The practice of making new films from recycled fragments opens exciting opportunities for exploring past events. And, crucially, it allows audiences to also reflect critically on the histories of image-making from which those fragments emerge.
This in-person course will look at how we engage with archives, cultural memory, and history, through film. Whether looking at films and videos whose source materials are drawn from state archives, ‘unofficial’ collections, or family albums, that harvest material from the internet, or that steal from the history of fiction cinema production, certain questions pertain.
The topics we will address include the ethical questions that confront makers and audiences alike when image and sound recordings are ripped from their original context and re-appropriated to new ends. We will consider the dehumanising or exclusionary gaze in the archive, as well as some of the creative strategies artists and filmmakers have used to produce ethical reworkings of materials associated with our troubled pasts.
All sessions will combine lectures, screenings, and group discussions. Optional readings will be shared at the end of each session.
1.Compilation, found-footage and other remix practices
Taking a historical perspective, we’ll look at uses of archival material in film and video production to reveal divergent attitudes to audio-visual media, to audience reception, and to history itself.
2.Towards an ethics of appropriation
We consider the radically shifting meanings of the recycled image fragment, from internet meme to archival film. What sort of ethical frameworks do we use when it comes to evaluating the creative use and misuse of film fragments?
3.The perpetrator’s gaze: film as repair and resistance
What creative strategies have filmmakers and artists used to disrupt or reverse the cinematic gaze when working with materials that dehumanise and erase certain groups, while elevating and sanitising others?
4.I am an actor in history
How do our personal histories affect the stories we research? What happens when the archive marks us? How do we, whether as artists, researchers or historians, negotiate our place within the archive and within history, while also approaching our work with rigour?
5.Listening to images
Unlike written documents, image and sound recordings tend to contain unfiltered, uncensored information or ‘noise’ which exceeds the intention of the original filmmaker, and which resists full comprehension or interpretation. How have artists used the ambiguous or disruptive qualities of recordings to enrich perceptions of historical meaning?
Some artists and filmmakers have raided the history of fiction cinema, transforming fragments of fiction film into documents that speak to us of the social relations embedded in the experience of cinema. How does this work complicate our understanding of documentary and fiction?
7.Questions of practice
Students are invited to present an image or image sequence for discussion. We will think about the stories, opportunities and challenges that this material evokes.
At the end of the session, the course leader will share a handout with links to practical guides to legality and copyright when using third-party materials.
If you have any questions about this course, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Image: Still from Home Stories, Matthias Muller, Germany, 1990)