HomeMaking Ecocinema. Ecological Politics and Processes of Experimental Cinema

HomeMaking Ecocinema. Ecological Politics and Processes of Experimental Cinema

Making Ecocinema. Ecological Politics and Processes of Experimental Cinema

Fabriques de l’écocinéma. Politiques et processus écologiques du cinéma expérimental

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Published on Monday, June 05, 2023

Abstract

The hypothesis of this two-day conference is to investigate the fabrication of experimental film from the perspective of an “active ecology”, the ways of acting and transforming the world that accompany experimental filmmakers’ creative gestures : political and social ecologies, ecologies of technique, and processual ecology. The question could therefore be summarized in dialectical form : in what way does the awakening of an ecological consciousness affect and transform the experiences and processes of experimental film making ? In turn, in what way do experimental and artisanal approaches to cinematic creation reshape our relationship with the living and call for a new ecological consciousness ? Ecopolitics and creative processes will therefore be explored in their multiple interweavings.

 

Announcement

16 et 17 novembre 2023 / Aix-Marseille University - (Site St Charles, Building ‘Turbulence’, or by VideoConference)

Arguments

“Ecocriticism has overlooked the way in which all art – not just explicitly ecological art – hardwires the environment into its form. […] Art is ecological insofar as it is made from materials and exists in the world” (Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought, Harvard University Press, 2012.)

The budding idea of an “Eco-Cinema” was first proposed in an article from 2004 by Scott MacDonald, which examined avant-garde, non-commercial film productions, where the filmmakers’ experience of being immersed in the natural environment was poetically attuned to the material vulnerability of the film medium. Over the years, this concept of “ecocinema” has become a widely discussed object of study by ecocritics, including a large spectrum of styles and media. MacDonald’s text is pioneering in several ways, first because it posits experimental films as privileged sites for “ecocinema”, an intuition that seems to be confirmed by the significance given to experimental films in ecocritical studies since then. However, the article also focuses ecocinematic research towards issues of reception, examining film’s capacity to affect the spectators: the slow contemplation of the world is posited as an essential aspect of ecocinema’s definition. In other words, the text inaugurated an ecocritical approach, which has since become the dominant one, which privileges the way in which cinematic images can "re-train perception" differently and thus interrogates the manner in which they represent the world "ecologically" (or not).

In his text "Ecoaesthetics - A Manifesto for the XXIst Century", the artist Rasheed Araeen asserted that for art to be properly “ecological”, it must move away from the paradigm of representation and turn rather towards processes of transformation and creation. Similarly, the neo-materialist philosopher Karen Barad has written extensively about the need to move beyond "representationalism" ("the belief that representations serve a mediating function between knower and known") and instead focus enquiry on the practices and "performances" that sustain these representations. It is in this sense that Timothy Morton has consistently maintained that a properly political ecocriticism must take into account the fact that our actions are integrated into - or confronted with - the material processes that surround us. Cinema, like all art, is "made of the materials" of the world and "exist[s] in the world". If indeed experimental cinema does seem to be a privileged space for ecocritical thinking, it is not only because of what it can represent of the world, quite the contrary: what it experiments with in the first place are the very practices of cinema itself according to its own material existence.

An ecocritical and non-representationalist perspective on experimental cinema thus opens up a new field of interrogation in the genetic approach to films. Who manipulates the "materials of the world" during the making of a film? According to which political engagements, temporalities, and inscriptions in collective environments? In what ways does ecological consciousness displace the filmmakers' experience? And finally, how does it reshape perspectives on the artistic process and pedagogies of art? In relation to ecological uses of tools and materials by filmmakers, ecological thought can therefore examine the ways in which experimental cinematic creation exists in the world, in the sense of situating its practices within a framework of ethical, social, educational, non-hierarchical and non-competitive positions, a framework that is far removed from injunctions to produce quickly, to comply with any "imperative of newness" and to distribute as widely as possible according to commercial prescriptions. Cinema’s existence in the world, and no longer an its existence in the media economy, an ecology of production and "not an economy", in the words of the independent filmmaker Pip Chodorov (Pip Chodorov, 2014).

