Conférences 2020

Mercredi 4 mars 2020, 18h30, salle Unithèque 4215 

Debashree Mukherjee (Columbia University) : From Dispositif to Ecology: Writing a History of Film Production in Colonial India

Can we think of the foundational concerns of film studies – subjects, meaning, image, ideology – from the site of film production? In this talk I discuss some of the methodological and conceptual choices I made while writing a book about cinema as material practice. Specifically, I discuss the turn from the analytic of dispositif towards ecology through a set of archival case studies. In Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, I present a practitioner’s eye view of cinema in 1930s India. I explore what it means to do film work, and how a history of production practices is central to understanding cinema’s imbrications with modernity. Material practices of filmmaking – from screenwriting to lighting to holding a boom microphone steady – mediated the meanings of modernity, even freedom, as individual cine-workers reimagined the self through categories of technology, specialization, art, and labor. Inspired by the work of environmental humanities on one hand, and process philosophy on the other, I approach the landscape of film production in the 1930s as a cine-ecology, a continual flux of multiactant relations of becoming. Cine-ecologies emerge out of the energetic entanglement of practices, symbols, infrastructures, ideologies, actors, and climates that swirl around the film image in locations where filmmaking and film consumption are prominent aspects of everyday life. Cinema, which has always been a transnational force, therefore comes to mean very different things as it settles into a specific cine-ecology in Istanbul or Sydney. A tropical place under colonial rule, a modernizing city that becomes the site of a talkie industry, Bombay with all its peculiarities of infrastructure, weather, and social politics – these are the contours of the talkie cine-ecology that I am interested in.


Mercredi 22 avril 2020, 18h30, salle Unithèque 4215 

Estelle Doudet (Université de Lausanne) : Archéologies médiévales du télévisuel : penser les dispositifs avant l’ère des machines

Penser aujourd’hui les dispositifs de vision et d’audition signifie souvent se pencher sur les relations médiatiques caractéristiques de l’ère des machines (XIXe-XXIe s.) : enregistrements, projections, algorithmes, etc. L’archéologie des media, une approche encore émergente dans les pays francophones, invite toutefois à explorer plus profondément les époques éloignées de notre âge technologique. Ainsi, en Europe, du XIIIe au XVIe siècle, se sont déployées des théories et des pratiques du télévisuel – la capacité de voir ce qui est situé loin du regard humain grâce à divers supports – au croisement de la science optique, de la pensée religieuse et des innovations artistiques. Est-il pertinent d’approcher cette ancienne culture par la notion a priori anachronique de « dispositif » ? Quels nouveaux éclairages sur nos usages contemporains pourrait nous apporter l’étude d’un temps où le visible était considéré comme une traversée vers l’invisible et où l’image oscillait entre surface de projection et performance d’une présence ?


Mercredi 20 mai 2020, 18h30, salle Unithèque 4215

Weihong Bao (University of California, Berkeley) : Background Matters: Set Design as Dispositif

Although the dispositif is often associated with a technical device, applying it to set design poses a series of interesting problems: what constitutes the matter and object of set design? How do we account for its technology and principles of operation? Where do we draw the line between human and environment as the agent, matter, and object of set design?

The challenges and problems posed by set design returns us to a key notion of the dispositif as configuration of heterogeneous elements subject to strategic reordering. Yet instead of attributing its variable arrangement to the genius of the technological apparatus or system, I situate my inquiry of the dispositif at the intersection of discursive entanglement, aesthetic practice, and technological operation. I will navigate my inquiry through the historical co-evolvement of set design and environmental thinking in early twentieth century China.

My paper will first look at how “matter” was reconceived when huangjing (environment) emerged as an epistemological dominant in China in the 1910s and 20s when biology, psychology, and sociology frequently intersect. A renewed notion of matter as mutable and vital, I suggest, rendered environment with an ontological uncertainty that disrupts the distinction between self and other, inside and outside.

This conception of environment as vibrant matter encompassing the physical, spiritual, psychological, and socio-historical, I argue, converged with the privileging of mood and atmosphere in set design thinking which emerged alongside “environmental” discourses in China. The second part of my paper thus turns from the episteme of “environment” to its dispositif, by looking at set design theory and practice as laboratories of environment that test, execute, and supplement emerging conceptions. I will focus on set design theories that move from general concerns on huanjing (environment) to more specific considerations of beijing (background), qifen (atmosphere), and qingdiao (mood), binding the material and technological considerations of set design to the engineering of affect, an ephemeral but tangible air with geopolitical implications during the WWII.

Through this inquiry of set design as dispositif, I propose an environmental notion of the medium that serves to reconnect technics and aesthetics, object and agent, mind and environment.