This article reexamines the career of Roger Jacoby (1945–1985), an abstract painter and gay liberation activist who became renowned for processing film in his darkened bathtub and for films that featured his partner, Ondine, the Andy Warhol Superstar. Through a consideration of film shorts made in the 1970s and 1980s, the article argues that Jacoby’s principal innovation was the exploration of hand-processing, which resulted in films that resembled abstract expressionist paintings in motion. Additionally, it considers hand-processing as an overlooked, albeit powerful, vehicle for expressing non-normative sexuality in American avant-garde film. It situates Jacoby alongside gay filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Gregory Markopoulos, and Jack Smith, and considers how hand-processed media can generate a “corporealized” spectator and disrupt patterns of filmic illusionism and heterosexist protocols of sexual/gender representation.
Queerness, Tactility, and Abstraction in the Hand-Processed Films of Roger Jacoby
Video Visitation as a Form of Surveillance Technology and Its Effect on Incarcerated Motherhood
This article argues that the implementation of video visitation in correctional facilities is a mechanism of control used to enact punitive measures for regulating mothers who act outside the dominant paradigms of motherhood. Because prisons were designed to surveil and mothers have historically been surveilled by institutions, incarcerated mothers are often overlooked when we discuss the surveillance methods used to keep institutionalized motherhood intact. This article builds on existing scholarship characterizing surveillance technology’s role in criminalizing poor mothers of color, and considers the ways in which surveillance technology is used to normalize these mothers during their incarceration. Applying a Foucauldian framework, this article explores how adapting Video Visitation (VV)—a Skype-like video chat program—enables correctional facilities to extend the role of “watcher” and expand the panoptic gaze, which prompts mother-to-mother surveillance and intensifies self-surveillance. The article concludes by drawing attention to VV’s structure and its ability to expand correctional facilities’ surveillance to the children of incarcerated mothers.
An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Intramusical and Extramusical Meaning
In this article, I first address the question of how musical forms come to represent meaning—that is, the semantics of music—and illustrate an important conceptual distinction articulated by Leonard Meyer in Emotion and Meaning in Music between absolute or intramusical meaning and referential or extramusical meaning through a critical analysis of two recent films. Second, building examples of scholarship around a single piece of music frequently used in film—Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings—I follow the example set by Murray Smith in Film, Art, and the Third Culture and discuss the complementary approaches of the humanities, the behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences to understanding music and its use in film.
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?
Indigenous Algorithmic Embodiment in 3D Worlds
Joshua D. Miner
This article explores the digitality of Indigenous bodies within contemporary 3D video games by mainstream and Indigenous developers. Its analysis relies on a critical examination of digital image synthesis via real-time graphics rendering, which algorithmically generates the visible world onscreen from 3D geometries by mapping textures, generating light and shadow, and simulating perceptual phenomena. At a time when physically based, unbiased rendering methods have made photorealistic styles and open-world structures common across AAA games in general, Indigenous game designers have instead employed simplified “low res” styles. Using bias as an interpretive model, this article unpacks how these designers critique mainstream rendering as a cultural-computational practice whose processes are encoded with cultural biases that frame the relation of player and screen body (avatar). The algorithmic production of digitally modeled bodies, as an essential but masked element of video games, offers a territory where Indigenous developers claim aesthetic presence in the medium.
Climate Change and the Cinematic Ethics of Immersive Filmworlds
Ludo de Roo
In an age of ecological disasters and increasing environmental crisis, the experience of any cinematic fiction has an intrinsic ethical potential to reorient the spectator's awareness of the ecological environment. The main argument is that the spectator's sensory-affective and emphatically involving experience of cinema is essentially rooted in what I call “elemental imagination.” This is to say, first, that the spectator becomes phenomenologically immersed with the projected filmworld by a cinematic expression of the elemental world, and second, much like there is no filmworld without landscapes, the foundational aspect of elements are revealed as preceding and sustaining the narrative and symbolic layers of film experience. While suggesting the existential-ethical potential of this fundamental process of film experience, the second aim of this article is to show that this form of elemental imagination complements more mainstream “environmentalist” films, such as climate change documentaries and blockbuster apocalyptic genre films.
The stories we tell each other, or present via mass media, are important components of the cultural ecology of a place and time. This article argues that 300 (2007), directed by Zach Snyder and based on a comic book series both written and illustrated by Frank Miller, evinces what can legitimately be called a “fascist aesthetic” that depends in large part on the moods and emotions the screen story both represents and elicits. While many other commentators have charged this film with incipient fascism, this article both deepens and expands on the claim by showing how the film's elicitation of affect contributes to this aesthetic. The article argues that the affects represented and elicited in 300, when taken in conjunction with and in relation to the ideology they support, constitute what can be called “fascist affect.”
Notes on the Ethics of Observational Documentary
This article turns to the Maysles brothers’ 1975 film Grey Gardens to problematize the philosophical assumptions at work in debates about objectivity and direct cinema. With a suitable picture of documentary objectivity we can avoid endorsing the claim that no film can be objective or the corollary that only documentaries that reflexively acknowledge the biases of their makers can succeed aesthetically or ethically. Against critics who have attacked Grey Gardens for its problematic claims to objectivity as well as theorists defending it for how it undermines objectivity, I argue that the film's objective treatment of its subjects is part of its aesthetic and ethical achievement. In the context of observational documentary, being objective does not mean taking a purely dispassionate stance toward one's subjects, but treating them without prejudice or moralism and letting them reveal themselves.
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.
Censored Breastfeeding Selfies Reclaim Public Space
Mari E. Ramler
Breastfeeding mothers and their babies are simultaneously in the public sphere and hidden from public view. Although social media has the potential to normalize attitudes toward breastfeeding by increasing visibility, Facebook and Instagram maintain an unpredictable censorship policy toward “brelfies”—female breast selfies—which has undermined progress. Combining Iris Marion Young’s “undecidability” of the breasted experience with Brett Lunceford’s rhetoric of nakedness, this article investigates what breastfeeding mothers communicate online via digital images when they expose their breasts. By deconstructing controversial case studies, this article concludes that brelfies have increased breastfeeding’s accessibility and acceptability in the material world.