The hypothesis of this two-day conference is therefore to investigate the fabrication of experimental film from the perspective of an "active ecology", the ways of acting and transforming the world that accompany experimental filmmakers’ creative gestures: political and social ecologies, ecologies of technique, and processual ecology. The question could therefore be summarized in dialectical form: in what way does the awakening of an ecological consciousness affect and transform the experiences and processes of experimental film making? In turn, in what way do experimental and artisanal approaches to cinematic creation reshape our relationship with the living and call for a new ecological consciousness? Ecopolitics and creative processes will therefore be explored in their multiple interweavings.

An emerging ecocritical thought can indeed be detected in recent works on process cinema. In publications written by filmmakers, in the style of manuals, herbaria or recipe books, an informal history of alternative techniques related to the film-making process is routinely disseminated: alternative development techniques [ecoprocessing] (Experimental Filmmaking: Break the Machine, K. Ramey 2016), handmade emulsions (Re:Inventing the Pioneers: Film on Handmade Silver Gelatin Emulsion and Color Methods, E. Urlus), phytography (Phytography, K. Doing (ed.) 2022). Similarly, one can find many accounts of workshops posted on artists' blogs and websites (recycling of outdated film, reusing chemistry, etc.). Process Cinema: Handmade Film in the Digital Age (S. MacKenzie and J. Marchessault, 2019) sets out to chart, under the label of "process cinema", the contemporary trends of "a creative tradition in alternative filmmaking that is unscripted, improvisational, participatory, and based on the manipulation of the very materiality of film" (S. MacKenzie and J. Marchessault, 2019). Highlighting the importance of DIY and the phenomenology of a body engaged in processes of fabrication, some of the essays in the book do indeed start to point towards premises of an ecocritical thinking of filmic processes. Experimental Film and Photochemical Practices (K. Knowles, 2020), develops an ecological thinking around ecosensibilities and alternative communities of experimental filmmakers grouped in laboratories and educational farms (Film Labs and Film Farms). The collective work Expanded Nature - Ecologies of Experimental Cinema (E. Della Noce, L. Murari, 2022) is devoted to forms of ecological engagement by featuring texts by historically ecocinematic experimental filmmakers: Chris Welsby, Rose Lowder, Philip Hoffman and Jacques Perconte. Through their essays, the book helps retrace individual paths of ecological resistance from the 1970s to the present day, but it also includes texts by two indigenous Mexican and Australian film collectives, Colectivo Los Ingrávidos and Karrabing Film Collective, in order to apprehend the dual stakes of environmental and cultural struggle at the heart of their experimental film practice.

We want to continue down the path opened by these first intuitions, tracing the meeting points between process cinema studies and ecocriticism. In this sense, our conference proposes, but is not limited to, three lines of inquiry:

  1. Genealogies of techniques and ecological processes in experimental cinema.

We encourage studies of a genealogy of techniques and ecological processes, concurrent with the evolution of film media since the artisanal beginnings of cinema. This genealogy leads to the possibility of interdisciplinary links between cinematic experimentation and research in the natural sciences: vegetal or animal biology, biochemistry, optics, climatology, geology, botany, naturalist practices, etc. The following (non-exhaustive) list of subjects could also be presented in this context:

  1. Artisanal emulsions and the creation of celluloid materials;
  2. Organic direct practices on photosensible media (photo or celluloid);
  3. Ecoprocessing;
  4. Environmental dispositifs: image and sound recording, exhibition, projection;
  5. Practices of reuse and recycling of film materials.

 Alongside this history of techniques, historians and philosophers of political ecology from Jacques Ellul to Bruno Latour, through André Gorz, Ivan Illich, Tim Ingold and Isabelle Stengers, could be called upon for their different ways of ethically reinterrogating issues of tools, techniques and technology (for example, Ivan Illich's "convivial tool" (I. Illich, 1973) or André Gorz's "open technologies" (A.Gorz, 2008). To what extent have these ecological discoveries transformed filmmakers' relationship to tools and know-how? How have they offered alternatives to industrial productivism? Does the rediscovery and pursuit of pioneer craftsmanship invite us to reformulate our historical relationship to film technology?

