History of Art 8901 - Cinema Studies


Professor Erica Levin

More than any other art, cinema has the power to unsettle, to induce the disorientation that occurs whenever we find ourselves suddenly elsewhere, far from the comforts of home. As a cultural phenomenon and viewing practice “cinema” itself has become displaced from its familiar surrounds in the darkened movie theater.  Moving images are above all mobile, now found streaming online or glimpsed in passing on museum walls, as often as they are seen through well-established networks of theatrical distribution. The journey of the moving image from the cinema screen to other sites and screens far and wide, directly informs the contemporary conditions of migrant subjectivity. This course takes up a wide range of moving images, understood as both the object and agent of that displacement. Case studies include examples of diasporic cinema, experimental documentary, and video art. We will consider how this work makes use of “poor” or degraded images which bear the traces of their own circulation and repeated compression. We will also delve into a range of historical issues related to the global transit of moving images: examining, for example, the film industry’s role in constructing what Lee Grieveson has called the “Highways of Empire.” We will ask how different figures move through cinematic landscapes, taking up the privileged figure of the exile in modernist cinema, alienated and filled with longing, to ask how she is eclipsed, as T.J. Demos argues, by the wandering nomad
and the stateless refugee in the 21st century. Together we will work through the challenges of writing about film and time-based art, embracing improvised, unforeseen, and experimental encounters along the way.
Class # 33296
THURSDAYS 2:15-5:00