Expanding Cinema: Spatial Dimensions of Film Exhibition, Aesthetics, and Theory is Yale’s annual graduate-organized Film Studies Conference, taking place February 15-16, 2013.
This conference will take a fresh look at cinema’s expansion beyond its traditional theatrical setting and classical style. Since the 1980s, technological developments and changes in the economics of film distribution have eroded classical models of film spectatorship, and in recent decades this trend has only picked up speed. Contemporary viewers encounter cinema across a variegated landscape; they are exposed to moving images in taxis, on portable devices, in art galleries, and as part of large-scale public artworks.
Our moving image culture has broken significantly with the ‘classical’ mode that most scholars agree dominated motion picture production between the 1920s and 1970s. Yet at the same time, alternative and experimental filmmaking and exhibition practices have kept ‘non-classical’ spectatorship in constant play. Throughout the 20th century, a diverse array of filmmakers, artists, and exhibition venues have experimented with ‘expanded’ notions of cinema: Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s imagined three-dimensional cinema, Ken Jacobs’s projector-based performances, and Andy Warhol’s informal screenings in the Factory are just a few examples. Arguably, exhibition space is a formal feature of these works. Analyzing such experimental practices often requires we attend not only to film texts, but also to the audiences and exhibition environments that structured the cinematic event.
Because artists and filmmakers often propose unique and carefully-considered relationships between moving images and their spatial environments, studying such practices can help us better theorize the spatial dimensions of cinema. Experimental exhibition practices could even help us historicize the many possible spaces and publics that coalesce around moving images today. Moreover, a consideration of ‘space’ as an aesthetic feature of cinema (in terms of on-screen space, production space, and exhibition space) could help us devise means of close-reading that augment the textual and linguistic models that long dominated film analysis.
This conference doesn’t restrict itself solely to experimental cinema; we invite any project that aims to engage theoretically with the spatial dimensions of cinema as it expands beyond its traditional theatrical environment and classical forms. We hope that such discussions can help conference participants entertain an expanded, flexible account of film spectatorship – the psychic interplay between film text, exhibition situation, and viewer.