The present relations between screens and the human body invoke a genealogy that should help us to understand their status. However, we suggest that this historical-genealogical work shall be matched with a more comprehensive anthropology of screen experiences. By mobilizing the notion of “arche-screen,” we identify the transhistorical principle underlying such experiences with the showing/concealing and the exposing/protecting function pairs—the latter exceeding the visual dimension and involving our bodily relations with the environment. These function pairs, which are rooted in our body and make it into our proto-screen, can be enhanced via their externalization as appropriate technical objects. By highlighting the prostheticization of skin in some prehistoric artistic techniques and the role of the veil from the Old Testament to Leon Battista Alberti’s treatise On Painting, we stress that the interweaving of the above-mentioned screen functions is a constant feature of human experiences and that its thematic variations are traceable in more recent screen forms.
Functions and Technical Objects
Mauro Carbone, Graziano Lingua, and Sarah De Sanctis
Casual Virtuality and the Self-Mediation of Laura Paolini’s Constraining Aesthetics
Constraining aesthetics are central to Laura Paolini’s artistic corpus, involving the relationship of her body to everyday objects in confined spaces during the time of the pandemic. Paolini creates a self-reflexive simulacrum of artistic experience of body, objects, and space through the interface of digital screens. This article seeks to elaborate how the elements of body, objects, and space in performance, video, and installation art are part of a screenic embodiment when read through the concepts of habit (Walter Benjamin), proprioception (Brian Massumi), allegory (Craig Owens), mediation (Fredric Jameson), and documentation (Amelia Jones).
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.
The Female Reception of Oshima Nagisa’s International Co-Productions
Oshima Nagisa’s international co-productions, which include the pornographic film In the Realm of the Senses and the war drama with homoerotic themes Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, were noted as the emergence of his female audience. How did this reported demographic change of the audience from male-centered to female-oriented relate to sexualized bodies on screen? In their roundtable discussion about sexual liberation, feminists found emancipatory power from patriarchal society in the face of the actor who played Abe Sada. Girls praised queerness that disrupted heteronormativity in David Bowie’s performance in their film reviews. Focusing on the reception of the films within feminists’ discourse and girls’ culture, this article argues that the female audience created political significance of the films by interpreting the bodies as embodied liberation.
Otherness, Responsibility, and Visions of Future Technologies in Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad and Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein
Amal Al Shamsi
Frankenstein’s existential dilemmas of humanity and science have led the novel to be upheld as a premonition of the dangers of overreaching technological advancements, a theme that seems more relevant than ever in the current age. Out of the “creative progeny” of Mary Shelley’s work, Ahmed Saadawi and Jeanette Winterson’s invocations of Frankenstein stand out as they reimagine the text through distinctive political turning points, questioning how horrors of the past can be reworked to fit new terrors. Their respective works, Frankenstein in Baghdad and Frankissstein, contemplate the future of the human body as altered by technology whether incited by warfare or by the introduction of artificial intelligence. Although different in terms of geographical setting and genre, both texts are connected in their reinvestigation of Frankenstein’s core concerns of otherness as related to gender and race, responsibility, as well as the future of humanity and literature. Within their works, the relationships of creator and creation, as well as the individual and society, transcend the supernatural elements, revealing a core anxiety about the future of humanity.
Slavery, the Black Female Body, and the Uses of Sexual Violence in Haile Gerima’s Sankofa
In Haile Gerima’s Sankofa (1993), a film that confronts the horrors of slavery, sexual violence is a central and repetitive trope. In this article, I explore how Gerima employs representations of rape as a filmic strategy to expose the brutality of slavery and its aftermath as well as to illustrate the magnitude of Black women’s tenacity in the face of subjugation. I argue that, while the visual repetition of the white male slaveholder’s sexual violation of the Black female body is a dangerously problematic trope, Gerima’s film reenacts the terrible banality of sexual exploitation of the enslaved and significantly performs a conscious objectification to make visible the history of white supremacist violence and Black women’s nuanced and complex forms of survival, resistance, and fugitivity.
Pavel Pyś Reflects on The Body Electric
The Body Electric was catalyzed by the frustration of seeing a group of artists of roughly the same age exhibited predominantly within the context of their own generation.2 The majority were working with new technologies (such as 3D printing, motion capture, avatars, computer-generated animations), and many were grouped under the moniker “post-internet art,” which, by the time the exhibition had opened, had become an exhausted term with little currency (see Droitcour 2014). The impetus was to age these emerging and mid-career artists by creating an intergenerational family tree, elevating overlooked voices and demonstrating a healthy skepticism toward the novelty of technology. The through line connecting the artists on view was a shared engagement with the body and its mediated image, raising important questions about representation, especially in terms of identity, embodiment, race, gender, sexuality, class, and belonging. Like Alice disappearing through the mirror, these artists nimbly cross the boundaries separating the physical world and its space on-screen, blurring 2D and 3D, real and virtual, analog and digital. As these distinctions melt away, how are artists questioning the present and warning of what lies around the corner?
Sights and Sounds of the Cinematic Baroque in Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs
This article adopts the category of the cinematic baroque not as a marker of the culturally low, but as a tool of film-philosophical analysis to examine how Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs (2008) probes limits of representation and spectatorial experience. I approach the ambivalent functions of bodily, architectural, and filmic thresholds that simultaneously mediate containment and transgression. In this vein, I read the excesses of cinematic violence in Martyrs using Saige Walton’s phenomenological model of “baroque flesh” in dialogue with theories of enfolded structures of affective intensity that resist “teleological spectatorship.” Drawing these distinct perspectives together, I consider the visual and aural strategies deployed in Martyrs—from the home invasion to the “screaming point”—to examine the formal characteristics of this film’s treatment of screened violence.
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.
Otaku Movement and the Joan of Arc Effect in Type-Moon's Transhistorical Anime Ecology
David John Boyd
This article examines the temporal and phenomenological philosophies of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Paolo Virno, specifically in relation to the transmedia franchises of the Japanese game studio, Type-Moon. Against linear, national, and majoritarian grand narratives of the historical, the otaku artists, writers, and developers responsible for the Fate series postulate whether it is possible to harness the intense and affective forces described by Jay Lampert as “the Joan of Arc effect” in the blink of an eye or in the palm of your hand. Through a philosophical and formal analysis of three spinoff series from the Fate franchise, this article investigates how Type-Moon's deployment of the “anime machine” encourages its viewers and users to see and feel the abundance of flowing “nomadic memories” or counter-historical visions from the perspective of minor populations. Through this highly embodied and tactile experience of transhistorical (un)becomings, Type-Moon's series offer a deterritorialized, post-national world-image of the otaku database which mediates between the overloading affects of becoming-woman and the digitally encoded logic of transversal through the frames, windows, interfaces, devices, platforms, and bodies that constitute Type-Moon's vibrant anime ecology.