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).
Steven Willemsen, Mario Slugan, Elke Weissmann, and Lucy Bolton
Marina Grishakova and Maria Poulaki, eds. Narrative Complexity: Cognition, Embodiment, Evolution. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019, 468 pp., $75.00 (hardcover). ISBN: 9780803296862.
Maarten Coëgnarts. Film as Embodied Art: Bodily Meaning in the Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. Brookline: Academic Studies Press, 2019, xxxv + 228 pp., $120 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-64469-112-0. [Also available for free under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license with support from Knowledge Unlatched, ISBN: 978-1-64469-113-7].
Marsha F . Cassidy. Television and the Embodied Viewer: Affect and Meaning in the Digital Age. New York: Routledge, 2020, 216 pp., $155.00, ISBN: 9781138240766.
Sarah Cooper. Film and the Imagined Image. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019, 208 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474452793.
The article sets out to discuss disruptions of the embodied flow of movie perception triggered by foregrounded categorical-thematic patterns. First, categorical-thematic patterns are framed in a cognitive perspective and tied to categorical (or parallel) information processing as opposed schematic (sequential). I argue that the former are not prototypical of embodied movie perception and tend to be disruptive if foregrounded, as they are more prevalent in art cinema. Next, I indicate how categorical-thematic patterns may encourage a type of non-habitual pattern recognition producing a number of emotional and aesthetic effects: delight at pattern isolation, wonder emotions, emotional focus of a story theme, and intensification or modulation of global and empathetic emotions. Finally, I turn to illustrate these points using Pan’s Labyrinth, a film that systematically foregrounds categorical-thematic patterns yet naturalizes them, alleviating disruption of movie perception. This, I believe, marks an effective strategy of importing avant-garde film techniques into popular cinema.
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.
Morally flawed antiheroes in TV and film, such as Dexter Morgan and Dirty Harry, often inspire sympathetic engagement from audiences. Media scholars have argued that it is these antiheroes’ status as fictional characters that allows audiences to flout their moral principles and side with the antiheroes. Against this view, I argue that these problematic sympathies can be explained without reference to a special fictional attitude. Human morality is sensitive not only to abstract moral principles but also to the concrete motives and situations of an individual moral agent, and the motives and situations of the sympathetic antihero very often seem exculpatory.
Performance and Scenic Composition in the Cinema of William Wyler
The work of Hollywood director William Wyler offers a rewarding case for studying the narrative purposes of rhythmic variations. Film critics have traditionally viewed Wyler’s scenes in terms of depth of field but by looking for elements that weaken his pace, we can explain his acclaimed work as the result of how performance and picture jointly serve rhythmic purposes. My study distinguishes between two kinds of narrative arrests in Wyler’s films, 1935–1970. The unfocused arrests are critical for Wyler’s art and depend on actors’ techniques for adding emphasis and Wyler’s techniques for creating pictorial diversions. By halting dramatic progression during key scenes, Wyler seemingly expands the characters’ worlds with meanings in the spectator’s eyes. Finally, I show how changing technologies and narrative norms constrained Wyler’s later work.
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.