Friday, November 29, 2013

NECS Conference 2014


Creative energies | Creative industries:
The NECS 2014 Conference
(European Network of Cinema & Media Studies)
Milan, Italy, Hosted by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
June 19-21 June 2014

Submission Deadline: January 31, 2014

Reflecting on creativity has been central to a great deal of philosophical speculation, production practices and forms of reception of the artistic experience. Notions of creation and creativity concern crucial elements in media industies. Moreover, recent developments in institutional policies refer to the pivotal role of creativity in evaluating and promoting cultural production (see the EC’s most recent cultural program “Creative Europe”).

The 2014 NECS Conference, held in Milan, aims to revise and challenge assumptions on media creation and creativity, by looking at them as discursive formations, sociability instruments, power networks, modes of production and reception undergoing historical, political, theoretical and technological transformations.

The topics include, but are not limited to:

⦁  Creative energy: media environments comprise energy in transformation and information flows, and are subject to entropy. Will we keep dissipating what we accumulate, in the form of wasted creative energy?  What resources do the media provide for social, cultural, political and economic development? And what resources do they use? How sustainable are the media?

⦁  Aesthetics: media creativity has gradually transformed our aesthetic experience. How has “creation” been fostered and promoted throughout media history? And how does the aesthetic experience relate to creativity? In what way is creativity deployed and conceived in the media experience?

⦁ Textuality/formats: changes to media scenarios and convergence processes drive the search for new forms of textuality. What are the main directions of change? What are the more promising formats and the discursive structures?

⦁ Technological Innovation: creativity tends to connect social actors and generate new subjectivities. Does technological innovation enhance or constrain these processes? How does media technology redefine traditional notions of creativity? Does media culture enhance post-human, as opposed to individual, creativity? How far do media technologies shape creation?

⦁ Business and production models: the term “creative industries” was the buzz-term of the past decade. The notion aims to “reconcile” bottom-up impulses and top-down procedures and promote personal creativity. What are the features and practices of this new kind of creativity? What kind of distribution models and what kind of sustainability policies does it entail? What kind of divisions do creative industries imply and conceal? How was “creation” included in past production and business media models?

⦁ Actors/agencies: as the audience metamorphoses, its role in the evolution of creative practices becomes a relevant issue. What are creative audiences? How do they vary according to different cultural and local contexts? What are their practices? What kind of creative usage and production do “produsers” (prosumers, Pro-ams,..) enact? How much do recent shifts affect traditional conceptions of creative flows?

⦁ Landscapes of creativity: “Creative environments” examine the resources offered by the location and space where the creative process is taing place. What is the nature of such local networks? What is the relationship between creativity and national, transnational or global cultures?

⦁ Ideology: Creativity is influenced by the technological, cultural, political and economical conditions of production. What kind of discursive formations constitute ideologies of creation and creativity? How do theseformations work on creativity practices and with which results on the media experience (its political, cultural, aesthetical,.. value).

⦁ Gendered creativity: creative practices intersect gender issues. The different access to creative techniques, resources and practices is a crucial point in the debate on new creativity. How do gender politics influence creative industries? How much do gender differences limit or foster access to creative professions within the media industry?

Scholars from all areas of film, media and cultural studies (including radio, television, new media, game studies etc.), whether previously attached to NECS or new to the network, are invited to submit proposals for contributions. The NECS annual conference includes also a NECS Graduate Workshop, usually held before the main conference. A separate CFP will be online soon.

Submission instructions and more information available at the NECS website. Please submit all proposals before January 31, 2014 through the submission forms that will be accessible from January 1st. Notification will follow shortly thereafter (around February 28, 2014). The conference language is English.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

No, not the upcoming Ben Stiller version, but the 1947 Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod, Samuel Goldwyn/RKO). Adaptation is probably too strong of a word, since about the only thing that the film takes from the James Thurber story is the premise of a daydreamer who's a somewhat hen-pecked milquetoast in reality. 

However, with barely 2000 words in the source, the screenplay for the feature film needed to invent a more sustained narrative. It ends up what I've been calling a light comedy (along the lines of The Hucksters or The Senator Was Indiscreet) with a parade of genre parodies: war film, plantation drama, Boris Karloff spy film....

And the narrative conceit is that Mitty is a writer for a comics and true-romance publisher, and like other light comedies from the 40s, the film playfully reference taste culture battles of the day.

Even though it is a Goldwyn film, McLeod brings (or even was hired to bring) an MGM sensibility to the project, and the film alternates between camp and spectacle numbers, often centers on Danny Kaye's musical performances.

