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HomeScreens in works of art: imagination and reflexivity

Screens in works of art: imagination and reflexivity

Des écrans dans les œuvres d’art : imaginaire et réflexivité

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Published on Monday, July 01, 2024

Abstract

It is well-known that the representation of the window played a key role in the history of painting. By delimiting the object to be viewed, the window assigns a place to the subject contemplating the landscape, keeping it apart. The contemporary era is leading to representations of the new screens that still need to be analysed globally. In addition to the monographic approaches that already exist, our approach aims to examine the representations of screens in all contemporary media, without any hierarchical distinction.

Announcement

Argument

It is well-known that the representation of the window played a key role in the history of painting. By delimiting the object to be viewed, the window assigns a place to the subject contemplating the landscape, keeping it apart. It thus plays a strategic role in the invention of the landscape and in the constitution of the modern subject; it offers an equivalent of the frame within the frame, transforming the painting into “an open window from which the story represented can be viewed” (Alberti, 83). There is an exchange between the architectural form, which, initially opaque and narrow, gradually took on the form of a painting, and painting, which increasingly turned the window into a reflexive representation of the frame within the frame (Wajcman, 52).

According to the process of remediation theorised by Grusin and Bolter (15), the window is largely found in the screen devices that develop throughout the nineteenth century, from panoramas to the cinematic projection screens (this development is documented by Vincent Amiel (2018)). The subsequent development of the television screen, computer screen, smartphone screens, advertising screens and surveillance screens has turned our society into a generalised space of screens, a “total screen” or “global screen”: “The man of today and tomorrow, permanently connected by his mobile and his computer to all the screens, is at the heart of a network whose extension marks the acts of his daily life” (Lipovetsky and Serroy, 282). If, like the window, the screen is a frame, its transparency is ambiguous: the very origin of the term, which first referred to the panel that protects from the heat of a fireplace, clearly shows that the screen masks; however, this panel is also where the image stops, where it is projected. Even more than the window, the screen is both a material object and a mediation. It is thus “a surface into which we enter, a surface that opens onto an immaterial space of information, representations and projections.” (Seux, 2014). From the cinema screen, a space for projecting fantasies, to the television screen, a space for immediate access to live events and everyday life, to the space of the computer and video games, a space for interaction and immersion, we slide ever deeper from the surface. While the window/screen appears to be a metaphor for the transparency of the medium, providing virtual access to bare, simplified information, post-modernity is giving rise to a material reflection on the screen as a mask, surface, thickness, opacity and depth. David Cronenberg, from Videodrome to eXistenZ, materializes the screen as a skin or metamorphoses it as an organ, signalling that the screen-image has a life of its own. More recently, in Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer develops a metaphor between the screen and the skin to question access to identity: to what extent does the identity screen out the truth of depth, or on the contrary, is there a truth to be found in the imagery of the screen?

This lability of the screen makes it a dialectical receptacle of the imaginary. In particular, there is a growing body of critical discourse that sees the screen as a threat, especially to the humanist culture based on the medium of books (Gervais, 2023). There are well-founded warnings against excessive use of screens, particularly for children. However, the discourse on screens is not limited to the creation of this negative imaginary. Like the window in its day, the screen very quickly becomes the object of reflexive figuration. We are familiar with the dream of the spectator crossing the screen barrier in Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr (1924), or of the character emerging from the screen in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), but more generally, the figuration of the cinema screen in film is a common practice (Bühler, 1997). These situations, which often signal the transgression - or the temptation - of the screen as a boundary between the visible and the invisible, between the carnal and the disembodied, re-enact over time a medieval mistrust and fervour with regard to the imago and its relationship to the body (Hans Belting, 2004). As a sensitive surface, the contemporary screen, “augmented” by movement, sound and now digital haptic devices, seems more than ever to be inhabited by the body - a body that is both deposited in it and activates it. It would therefore be appropriate to examine the physical and spiritual relationship with screens, for example in ghostly and fantastic stories, as the matrix Ring did in manga and then in film (1998).

