I am pleased to introduce the penultimate entry in our series of four issues featuring “Screen Shots” curated by a multidisciplinary group of guest editors. Each of these special sections has taken up a vital line of inquiry. The first focused on “Screening Indigenous Bodies” (4.1) and was followed by our issue on “Screening Surveillance” (4.2). In the current “Screen Shot,” edited by Wibke Straube of the Centre for Gender Studies, Karlstad University, our authors address the critically relevant topic of “Screening Non-Binary and Trans Bodies.” As Dr. Straube has offered introductory remarks on this section, I will limit my comments to the three general articles in this issue.
Andrew J. Ball
Visibility and Screen Politics after the Transgender Tipping Point
This past decade has witnessed not only an increase in trans and non-binary visibility in screen cultures, but also a growing social awareness concerning the increase in violence against trans and non-binary people. While trans and non-binary people have become more recognized and visible in Western society, at the same time they have also been scrutinized with growing intensity.
This issue of Projections features an impressive diversity of research questions and research methods. In our first article, Timothy Justus investigates the question of how film music represents meaning from three distinct methodological perspectives—music theory, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Following a model of naturalized aesthetics proposed by Murray Smith in Film, Art, and the Third Culture (see the book symposium in Projections 12.2), Justus argues for the importance of “triangulating” the methods and approaches of each field—more generally, of the humanities, the behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences. Our second article, by Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini, and András Bálint Kovács, also explores the effects fostered by a specific formal device of cinema—in this case, shot-scale. And again, distinct research methods are put to complementary use. Raz and colleagues’ starting point is a desire to empirically test a hypothesis advanced by art historians Alois Riegl and Heinrich Wölfflin. To do this, they apply a machine-learning model to neurological data supplied by a set of fMRI scans. Methodology is the explicit topic of our third article, by Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Juri-Petri Valtanen, and Pertti Saariluoma, who outline a new mixed (qualitative and quantitative) method approach to the study of how feature films elicit viewer interest.
Teacher. Mentor. Dissertation committee member. Advocate. Colleague. Friend. These are the many roles that Ed Branigan filled in my life over the eleven-plus years I was privileged to know him. However, merely listing these roles does not really do justice to his impact on me, because it leaves out the kindness, generosity, wit, and enthusiasm that he always had in store for me in all of our interactions, be they post-lecture dinners together in Santa Barbara, movie marathons at his house in Oak Park, California, or, as was more and more common over the last few years, e-mail messages.
This is a special issue on surveilled bodies, with five articles guest edited by Ira Allen, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies at Northern Arizona University and Assistant Editor of Screen Bodies. The question here is one of how screens and bodies are brought together through surveillance (visual and otherwise), how surveillance hails the body to attend to it (beckons us to catch a glimpse of here or there) even as it hides itself from the body, working to be noticed yet remaining unnoticed, in order to keep us “on our toes.” In this light, surveillance is not only about investigating, examining, logging, and controlling the body but also about bringing the body into being as a body-to-be-surveilled, about interpolating the body into becoming evermore surveillable in ever-more granular ways.
An Account from the 13th Asian Cinema Studies Society Conference
Tito R. Quiling Jr.
It’s just past 10:00 am on a humid Monday in Singapore, and the streets seemed to have settled after a workday rush. My walk from Arab Street to McNally Street was rather placid, punctuated by moments at intersections, and surrounded by people heading somewhere. Minutes later, I was looking up at the postmodern buildings of LASALLE College of the Arts—a panorama of reinforced concrete, glass, tiles, and steel gleaming under the morning sun. In cinema, spaces and landscapes are primary features. At times, the setting goes beyond the overarching narrative, as it conveys its own story. Given their impact, Stephen Heath (2016) infers that a process occurs in identifying spatial connections to the characters, since “organizing, guiding, sustaining and reestablishing the space are the factors that reveal this process.” The audience absorbs the familiar images or experiences onscreen. However, embodied objects of varying iterations contribute to how environments in films are concretized. On this note, one can ask: in what ways do filmic environments thus project narratives and discourses?
Phenomenology Encounters Cognitivism
Since the early 1990s, phenomenology and cognitivism have become influential strands of inquiry in film theory. Phenomenological approaches remain focused on descriptive accounts of the embodied subject’s experiential engagement with film, whereas cognitivist approaches attempt to provide explanatory accounts in order to theorize cognitively relevant aspects of our experience of movies. Both approaches, however, are faced with certain challenges. Phenomenology remains a descriptive theory that turns speculative once it ventures to “explain” the phenomena upon which it focuses. Cognitivism deploys naturalistic explanatory theories that can risk reductively distorting the phenomena upon which it focuses by not having an adequate phenomenology of subjective experience. Phenomenology and cognitivism could work together, I suggest, to ground a pluralistic philosophy of film that is both descriptively rich and theoretically productive. From this perspective, we would be better placed to integrate the cultural and historical horizons of meaning that mediate our subjective experience of cinema.
This issue acknowledges the work of Rosalie Fish (Cowlitz), Jordan Marie Daniels (Lakota), and the many others who refuse to ignore the situation that has allowed thousands of Indigenous women and girls to be murdered or go missing across North America without the full intervention of law enforcement and other local authorities. As Rosalie Fish said in an interview regarding her activism on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG),
"I felt a little heavy at first just wearing the paint. And I think that was . . . like my ancestors letting me know . . . you need to take this seriously: “What you’re doing, you need to do well.” And I think that’s why I felt really heavy when I first put on my paint and when I tried to run with my paint at first. . . . I would say my personal strength comes from my grandmas, my mom, my great grandma, and I really hope that’s true, that I made them proud." (Inland Northwest Native News interview)