I can't say the cinematography is of great interest, but the production design does have a chromatic intensity that was often downplayed in more dramatic material.

CFP: Domitor 2014 conference

The Image in Early Cinema: Form and Material
Thirteenth International Domitor Conference

Chicago and Evanston, Illinois, USA
21-25 June 2014

Early cinema emerged within a visual culture that comprised a variety of traditions in art and image making. Even as methods of motion picture production, distribution, and exhibition materialized, they drew from and challenged practices and conventions in, for example, photography and painting. This rich visual culture produced a complicated, overlapping network of image-making traditions, innovations, and borrowings amongst painting, tableaux vivants,photography, and other pictorial and projection practices. Film and media scholars have created the concepts of “intermediality” (Gaudreault) and “media archaeology” (Mannoni, Zielinski, et al) in order to account for such crisscrossing traditions and to work against an essentialist notion of film, while other disciplines have suggested ideas, such as “image-system” (Barthes) or “an ecology of images” (Sontag), to conceptualize the dynamic relationship between images and their context. Continuing in this vein, this Domitor conference seeks to trace the various interactions involved in forming a new moving-image culture, using the broad category of “the image” to examine intersections between visual culture broadly conceived and early cinematic form, technology, theory, and practice. Embracing issues involving both cultural forms and material technologies, we invite proposals that employ a range of approaches—from the methods of art history (including formal, social, and political approaches), to the nitty-gritty of archival research into the materiality and technology of the medium.

Possible topics include:

  • Early theories or debates about the nature of the moving image
  • The moving image and the still image: photography, chronophotography, painting, and other imaging practices in early cinema
  • Debates about the value of the image in modern culture; iconoclasm, iconophobia, and early cinema’s contribution to the (perceived) proliferation of images
  • Early visual analysis or interpretation of the moving or projected image
  • Discussion and practices concerning gauges, photographic processes, and image quality
  • The theory and practice of staging an image for the camera
  • Inter-arts articulations of the photographic and painterly in cinema (e.g., pantomime, theater, dance)
  • Technologies of image generation in early animation (e.g., registration techniques)
  • Scientific and informational image-making techniques transposed to moving or projected images
  • Images in early motion picture advertising (e.g., catalogs, posters, post cards)
  • Moving images and the practices of repurposing images across popular media formats (postcards, slides, advertisements, print illustrations)
  • The theory and practice of projection
  • Early preservation theories and practices
  • New approaches to early cinema image identification
  • Early cinema (e.g., the Paper Print Collection) and current practices of digital preservation, access, and reuse

Although we imagine the general time frame for the period covered by papers in the conference to be 1890 through 1915, we realize that cinema developed unevenly across the global stage. For that reason, papers treating cinema after 1915 in countries where early cinema practices postdate the proposed time frame will be given full consideration. Similarly, papers that examine the history and current status of early cinema’s place in the archive and museum are also welcomed.

Important dates
1 December 2013: deadline for proposals
15 February 2014: applicants notified of acceptance
15 April 2014: registration deadline
30 April 2014: essays due for translation
21-25 June 2014: conference dates

More information and submission instructions available at the Domitor website.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Mighty McGurk

Like many scholars, I've found Rick Altman's syntax/semantics model of film genre a productive one. And watching The Mighty McGurk (MGM, John Waters), I found a good example of a film with the genre semantics of the sentimental drama I've written about. There's the turn-of-the-century setting...

and the figure of the European orphan (Dean Stockwell again), whose pathos is mirrored in his adopted animal.

The narrative also shares some relation to (melo)dramas like The Crowd Roars. And yet, the film's grammar is closer to a hayseed comedy, built around Wallace Beery's star turn as Slag McGurk, a past-his-prime boxer whose delusional phoniness is pretty much evident to everyone and which provides many of the film's gags.

If the screenplay did not impress me aesthetically (it exemplifies the obviousness some 1940s critics railed about in Hollywood films), the ideological implications of the narrative fascinated me. Just a decade and a half after the repeal of Prohibition, we have a conflict between a Bowery saloon owner and a Salvation Army member trying to shut the saloon down. Like many Hollywood films, The Mighty McGurk wants to have it both ways ideologically, siding with its Bowery protagonists yet seeing the Prohibitionists as morally right. Unsurprisingly, McGurk undergoes a transformation over the course of the film.