The contemporary era is leading to representations of the new screens that still need to be analysed globally. We are thinking, of course, of the Black Mirror series (2011-2023), whose very title reflects the negative criticisms surrounding screens, the computer screens that open up to the world the cinematic huis-clos of Julio Medem's A Room in Rome (2010), the obsession with smartphones in Alain Damasio's Scarlett et Novak (2021), the television screens that build the panels of Frank Miller's Batman. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (1986), to the screens that populate the Fringe series (2008-2013; see Villers, 2014), to the subtle device of narrating 9/11 through screens in Fanny Taillandier's novel, Par les écrans du monde (2018), to the multiple interfaces that populate Michael DeForge's comic strip A Familiar Face (2020). The forms of contemporary screen-based narrative media have multiplied and varied over time. This is illustrated by Olivier Stucky's current thesis on the comic strip (Kovaliv and Stucky, 2023): computer screen, tablet screen or telephone screen for webtoons, digital fresco up to its dissolution with the arrival of virtual reality, where the edges of the screen come closer to the operation of vision, becoming screens for glasses, to the point of threatening to disappear as an interface in order to better embrace the world in the mode of tactile illusion.

The history of screen forms also reflects the evolution of an anthropological relationship with the desire for spectacle and narrative. The nostalgic or offbeat staging of this history of screens in exhibition installations and works reflects our relationship with them, in the form of dissonant temporal regimes: from the ultra-modern surveillance screen transformed into a shifting mirror filming visitors in the inaugural work of video art, Wipe Cycle by Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider (1969), to the arcade game terminal-like viewing booths for reading webtoons - normally read on a telephone - exhibited in 2024 (Photomatoon) at the Angoulême Festival.

In addition to the monographic approaches that already exist, our approach aims to examine the representations of screens in all contemporary media, without any hierarchical distinction: novels, comic strips, theatre, cinema, series, contemporary art, with a particular focus on the digital forms of these expressions (webseries, webtoons, blogs, writing on platforms, etc.). We will pay particular attention to the following points:

  • The intermediary circulation of dyspotic screens that combine propaganda and surveillance; the model for this is the telescreens in George Orwell's 1984, but there has been a revival of this political device in contemporary times. In Le grand vide (2021), Léa Murawiec depicts a fictional world where luminous screens displaying texts (surnames) give individuals an identity, while books have become an endangered species to which the heroine aspires, in search of a form of erasure that hyper-exposure in an urban world over-saturated with screens does not allow.
  • The imaginary contagion of screens, wherever the sensitive surface meets depth, . Some digital works are particularly sensitive to this, such as Naturellement, a “clickable” digital comic strip by Yannis La Macchia (2023), which features a computer virus that is transmitted to humans via screens. Papers could also go back to the fantastic screens that enable movement between worlds, from the “distrans” portal in Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos to the doors of Stargate.
  • The editors will be particularly interested in satirical and parodic approaches: the episode “L'anniversaire surprise” (2023) from the humorous web series Bon Ben Voilà on the Swiss channel 3 Couleurs uses physically embodied actors to represent a collective conversation on Whatsapp; Fabrice Erre's comic strip Réseaux, boulot, dodo scrutinises and caricatures contemporary uses of digital technology.
  • Conversely, studies exploring how to depict the everyday use of screens in a more realistic way will be welcome, particularly in digital works. Take, for example, Thomas Cadène's comic strip La Vraie vie (2016), whose explicit aim was to document online life as “real life”; or the constant presence of screens in Boulet's Notes and Rogatons, where the figure of the ghost “Bloody Mary” becomes a reflexive figuration of the ordinary screen.
  • This ordinary use of screens is particularly evident in the use of everyday screen captures in films. The insertion of conversations by SMS, Messenger, Whatsapp etc. directly into the cinematographic image has become commonplace - it takes a particularly striking form in the BBC series Sherlock (2010-2017), but it can also be found in many films, series, animated films and of course comic strips. Screen captures are also used as the basis for the digital writing of many online novels (from Alban Orsini's Tumblr novel Avec maman (2013)).
  • In the same vein, papers about hypermedia devices that are constructed as an explicit presentation of the multitude of screens will also be considered. Think of Posy Simmonds's very special arrangement of plates, which, through the juxtaposition of text and iconotext, allows for the staging of mobile phones, computers and emails in Tamara Drewe. Similarly, Japanese anime has made particular use of the plasticity of cartoons to articulate television screens, computer screens and video games (Ghost in Shell 1997, Serial experiment Lains 1998, Paranoia Agent 2004, Dennō Coi 2007, Summer wars 2009).
  • We would welcome an opening up to dramaturgical and operatic works that increasingly incorporate screen devices, with proposals on the long-term presence of this phenomenon, from the screen as a stage set to the video screen, or on ultra-contemporary phenomena, as Marion Siéfert has done in a very integrative way with Jeanne Dark or Daddy with the world of video games.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for contributions of 300 words with a title should be sent (together with a short biography and bibliography) to ileroyladurie@citebd.org or henri.garric@u-bourgogne.fr.