  1. Ecological resistance in experimental cinema.

We define “ecological resistance” in this context as the forms of individual or collective engagements of filmmakers who activate commons through ecological awareness, manifested as an alternative to the injunctions of hegemonic and polluting industries. We thus encourage participants to explore these forms of ecological engagements, which could include:

  1. Various spaces of production and distribution: heterotopias or eco-utopias, laboratories and shared spaces, farms and open-air festivals;
  2. Alternative pedagogies: workshops, research programmes, knowledge sharing, etc.;
  3. Decentred approaches to experimental film practices: attention ecologies, ecologies of care, ecofeminism, non-human practices, indigenous knowledges, etc.

The proposals could establish filiations between gestures of ecological resistance and the active diversity of thought related to political ecology: deep ecology, radical ecology, ecofeminisms, decolonial ecologies, etc. 

  1. Digital experimental processes

If the processes linked to photochemical productions have a large place in our conception of ecocinema, we also want to extend the scope to studies of "new media". This opens possibilities for reconceptualizing ecocinematic creative processes with digital materials:

  1. The ways in which material processes of photochemical and digital film are brought together;
  2. New modes of perception and projection that can emerge from fusions of the two media;
  3. Materialities and infrastructures that are obscured or revealed by digital media, etc.

While artists working with photochemical film position themselves more immediately in terms of resistance (the choice to use a medium deemed “obsolete” is often culturally inscribed as working outside the norm from the outset), interactive and immersive media also offer the potential to explore what Morton describes as “ecological thought” and the “mesh”. Furthermore, the specificities of digital media provide an opportunity to reflect on the role of flux and networking practices in the conceptualization of creative processes. Does "new media" allow for deeper investigation of cybernetic processes, so prevalent in systemic theories of ecology?

Submission modalities

Proposals for the conference should not exceed 500 words and include a bibliography and a short presentation of the author (100 words maximum).

The submission deadline for proposals is the 30 th of June 2023 (reply by mid-July 2023) to the following address: fabriqueseco@gmail.com

The conference will be accessible by zoom and open to English-speaking papers.

Organization committee

  • Elio Della Noce (LESA, Université Aix-Marseille)
  • Kim Knowles (University of Aberystwyth)
  • Charlie Hewison (Université de Picardie Jules Verne)
  • Panagioula (Julie) Kolovou (LESA, Université Aix-Marseille)

Scientific committee

  • Janine Marchessault (York University, Toronto, Canada)
  • André Habib (Université de Montréal, Québec)
  • Éric Thouvenel (Université Paris Nanterre)
  • Thierry Roche (LESA, Université Aix-Marseille)

“Phytography” Workshop

A "Phytography" workshop - an introduction to vegetal printing on celluloid - will be given by the independent filmmaker Karel Doing on the morning of 17 November, and will punctuate the two days. It will be followed by a public screening at the end of the conference. Please let us know if you would like to participate in the workshop.

https://kareldoing.net/phy/Phytography.html

Places

  • Université Aix-Marseille, site Saint-Charles
    Marseille, France (13)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


Date(s)

  • Friday, June 30, 2023

Keywords

  • écocinéma, écocritique, ecocriticism, ecocinema, études cinématographiques, cinéma expérimental, film studies, experimental film, process film

Contact(s)

  • Panagioula (Julie) Kolovou
    courriel : kolovou [dot] julie [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Elio Della Noce
    courriel : fabriqueseco [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Charlie Hewison
    courriel : fabriqueseco [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Kim Knowles
    courriel : fabriqueseco [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Fabriques Ecocinéma
    courriel : fabriqueseco [at] gmail [dot] com

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Making Ecocinema. Ecological Politics and Processes of Experimental Cinema », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 05, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1bbh

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