I've been fixating more and more on the idea of certain ur-ideologies in classical Hollywood. That is, recurrent ideological tropes that structure not only one film but define the terms of a given film. Frequently, the structure is triangular. The rich in this film are not admirable, but neither are the poor. The film triangulates a petit bourgeois rectitude in contrast to the two - built around the stable nuclear family and straight couple, to be sure, but not reducible to romance.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

High Barbaree

High Barbaree (Jack Conway), is what I would consider a typical MGM picture: good production values, a somewhat fanciful narrative, a theme thick with Americana, and a strong reliance on its stars (Van Johnson and June Allyson). And it's an MGM-ish spin on the war movie, in which a World War II pilot, Van Johnson, is shot down in the South Pacific and has to survive afloat in the doldrums with only his memory of childhood sweetheart Allyson and a (highly orientalist) childhood tale his uncle had told of the lost island of High Barbaree. 

The whimsical nature of the narrative, in which High Barbaree does seem to exist, reaches the pinnacle in one of the dream sequences. Johnson's character is stuck running on a road but seeming to get nowhere. Bob Rehak has for some time made me more aware and interested in special effects in Hollywood and I know one of his interests is the perceived narrational artifice of devices like rear projection. Here, the rear projection, for the first time I can think of in a Hollywood feature, is used to signal artifice. I have to read this as a symptom of the broader shift toward realism and location shooting.

Meanwhile, the film does set up a thematic opposition between realism and escapism. The opening shots in fact are documentary war footage, in typical 1947 fashion. While my screen captures for this film are low quality, the doc footage in the film is of a very lossy dupe.

But beyond stylistic nods to realism (noticeable in the plane sequences as well), I'm interested in the strain, admittedly distant, of a Sinclair Lewis type of cultural critique of small-town American life and bourgeois culture.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Graduate Student Conferences

[UPDATED] I've been lamenting the lack of smaller film studies conferences in the US or Canada, but there are some really interesting graduate student conferences that might be of interest to some readers.

Fields of Vision: Observation, Surveillance, Voyeurism

Yale University
February 21 and 22, 2014
abstract due December 15, 2013

Keynote speaker: Jonathan Crary (Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University)
Closing remarks: Brigitte Peucker (Professor of German and Film Studies, Yale University)

Vision has held a privileged position as the sense most associated with notions of truth, knowledge, and power throughout the history of Western epistemology. Optical technologies have for centuries been bound up with enhancing our ability to observe and investigate the surrounding world; from the camera obscura to the telescope and the x-ray, technologies of vision have been central to the development of ways of knowing in both the sciences and the arts. But it is the camera that most radically impacted our relationship with visible reality, reconfiguring relationships between viewers, images, and the world itself. Images began to enter into circulation as cultural objects with an indexical relationship to the physical, visible world. With the moving image came cinema and television as new artistic practices and industries, transforming crowds into mass audiences and serving as the primary means of stimulating consumer desire and leisure activity. Cameras today are found not just in movie and television studios but in closed-circuit networks and traffic-monitoring devices, satellites and spy drones, and in the hands of mobile phone users everywhere, effectively blurring our understanding of private and public. Photographic technology has long been implicated in programs of surveillance and control, and contemporary society is unprecedentedly mediated by the camera’s eye.

But we cannot speak of "vision” in any singular, monolithic sense. Technological development has brought about not only a proliferation of images, but also a proliferation of different modes of vision, and with it numerous distinct relationships and dynamics that can be formed between the viewer and the image. This conference seeks to explore how past and present technologies have expanded what we call our ‘fields of vision.’ In particular, distinct notions of Observation, Surveillance, and Voyeurism have been paramount to theorizations of visual media and cinema and deserve close analysis and re-examination in light of technological development. As such, we hope to interrogate the complex relationships between viewer and the viewed, observer and the observed.

From the camera’s roving omniscience in Fritz Lang’s M to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up; from the voyeuristic appeal of reality TV to the monitoring of the everyday life through social media; from the paranoia and vigilantism of Travis Bickle’s gaze to surveillance technology in Michael Haneke’s Caché and Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, this conference seeks to engage theoretical and historical discussions of vision-based arts and technologies as they shape relationships between us and our visual world. In light of the increasingly expansive realms in which moving images can be experienced, we hope to complicate simplistic notions of a fixed relationship between the image and the spectator, between the camera and visible reality.

