December 5, 2008

In a post on the Columbia University Press blog earlier this fall, ”Re-enactment” (, Jonathan Kahana – whose recent book Intelligence Work: The Politics of American Documentary (Columbia UP) is a great read – comments on the hostile reception Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure was met with by many critics because of the director’s use of reenactments that were too ”stylized.” ”I tend to side with Morris,” Kahana admits, and adds anecdotally that Morris had asked him after a premiere of S.O.P., ”Why should documentaries look like shit?”


Why, indeed? In the current issue of Critical Inquiry (35), Bill Nichols has a thoughtful essay on reenactments (”Documentary Reenactment and the Fantasmatic Subject”). The reenactment is, Nichols posits, ”not historical evidence but an artistic interpretation, always offered from a distinct perspective and carrying, embedded within it, further evidence of the voice of the filmmaker” (p 88): ”Reenactments contribute a vivification of that for which they stand. They make what it feels like to occupy a certain situation, to perform a certain action, to adopt a particular perspective visible and more vivid. Vivification is neither evidence nor explanation. It is, though, a form of interpretation, an inflection that resurrects the past to reanimate it with the force of desire.” (p. 86). The essay is recommended reading. -Ø.V.


December 4, 2008

Undeterred by the many recent speculations that we have entered the era of the post-filmic or the post-cinematic, some scholars continue to mine a field as ostensibly archaic as film aesthetics. One of them is Bruce Isaacs, whose book Toward a New Film Aesthetic (Continuum 2008) arrived in my mail today. With chapter headings such as "The Metacinematic Lens" and "A Brief Defense of Bazin," it promises to be an engaging read. -A.G.


December 1, 2008

What is Research in the Visual Arts?

What is Research in the Visual Arts? Obsession, Archive, Encounter, a new publication in the Clark Studies in the Visual Arts edited by Michael Ann Holly and Marquard Smith, is out now on Yale University Press. The book features essays by Ernst van Alphen, Mieke Bal, Marc Gotlieb, Serge Guilbaut, Michael Ann Holly, Akira Mizuta Lippit, W. J. T. Mitchell, Joanne Morra, Sina Najafi, Alexander Nemerov, Celeste Olalquiaga, Alexander Potts, and Reva Wolf. -Ø.V.


December 1, 2008

The last few months have seen the publication of two new studies on the relation between the still and the moving image, first David Campany's Photography and Cinema (Reaktion Books) and then Karen Beckman's anthology Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography (Duke UP), with contributions from, among others, Raymond Bellour, Atom Egoyan, and Tom Gunning. With titles such as Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image (ed. Victor Burgin) and Death 24X a Second (Laura Mulvey) appearing only a few years back (2005), one might consider this a new tendency within image studies. -A.G.