete Smith Specialties gave cooking-tips to the home chef, Kodak provided illustrated charts of proper f-stop settings for personal snapshots, and Life magazine guided the general populace through challenging art exhibitions like MoMA’s Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism. Chapter 4 “How to—Be Avant-Garde” looks at the democratizing of “expert” knowledge resulting from the ubiquity of visual media across the American landscape. Not only did experimenters participate in the formation of this media-scape by producing many popular educational shorts, they also questioned the implications of amateurism for both the American experience and filmmaking practices. Here, I consider the ways in which Even-As You and I [1937] preforms amateur-ity as a form of institutional critique, aping both Hollywood (“boy meets girl”) and avant-garde (Surrealist and Soviet) approaches to cinema.

This chapter comes from an in-progress dissertation entitled “The American Laboratory and its Film Experiments, 1927-1939.” The project attends to the filmmakers’ authorial choices in order to recognize how their practices were deeply informed by the language and reasoning of domestic and foreign avant-gardes. Rather than proposing to move the historical margins inward, the project attempts to make visible, what has been, in a sense, present all along. At stake however is an entirely new conception of the role homegrown experimental filmmaking had in American modernism.

James Rosenow is a Ph.D. candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. James comes from an art history background having received her masters from Williams College and bachelors from Johns Hopkins University. This year she is located in Washington D.C. as the 2016-17 Joshua C. Taylor predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. James has two essays currently under review for publication next year: “The UnDeath of the Author: Assertions of Agency in iZombie’s adaptation” will be published in McFarland’s edited volume I Am Already Dead: Essays on the CW’s and Vertigo’s iZombie; and “False Amateurs—even” which will be included in Indiana University Press’ A Global History of Amateur Film Cultures, due out sometime in 2018.

Spring 2017 Schedule

The Mass Culture Workshop is happy to announce our Spring 2017 Schedule. All Spring sessions will be meet on Fridays from 10:30am-12:30pm in Cobb 311, unless otherwise noted.

March 31: James Rosenow, PhD Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies.
How to: Be Avant-Garde in the Thirties

April 21: Keynote Address of the Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Conference
Dr. Elisabeth Anker, Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.
The Pussy Grab: Melodramatic Politics and the Revival of Sovereignty
Logan 201, Time TBD

May 5: Tien-Tien Jong, PhD Student, Cinema and Media Studies.                                 Missing Pictures, Looks of Silence: Trauma as Child’s Play in The Act of Killing and The Missing Picture

May 12: Jordan Schonig, PhD Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies.
Cinema’s Motion Forms: Inscribed Motion and the Problems of Film Theory (Dissertation Introduction)

May 26: Nicole Morse, PhD Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies.
Selfie Aesthetics: Doubling

June 2: Matthew Hubbell, PhD Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies.
Acting After the New Wave: The Political Aesthetics of Performance in France 1968-1981

June 9: Dr. Takuya Tsunoda, Lecturer, Department of Cinema and Media Studies.
Radical or Clinical: On Political Modernism and the Ontogeny of Cinema

We are committed to making Mass Culture an inclusive and accessible environment for everyone. If there is anything we can do to facilitate your participation, or if you simply have questions, please do not hesitate to email Dave (burnham@uchicago.edu) or Katerina (katerinakorola@uchicago.edu), your 2016-2017 workshop coordinators.

We look forward to seeing you!

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 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.