Below are a few topics to consider that relate to the overall conference theme. Proposals related to other issues and concepts fitting with the theme are encouraged.
  • Technologies and "Modern” Modes of Vision
  • Observation in Documentary, Ethnography, and Visual Anthropology
  • Rethinking Voyeurism and Scopophilia in the 21st Century
  • Technologies of Visual Surveillance, Panopticism, State Power, and Imperialism
  • Surveillance and Paranoia in Narrative Cinema
  • New Modes of Vision through New Media and Social Networks
  • Corporate Surveillance and Targeted Advertisement
  • Mobile Phone Cameras and Citizen Journalism
  • Visuality and Social Dystopia in Film and Media
  • Iconophilia and Iconophobia in Cinema and Film Theory
  • Media Infrastructures (e.g. Satellites, Cables, Cell Towers)
Interested presenters should submit a 250-350 word abstract and a CV to co-chairs Jorge Cuellar, Nick Forster, Vika Paranyuk, Sean Strader, and Andrew Vielkind at no later than December 15, 2013.

New Terrain

8th Annual Landscape, Space, and Place Graduate Student Conference
Indiana University
February 27- March 1, 2014
abstract due January 10, 2014

Keynote speakers: Stephanie DeBoer (Communication and Culture, Indiana University), Janet Walker (Film and Media Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara), and Kenneth Foote (Geography, University of Connecticut)

Indiana University’s Department of Geography and Landscape Studies Program are hosting their 8th annual Landscape, Space, and Place Graduate Student Conference. To reflect the increased focus on spatiality as a vital lens on a multitude of subjects, graduate students from all disciplines are invited to participate by presenting work that foregrounds issues of landscape, space, and place. In addition to paper sessions, there will also be a landscape architecture poster and model session. Via these various formats, we strive to create a dynamic, interactive atmosphere in which to foster discussion and academic growth.

Landscape studies is multidisciplinary and landscape’s far-reaching academic connections and diverse array of approaches give the field its strength. The goal of the New Terrain conference is to bring together graduate students across disciplinary backgrounds to exchange ideas and consider novel perspectives. We also hope to encourage a more integrative framework upon which to build the future of the field.

Potential vectors through which to consider dimensions of landscape, space, and place include but are not limited to: Architecture and environment, war and violence, memory and history, gender and sexuality, race and nationality, economics and class, politics and social movements, coloniality and postcoloniality, film and media, gaming and technology, literature and popular culture, photography and visual culture, performance and the arts, sciences and public health

Potential questions to address include but are not limited to:  How do landscapes shape dynamics of power and how do these power structures in turn shape landscapes? What are the relationships between spaces and cultural and artistic practices? How can places influence conceptualizations of citizenship and political involvement? What are some of the contemporary or historical ways of experiencing space? What are some of the ways of reproducing and circulating notions of place?

Panelists will be limited to 15-minute presentations and 5 minutes for questions. Poster session presenters will also be asked to give a brief introduction to their projects to begin the exhibit. Abstracts of approximately 250 words are due January 10, 2014 and should be sent to Any questions may be directed to Daniel Grinberg at or Katie Lind at

The Silver Screen: Theories and Histories of Cinematic Color

The 10th University of Chicago Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Conference
April 4th and 5th, 2014
abstract due January 10, 2014

Keynote Speaker: Edward Branigan, Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California - Santa Barbara and author of Projecting a Camera: Language-Games in Film Theory (Routledge, 2006), Narrative Comprehension and Film (Routledge, 1992), and Color in Cinema: Language, Memory, Commerce (forthcoming)

"Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement," Stan Brakhage wrote, "and innumerable gradations of color." This conference seeks to re-imagine the innumerable gradations of color in the history and theory of cinema: from the spectral sensations of light at play in Maxim Gorky's "Kingdom of Shadows" and Loïe Fuller’s serpentine dances to those of J. J. Abrams's 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013) and its countless lens flares; from the blacks and whites of Italian neorealism to the blacks and whites of 'Frankenweenie' (2012), Tim Burton's digital 3D stop-motion animated film; from works that explore the synthesis of color and music like Léopold Survage's studies for 'Colored Rhythm' (1913) and Columbia Pictures’ 'Color Rhapsodies' cartoon series (1934-49) to Mary Ellen Bute's 'Color Rhapsody' (1951) and Paul Sharits’s 'Color Sound Frames' (1974); from early film processes like Lumière Autochrome and Kinemacolor to color-correction suites like Pandora Pogle and DaVinci Resolve. Like sound, to which it is so often linked synaesthetically, color challenges our basic vocabulary as film scholars. But "are we," as Roland Barthes asked of the voice, "condemned to the adjective? Are we reduced to the dilemma of either the predicable or the ineffable?" Scott Higgins's 'Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow' (University of Texas, 2007), for one, uses the Pantone Color Matching System as a standardized lexicon, while Joshua Yumibe's 'Moving Color: Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism' (Rutgers, 2012) offers a historical account of the sensuous and somatic richness of cinematic color.

