Andrew J. Ball
Andrew J. Ball
I am pleased to begin the final issue of the year with a very special announcement. Screen Bodies is modifying its editorial direction and the kind of work it will feature. Many of our readers will already have a sense of these changes, made evident by the new Aims and Scope section we made available online earlier this summer, and by the journal's new subtitle, The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology. As these indicate, the foundational commitments of the journal remain unchanged; however, moving forward will we intensify our focus on new media art, technology studies, and the interface of the sciences and the humanities. We will continue to examine the cultural, aesthetic, ethical, and political dimensions of emerging technologies, but with a renewed attention to such areas as intermediality, human–machine interface, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, generative art, smart environments, immersive and interactive installations, machine learning, biotechnology, computer science, digital culture, and digital humanities. The journal will continue to prioritize matters of the body and screen media, both in terms of representation and engagement, but will emphasize research that critically reexamines those very concepts, as, for example, in the case of object-oriented feminism's nonanthropocentric approach, which asks us to rethink what we mean by bodies and embodiment.
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.
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.
Bodies and Subjects in the Era of Big Data
Andrew J. Ball
Though the authors in this general issue of Screen Bodies engage with a wide array of media, they express a shared group of concerns. Namely, how recent technological advancements and the big data cultures of the Information Age are altering social norms concerning the body, the subject, and intimacy. The first two articles focus on increasingly data-oriented cultures that have given rise to aesthetics derived from quantification and mathematics. In “Qualities Over Quantities: Metric and Narrative Identities in Dataveillant Art Practice,” Amy Christmas examines the “surveillant aesthetic” present in three multimedia art projects—Hasan Elahi's Tracking Transience (2002 to present), Jill Magid's Composite (2005), and Heather Dewey-Hagborg's Stranger Visions (2012–2013). Christmas argues that these artists explore new modes of subject constitution and constraint, and reveal the potential of “dataveillance” to bridge formerly disconnected processes of “quantitative (metric) and qualitative (narrative)” self-formation. Similarly taking up questions of aesthetics, the “quantified self,” and its relation to narrative, Kallie Strode examines the datafication of beauty in “Narrating (Sur)face: The Marquardt Mask and Interdisciplinary Beauty.” Strode reflects on the ethics of quantifying beauty and looks to the plastic surgery method patented by Stephen Marquardt, who has developed a model of facial beauty using the golden ratio. The Marquardt mask, she argues, exemplifies an algorithmic aesthetic that is being applied to the reformation of bodies. Along similar lines, in “Cyborgian Salariats” Stephanie Bender argues that the individual is subordinated and rationalized by modern technology. Bender examines how Sasha Stone's photo essay “Hundred-Horsepower Office” presents an optimistic vision of a new kind of subject, the Weimar-era white-collar worker, a human-machine assemblage that combines the body and modern office technology.
Affect and Empathy
The Phenomenology of Perception and Spectatorship in Screen Media
Andrew J. Ball
Our summer issue begins with a three-part special section on phenomenologies of perception in screen media. These articles focus on novel technological means of representing embodied, lived experience, as well as ways that visual media can impact embodied spectatorship. Each examines media artworks that attempt to represent the seemingly intangible, such as loss, decay, and temporality. The authors in this section offer nuanced and ethically oriented phenomenologies of vision, motion, and time. In “Projecting the Colors of Vision,” Wendy Haslem discusses how artists working in animation, cinema, and virtual reality use visual media to represent the lived experience of sight loss. Haslem analyzes the “haptic optics” of Yoav Brill's Ishihara (2010), Derek Jarman's Blue (1993), and James Spinney and Peter Middleton's Notes on Blindness (2016) to show how these artists use technological tools and experiments with color to represent diverse, embodied experiences of visual disability, and to encourage “empathic awareness” in viewers. In his article, Yifei Sun critiques the analog-contingent theories of movement put forward by Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. Sun modifies aspects of Deleuze's Cinema 1: The Movement-Image to offer a theory that accommodates the qualities of digital film. Sun considers the possibilities for software art to produce what he calls “voyeuristic authorship” and applies his “ontology of decay” to Marc Lafia and Fang-Yu Lin's The Battle of Algiers (2006). In “Aesthetics of Slowness, Aesthetics of Boredom,” Giulia Tronconi examines slow cinema's phenomenology of time. Tronconi offers an incisive reading of Tsai Ming-liang's films I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006) and Days (2020) that reveals how the filmmaker uses “felt duration” as a strategy to cultivate “empathic contemplation” and “respectful observation” in viewers. The author engages with the work of Schopenhauer and Heidegger and with Deleuze's Cinema 2: The Time-Image to explain the political and ethical potential of delaying movement in film.
Touch and Go
The Politics of Hapticity, Affect, and Embodiment
Andrew J. Ball
This issue of Screen Bodies features articles that contribute to a group of closely related critical concerns, namely, the existential and political significance of tacticity, feeling, and the representation of embodied experience. In her article, “Feeling Like Death,” Caitlin Wilson examines the aesthetic strategies Agnes Varda employs in two early films, La Pointe Courte (1955) and Le Bonheur (1965), that emphasize “textures and tactility” in the portrayal of mortality, death, and mourning. Wilson shows how Varda uses haptic imagery and calculated cinematic techniques to convey an experience of grief that is “palpable as well as visible.” Wilson persuasively argues that Varda depicts the embodied feeling of mortality to create a heightened sense of intimacy between the films’ characters. Similarly, in her timely article, “Gut Feelings,” Jennifer Jasmine White argues that Sheena Patel challenges the trend towards emotional indifference or “flatness” in the emerging genre of “internet novels.” In contrast to the affectless, numb, and apathetic heroine characteristic of novels like Lauren Oyler's Fake Accounts (2021) and Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), Patel's I'm a Fan (2022) features a more realistically emotional protagonist. White argues that the novel functions as an intervention that opposes affective indifference and the political apathy it inspires. She writes that most examples of the so-called internet novel, that is, literature that focuses on social media, influencer culture, and characters who are chronically online, suggest highly mediated social experience leads to emotional and political malaise. Patel rejects this trend and instead centers “the feeling body,” the embodied experience of life online, and the political agency it fosters.
About the Cover
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.