Panel 1: Future & Forgotten Screens

1 December 2012, NAB 314, 13.30-15.00 || Chaired by Joanna Zylinska

The Anamorphic Cinema

Alison Reiko Loader, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

Media archaeology purports an object-centric approach to media technologies that eschews retrospective narratives, and deterministic notions of historic continuity and technological evolution. Yet investigations of old technologies often omit direct confrontations between historians and their objects of study. Apparatuses may no longer exist or be so rare that access is near impossible, so the researcher must rely on contemporaneous, sometimes exaggerated accounts, as well as imagination. One way to resolve this dilemma is to physically remake what could not otherwise be experienced firsthand. Such work might be considered a media archaeology of an applied kind. However, since replicating the past is an impossible task, perhaps more interesting is how many media artists use lost and forgotten technologies to reconfigure those of the present. The Anamorphic Cinema is one such project and it re-imagines screens and moving images by applying animation and digital imaging to catoptric anamorphosis, a once popular perspectival technique from the seventeenth century that deforms pictures so they re-form in the reflections of curvilinear mirrors. Its implications with the representational and perceptual limitations of Cartesian ontology are explored in a looping fifteen-minute, three-channel anamorphic video installation, called Ghosts in the Machine: The Inquest of Mary Gallagher, that investigates the notorious 1879 Montreal murder and beheading of one woman by another. Problematizing representation as re-presentation, Ghosts features dramatic performances of witness testimonies and newspaper texts layered with diverse archival images, in an inhabitable network of floor-projected narratives that re-visions the case within a context of nineteenth-century spectatorship, gender norms, visual culture and disciplinary discourses. As a form of expanded cinema that literally depicts partial perspective and situated knowledge by using angles of view, mobile spectatorship and passive interaction, The Anamorphic Cinema materializes theory into phenomenological practice in a study of old media renewed.

Alison Reiko Loader has taught Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal since 2001, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Communication Studies. A lapsed National Film Board of Canada filmmaker that specializes in digital animation, she applies her interest in old media technology to making short films and media installations. Sitespecific works that employ manipulated moving images and archival material, such as the anamorphic Ghosts in the Machine: The Inquest of Mary Gallagher (2011) and the stereoscopic Possible Movements: Grey Nuns Chapel series (2009-10), reimagine histories of women, place and visual technologies. Additionally, Loader’s process-based projects that incorporate non-human forms of life include the reanimations of laboratory-raised tent caterpillar moths, and the cultivation of fetal shaped squash using molds made from 3d prints. A recipient of a doctoral-level Canada Graduate Scholarship, her current research explores the founding of the Edinburgh Camera Obscura by a mysterious woman named Maria Short.

What Difference does Digital 3D make?

Daniel Strutt, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

According to the popular cultural discourse of Roger Ebert and Mark Kermode, 3D is the latest gimmick used to sell popular and crass media content. While they base their critique in quasi-scientific concerns about picture quality and headaches, the main thrust of their argument is about the perceived quality of such films, a ‘taste’ argument through which they hark back to ‘golden age’ narrative cinema. For Kermode: ‘The thing these movies have in common is that they are essentially trash – sleazy, crass and exploitative and owing more to the carnival sideshow tradition than to any history of narrative cinema.’

Now digital 3D is 5 years old, and in the wake of certain ‘auteur’ directors making 3D films (Scorcese, Wenders, Herzog); is it time to reassess the popular address of these images, asking what they offer to individual and collective consciousness? While we understand that on one hand these films are indeed driven by a profit motive and the economic need for an industrial shift to digital projection, we must ask if this necessarily eradicates aesthetic potentials and pleasures - further asking, how do these images actually cognitively engage us?

To tackle these questions I look at discourses of affectivity, (inter)activity vs. passive spectatorship (Mark Hansen), and corporeal consciousness (Sheets-Johnstone) to ask if the new spatio-temporal and kinetic dynamics of D3D offer anything new for the perception and intuition of reality. The new affections of rhythm and movement in these screen images give us a heightened, distorted and ‘hyper’-spatial relation which seem to generate distinctive impressions of time, movement and force. The spectator is involved in an ever-more immersive kinetic play of bodies and surfaces which is palpably felt within the user’s body as affects of corporeal intensity. I ask if this conditions and alters our corporeal, kinaesthetic consciousness in any lasting way?

Daniel Strutt is a final year PhD Student at Goldsmiths University, supervised by Rachel Moore. His research topic is the new ontological and metaphysical formations put forward in the affective dynamics of digital screen media. This project takes in aspects of philosophy of technology, theories of mind, aesthetic and affect theory. Daniel also studied his MA in Screen Studies at Goldsmiths.

TohoScope and Beyond: Widescreen, Large Format and Multi-screen Production and Exhibition in Japan

Jasper Sharp, University of Sheffield, UK

A few years after the introduction of widescreen cinema to Japan with the Tokyo premiere of The Robe on 26 December 1953, the country produced its first anamorphic feature, The Bride of Otori Castle. Directed by Matsuda Sadatsugu and released by Toei on 2 April 1957, it ushered in a new era of widescreen filmmaking, and within a matter of years, the industry’s conversion to anamorphic production and exhibition formats was more or less complete, with each of the major studios pioneering their own widescreen systems. The era marks the turning point from when Japan’s status changed from that of an adopter or adapter of screen technologies developed overseas to that of an innovator, with a profound impact on the films produced by other Southeast Asian countries.

This presentation looks at those exhibition formats that failed to be taken up by either the local or global industry, or which took place outside of the standard theatrical exhibition circuit and are therefore overlooked by film historians. I shall look at the politics and economics behind Japan’s relatively early adoption of the American 3-screen Cinerama process in the 1950s. In the subsequent decade, a number of figures in the avant-garde filmmaking community, including Oe Masanori and Matsumoto Toshio, also experimented with multiple projection techniques to play upon notions of expanded cinema, film projection as a performative act, and the immersive nature of the viewing experience. This in turn is linked to Japan’s role in the first official showcasing of the Canadian-developed IMAX system at the Osaka Expo 70. IMAX represents an alternate exhibition network that initially operated on very different principles to conventional cinema. Japan has played a crucial role in its evolution, producing a number of films and first demonstrating a working 3D IMAX system at the 1985 International Exhibition at Tsukuba. While IMAX succeeded to find its own niche in the global exhibition market, other now obsolete large-scale formats developed in Japan, such as Astrovision, JAPAX and Tsugami-rama will also be considered, in order to draw conclusions as to what extent current developments in the Japanese exhibition market, including 3D presentation and the Korean 4DX system, will feature in the future.

Jasper Sharp is an independent curator and film historian currently researching widescreen cinema formats and exhibition technologies in Japan as a postgraduate student at the University of Sheffield. He is the co-editor of the website Midnight Eye, and his book publications include Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete Guide to Japanese Sex Cinema (2008) and Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema (2011). His writing on film has appeared in publications including Sight and Sound, Variety, Japan Times, Film International, 3d World, and the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema. He has been the director of Zipangu Fest, an annual film festival focusesing on Japanese independent and experimental cinema, since 2010, and while working as an advisor for the Japan Foundation UK’s annual touring season since 2006, has programmed a number of high profile seasons and retrospectives at the British Film Institute, the Deutches Filmmuseum, Austin Fantastic Fest, Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Thessaloniki International Film Festival and New Horizons in Poland.