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!

March 3rd, 2017 – Pedro Noel Doreste

Please join us on Friday, March 3rd at 10AM in Cobb 311 for our final Winter Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This time, we welcome Pedro Noel Doreste, PhD Student in Cinema and Media Studies. Pedro will be presenting an article draft titled “Revolutionary Exceptions: Reception of The Godfather Films in Cuba.

Pedro’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

_________________________________________________________________________________

“Revolutionary Exceptions: Reception of The Godfather Films in Cuba”

The paper revisits the conditions under which Cuba illicitly acquired and widely exhibited Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather I and later II in the 1970s. After having previously banned American media in the years directly following the Revolution, the Cuban Film Institute surprisingly saw fit to exhibit a Hollywood picture under the constraints of the blockade and at the height of the Cold War in the mid-1970s. To justify breaking with the self-imposed boycott of contemporary Hollywood films—then considered anti-intellectual in nature and incompatible with revolutionary ideals—Cuban cultural workers endeavored to construct a unified hermeneutics among their readers that understood the Mafia as a singularly American problem and the Godfather films as faithful representations of this phenomenon. Blurring the boundaries between private enterprise, organized crime, and the U.S. government, the films would become two of the most popular ever to be screened in the island. The reception of The Godfather films indicates that piracy would also become a point of pride and willful misinterpretation a manner of active resistance to cultural imperialism. The purpose of this study is to identify the sites of exchange, discourse, or even mutual infiltration by two competing, ideologically incompatible cultures, and speculate further as to the role of criticism in determining why certain pieces of media thrive where they do not belong.

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.