In 1964, near the height of Cold War nuclear anxiety, millions of Americans flocked to movie theatres to see their own nuclear annihilation hilariously enacted for them in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. How did Kubrick transform one of his time’s most pressing causes of psychological distress into a source of humorous pleasure? To answer this question, I offer a cognitive account of how comic distance works on film, building on research indicating humor to be an evolved response to benign violations. I show that Kubrick consistently optimized for psychological distance in Dr. Strangelove, comparing his narrative and stylistic choices to those of Sidney Lumet in Fail Safe, a contemporaneous film that plays the same essential story for drama instead of laughs.
An Artist in Transformation
Ari Heinrich, Livia Monnet, and Gabriel Remy-Handfield
Lu Yang (陆扬, 1984) is a critically acclaimed new media artist and rising star based in Shanghai, China, who works across film, games, performance, and installation. His work has been exhibited at numerous biennales and exhibitions in China and around the world, including the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. He has collaborated on videos with high-profile rock bands like The 1975, and one of his videos featured in a 2020 fashion show of the Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning.1 Lu Yang has also won prestigious awards, including the BMW Art Journey Culture award in 2019, and Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year award in 2022, and the artist was anthologized in Barbara London’s critical history of video and the digital arts, Video Art: The First Fifty Years (2020), as well as in Dominique Moulon’s Chefs d’oeuvre du 21e siècle : l’art à l’ère digitale (Masterworks of the 21st Century: Art in the Digital Era, 2021). In contemporary art and popular culture, Lu Yang is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
A Case Study in the Mutual Benefit of Combining Social Neuroscience with Film Theory
Cynthia Cabañas, Atsushi Senju, and Tim J. Smith
How do we understand the experiences of characters in a movie? Similar to real life, viewers attribute mental states to characters through a process known as Theory of Mind (ToM). Filmmakers commonly use Dramatic Irony, a narrative device where the audience knows something that at least one characters does not. From a social neuroscience perspective, understanding the cognitive mechanisms that underlie dramatic irony can provide a remarkable opportunity to study ToM in a more ecologically relevant context. While descriptive narrative theories of dramatic irony exist, these have never been studied in relation to contemporary social neuroscience. In this opinion piece, we aim to bring together these two traditionally isolated disciplines to propose a cross-disciplinary research roadmap for investigating the social neuroscience of dramatic irony in cinema.
Vittorio Gallese and Michele Guerra
In the last decades, the contribution of cognitive neuroscience to film studies has been invested in at least three different lines of research. The first one has to do with film theory and history: the new attention, inspired by cognitive neuroscience, to the viewer's brain-body, the sensorimotor basis of film cognition, and the forms of embodied simulation elicited by the cinematic experience has stimulated a profound rethinking of a relevant part of the theoretical discourse on cinema, from the very beginning of the twentieth century to the most recent reflections within cognitive film studies and the phenomenology of film. The second line has to do with the intersubjective relationship between the movie—its style, rhythm, characters, and narrative—and the viewer, and it is characterized by an empirical approach that yields very interesting results, useful for rethinking and problematizing our ideas about editing, camera movements, and film reception. The third line concerns a possible experimental approach to the new life of film, focusing on the digital image, the innovative forms of technological mediation, and the inscription of a new film spectatorship within a completely different medial frame. The goal of this special issue is to offer insights across these lines of research.
Andrew J. Ball
The final issue of Screen Bodies Volume 6 offers readers an ideal combination of the diverse kinds of work we feature, from a macroscopic theory that proposes a new discipline, to a set of articles that rigorously examine a small number of artworks with respect to a shared topic, to a piece of curatorial criticism on a recent media arts exhibition. The articles collected here offer a fitting cross section of the topics and media we cover, discussing such varied subjects as prehistoric art, Pink Film, artificial intelligence, and video art.
Andrew J. Ball and Aleksandr Rybin
The cover of this issue of Screen Bodies features the digital work “Crypto Queen” by restlessperson (Aleksandr Rybin), which the artist has minted as an NFT. We spoke with Rybin about the subject matter of his work, connections between digital and analog art, and the future of NFTs. His work is available on KnownOrigin.
The Affective Modalities of Media and Technology
Andrew J. Ball
The six essays in this in this issue of Screen Bodies explore what we might call the affective modalities of media, that is, each author examines the potential of emerging and traditional media to transform individual and collective relations through the strategic use of embodied affective experience. Three essays in the issue focus on new and emerging technology. In, “The iAnimal Film Series: Activating Empathy Through Virtual Reality,” Holly Cecil examines the potential power of virtual reality to generate empathy in users. In particular, she looks at the way animal advocacy organizations combine documentary film and virtual reality to communicate the embodied experience of living and dying in a factory farm to provoke feeling and widespread opposition to the industry.
From the Editor
Welcome to the first issue of Projections for 2021. After a brief hiatus from printing due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, we are once again publishing online and in print. (A reminder to members of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image [SCSMI]: an online subscription to Projections is now the default inclusion for memberships; members who would prefer to receive hard copies can do so by paying a small surcharge.) I would like to thank the team at Berghahn, especially Janine Latham, for their ongoing support. Thanks too are due to associate editors Aaron Taylor and Tim Smith, along with Katalin Bálint who covered for Tim while he was on leave. Finally, I would like to extend special thanks to our referees in 2020 who willing donated their time to support us during what was a very difficult year for everyone. The names of all referees for 2020 are listed below as an acknowledgment of their service.
Carl Plantinga and Malcolm Turvey
Friends and colleagues of Stephen Prince were shocked and saddened to learn of his death at the age of sixty-five on 30 December 2020 in Blacksburg, Virginia, after a brief illness. Steve was a good friend to many, a prolific scholar with a deep love of cinema, a beloved teacher, a trusted and valued colleague, and a generous mentor to younger scholars.
This interview with Paul Schrader, conducted by Todd Berliner, took place on 19 June 2020 as part of the annual meeting of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI). It has been edited and condensed for clarity. We are grateful to Mr. Schrader for his participation and permission to publish this transcription, to Professor Berliner for conducting the interview, and to Professor Carl Plantinga for organizing it.