before 30 November 2024

Articles of up to 25,000 characters including spaces must be submitted by mid March 2025.

CFP is also published here: Screens in works of art: imagination and reflexivity (openedition.org)

Scientific committee

  • Elza Adamovicz (Queen Mary University of London, Royaume-Uni)
  • Marcia Arbex (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brésil)
  • Sophie Aymes (Université de Bourgogne, France)
  • Stephen Bann (University of Bristol, Royaume-Uni)
  • Laurent Baridon (Université Lyon 2, France)
  • Hélène Campaignolle-Catel (Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, France)
  • Maurice A. Géracht (Holy Cross)
  • John Dixon Hunt (University of Pennsylvania, États-Unis)
  • Liliane Louvel (Université de Poitiers, France)
  • Fiona McMahon (Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier 3, France)
  • Simon Morley (Dankook University, Corée du Sud)
  • Frédéric Ogée (Université de Paris, France)
  • Véronique Plesch (Colby College, États-Unis)
  • Jean-Michel Rabaté (University of Pennsylvania, États-Unis)
  • Gabriele Rippl (Université de Bern, Suisse)

Bibliography

Alberti, Leon Battista, La peinture, Paris, Seuil, 2004, translated from the Latin by Thomas Golsenne.

Amiel, Vincent, Naissances d'images : l'image dans l'image, des enluminures à la société des écrans, Paris, Klincksieck, 2018.

Anger, Violaine and Baetens, Jan, La pensée de l'écranÉcriture et image, No. 1, November 2020.

Blüher, Dominique, Le cinéma dans le cinéma. Film(s) dans le film et mise en abyme, Paris, Villeneuve d'Ascq, Presses du Septentrion, 1997.

Bolter, Jay and Grusin, Richard, Remediation: Understanding new media, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1999.

Gervais, Bertrand, Un imaginaire de la fin du livre. Littérature et écrans, Montréal, Presses Universitaires de Montréal, 2023.

Kovaliv, Gaëlle and Stucky, Olivier, “La planche de bande dessinée à l'épreuve du numérique”, Sociétés et représentations, 2023/1 (No. 55)

Lipovetsky, Gilles, Serroy, Jean, L'écran global : culture-médias et cinéma à l'âge hypermoderne. Paris, Seuil, “La couleur des idées”, 2007.

Seux, Christine, “Écran(s)”, Le Télémaque, 2014/1 (No. 45), pp. 15-25, accessed 26 February 2024. URL: https://www.cairn.info/revue-le-telemaque-2014-1-page-15.htm

Villers, Aurélie, “Par le petit écran de Fringe”, TV/Series [Online], 6 | 2014, online 01 December 2014, accessed 26 February 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/tvseries/344


Date(s)

  • Sunday, November 30, 2025

Keywords

  • écran, imaginaire, réflexivité, numérique, cinéma, bande dessinée, littérature, arts visuel, culture

Contact(s)

  • Henri Garric
    courriel : henri [dot] garric [at] u-bourgogne [dot] fr

Information source

  • Irène Le Roy Ladurie
    courriel : ileroyladurie [at] citebd [dot] org

License

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

To cite this announcement

« Screens in works of art: imagination and reflexivity », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, July 01, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/11wqu

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