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Film and Cinema

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Science, Scientists, and Cinema

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, is perhaps the most scientifically accurate film ever produced. The film presented such a plausible, realistic vision of space flight that many moon hoax proponents believe that Kubrick staged the 1969 moon landing using the same studios and techniques. Kubrick’s scientific verisimilitude in 2001 came courtesy of his science consultants—including two former NASA scientists—and the more than sixty-five companies, research organizations, and government agencies that offered technical advice.

After a long period in eclipse, documentary has undergone a marked revival in recent art. This has been spurred by two phenomena: the exhibition of photographic and video work on political issues at Documenta and numerous biennials; and increasing attention to issues of injustice, violence, and trauma in the war zones of the endemically conflict-ridden twenty-first century. The renewed attention to photography and video in the gallery and museum world has helped make documentary one of the most prominent modes of art-making today.

Movement, Art, Philosophy

With Relationscapes, Erin Manning offers a new philosophy of movement challenging the idea that movement is simple displacement in space, knowable only in terms of the actual. Exploring the relation between sensation and thought through the prisms of dance, cinema, art, and new media, Manning argues for the intensity of movement. From this idea of intensity—the incipiency at the heart of movement—Manning develops the concept of preacceleration, which makes palpable how movement creates relational intervals out of which displacements take form.

Rock My Religion

Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion (1982–1984) is a video essay populated by punk and rock performers (Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Eddie Cochran) and historical figures (including Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers). It represented a coming together of narrative voice-overs, singing and shouting voices, and jarring sounds and overlaid texts that proposed a historical genealogy of rock music and an ambitious thesis about the origins of North America’s popular culture.

In a career that spanned five decades, most of them spent in San Francisco, Bruce Conner (1933–2008) produced a unique body of work that refused to be contained by medium or style. Whether making found-footage films, hallucinatory ink-blot graphics, enigmatic collages, or assemblages from castoffs, Conner took up genres as quickly as he abandoned them. His movements within San Francisco’s counter-cultural scenes were similarly free-wheeling; at home in beat poetry, punk music, and underground film circles, he never completely belonged to any of them. Bruce Conner belonged to Bruce Conner.

Fred Halsted’s L.A. Plays Itself (1972) was gay porn’s first masterpiece: a sexually explicit, autobiographical, experimental film whose New York screening left even Salvador Dalí repeatedly muttering "new information for me." Halsted, a self-taught filmmaker, shot the film over a period of three years in a now-vanished Los Angeles, a city at once rural and sleazy.

Over the last decade, machinima--the use of computer game engines to create movies--has emerged as a vibrant area in digital culture. Machinima as a filmmaking tool grew from the bottom up, driven by enthusiasts who taught themselves to deploy technologies from computer games to create animated films quickly and cheaply. The Machinima Reader is the first critical overview of this rapidly developing field. The contributors include both academics and artist-practitioners.

Video Stores and the Invention of Movies on Video

The first video cassette recorders were promoted in the 1970s as an extension of broadcast television technology--a time-shifting device, a way to tape TV shows. Early advertising for Sony’s Betamax told potential purchasers “You don’t have to miss Kojak because you’re watching Columbo.” But within a few years, the VCR had been transformed from a machine that recorded television into an extension of the movie theater into the home.

Philosophy in Film

Film is the supreme medium for mythmaking. The gods and heroes of mythology are both larger than life and deeply human; they teach us about the world, and they tell us a good story. Similarly, our experience of film is both distant and intimate. Cinematic techniques—panning, tracking, zooming, and the other tools in the filmmaker’s toolbox—create a world that is unlike reality and yet realistic at the same time. We are passive spectators, but we also have a personal relationship with the images we are seeing.

The Reflexive Medium

Video is an electronic medium, dependent on the transfer of electronic signals. Video signals are in constant movement, circulating between camera and monitor. This process of simultaneous production and reproduction makes video the most reflexive of media, distinct from both photography and film (in which the image or a sequence of images is central). Because it is processual and not bound to recording and the appearance of a “frame,” video shares properties with the computer.

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