Yet when films as canonical as Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' circulate in formats as varied as faded 16mm prints, pan-and-scan VHS tapes, pristine 70mm prints, 360p YouTube clips, and Blu-ray discs, which version do we select as the object of our analysis, and how do we make such a choice without losing sight of the work’s ever-unfolding critical and popular reception? Colors can be "preserved," "restored," and "corrected," but can their cultural meanings? Can we fix color as readily as we can calibrate our television set’s brightness and contrast? After all, color is permanently enmeshed in questions of realism, of spectacle, of film as art and film as industry—questions that this conference regards as catalysts for conversation. Color invites renewed consideration of hitherto understudied participants in film production, such as cinematographers, art directors, special-effects technicians, and costume designers, not to mention the thousands of women responsible for stenciling, tinting, and toning films of the silent era, as well as the women who posed as "China Girls" for film laboratories. It also reminds us of cinema’s relationship to other technologies of reproduction (e.g., xylography, lithography, halftone printing, and xerography) and visual media (e.g., picture postcards, lantern slides, children’s books, television, comic books, and video games), and opens up the discipline of film studies to parallel debates in art history, cognitive science, psychology, comparative literature, musicology, cultural studies, and philosophy.

With these problems in mind, our conference welcomes presentations by graduate students who, like Walter Benjamin, wish to penetrate "the riotous colors of the world of pictures." Possible topics include (but are by no means limited to):

  • analyses of individual films or bodies of films by a single director, cinematographer, or costume designer
  • histories of technologies, exhibition formats, broadcasting standards, industrial and corporate regulations, craft and technical discourses, etc. (e.g., additive color processes, color film stocks, colorization techniques, NTSC/PAL, computer and video game graphics, digital cameras)
  • color’s role in generic construction (e.g., melodrama, science fiction, noir)
  • cinematic lighting techniques and art design
  • the technical and ideological problems posed by the reproduction of non-”white” skin tones
  • visual music and synaesthesia
  • color’s affective properties
  • color and allegory
  • color’s place in classical film theory (e.g., the writings of Eisenstein, Arnheim, Balázs, Bazin)
  • the theory and philosophy of color (e.g., Albers, Kandinsky, Wittgenstein, Goethe, Schopenhauer) as applied to cinema
  • reappraisals of the historiographical models advanced in Edward Branigan's "Color and Cinema: Problems in the Writing of History" (1979)
  • color and memory/historicity
  • contemporary artistic, avant-garde, and popular appropriations of cinematic color
  • the aesthetics of black-and-white film and video
  • the theory and practice of film restoration
  • color motifs and narrative structure
  • historical trends in color design

Interested graduate students should submit abstracts of 250-300 words (along with institutional/ departmental affiliations and current email) to by January 10, 2014. Participants will be notified acceptance by late January.

Friday, November 01, 2013

CFP: Music and the Moving Image conference IX


Music and the Moving Image IX
Conference at NYU Steinhardt
May 30, 2014 – June 1, 2014

The annual conference, Music and the Moving Image, encourages submissions from scholars and practitioners that explore the relationship between music, sound, and the entire universe of moving images (film, television, video games, iPod, computer, and interactive performances) through paper presentations.

This year’s conference will include a keynote speech by the film orchestrator Patrick Russ (King Kong, Far From Heaven) and we invite abstracts that focus on the role and function of orchestration. The Program Committee includes Patrick Russ, Elisabeth Weis (Film Sound: Theory and Practice, The Silent Scream: Alfred Hitchcock's Sound Track), Philip Carli (Synergy in America's Early Talking Machine Industry and original orchestral scores for Captain Salvation [1925; Turner, 2005], Stella Maris [1918; Milestone, 1998]), and coeditors of Music and the Moving Image, Gillian B. Anderson (Haexan; Pandora’s Box; Composing for the Cinema, Music for Silent Film 1892-1929: A Guide); and NYU faculty, Ron Sadoff (The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation; Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood). The conference will run a few days before the NYU/ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop in Memory of Buddy Baker (June 4 – 13, 2014).

Abstracts due Dec. 16, 2013. Submission and further information available at the MaMI Conference website.