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STUFF: Materiality and Media in European Culture
Course code: ELCS4010
Tutor: Dr Claire Thomson
Mode of Assessment: 1 assessed essay of 3000 words and 1.5 hour desk examination
Term: taught in term 2
The advent of the digital has brought a proliferation of critical and popular theorising about the ‘death’ of film, and a renewed interest in the medium-specific properties of photography, film, video, digital image capture, and related technologies. To understand the relationship of digital images to the physical world – and thus to understand the ways in which we see and sense the world – we have to be able to grasp what is ‘different’ about the digital. To this end, this course explores the material specificities of a range of art forms, looking particularly at cases in which the text reflects upon its own material instantiation. Along the way, we will ask questions such as: How do visual technologies record the physical world? How do we understand ‘the real’ in the digital era? How is a photograph like a plaster cast? What happens if you drop film stock into the Atlantic? What really happens in a recording studio? Why will 3D scanning and printing change the world economy? The course brings objects and analogue technologies (smells, plaster casts, 16mm film, possibly an opera singer) into conversation with their web-based and digital counterparts, and considers the transformations that occur between data and object, as well as the cultural meanings ascribed to these transformations. A majority of case studies are of European origin (particularly France, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, Britain), with some examples from the Americas.
Selected primary texts:
- Brakhage, Stan, dir. Mothlight, 1963. In By Brakhage: An Anthology. Special ed. double disc set. Irvington, N.Y.: Criterion Collection, 2003. (UCL Main Library)
- Mayfield, Matt, dir. The Loudness War. Youtube video, 2006. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ
- Painlevé, Jean, dir. Transition de phase dans les cristaux liquides (1937) http://crystals.holowater.com/jean-painleve-les-cristaux-liquides-liquid-crystals
- Thorvaldsen, Bertel, sculptor. Kristus (Christ), 1821. See http://www.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk/en/collections/work/A82
- Welsby, Chris, dir. A selection of short nature films. See http://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/chris_welsby/index.html
- The smell of old books. See http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/11/old-book-smell/
Initial Secondary Bibliography:
- Bazin, André. ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image.’ In What is Cinema? Vol. 1. Essays selected and translated by Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
- Gould, Glenn. ‘The Prospects of Recording.’ High Fidelity, 16: 4, 46-63, 1966.
- ‘3D Printing: the Printed World.’ The Economist. 11.2.2011. http://www.economist.com/node/18114221?story_id=18114221
- Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, Mass., London: The MIT Press, 2001.
- Marks, Laura U. Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
- Mulvey, Laura. Death 24 x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books, 2006.
- Rodowick, D.N. The Virtual Life of Film. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.