The coextensive creative values of the two-way traffic between commercial film and artistic media practices in light of changing viewing practices
Project Team at Transtechnology Research, University of Plymouth
The assumption that informs the individual project at Plymouth is that the relationship between advertising and experimental film is a complimentary mutual interaction that produces a creative synergy. The research will inquire into the cognitive and discursive dimensions of this interaction and examine the interweaving of cultural and media formats with viewing practices and particular perceptual affordances. It is expected to reveal that the traffic between these constituencies may share ground in particular viewing practices and human perceptual attributes as well as in the exchanges in styles and affordances of communication and the material productivity of the industry. The research will be undertaken by a team and is divided into two subprojects. It will ask (i) if the two-way traffic between advertising and experimental film appeals to a particular conduit of perceptual qualities (such as the affect), which are distinct from, or more amplified versions of, those that are appealed to in mainstream cinema and narrative driven film form. The project will also ask (ii) if these dimensions of a ‘technological imaginary’ (Punt 2000) were anticipated and co-created by artists, designers and pioneering visionaries in the commercial and cultural industries who used innovative AV technologies.
To answer these questions the individual project at Plymouth will identify the discourse networks, protocols, the common ground of industrial and experimental filmmakers and the afforded viewing practices on the basis of archival materials (film and text) and literature study. Although this project will make in-depth examinations of selected case-studies, its conceptual and epistemological impact is expected to have an ahistorical and transdisciplinary significance, and this will also be tested. The project is expected to throw light onto why commercial companies and industries ask experimental filmmakers to work on their advertising films and how, reciprocally, (but possibly more covertly) advertising innovation influences artistic practice. Clarifying this dynamic is expected to reveal whether production and aesthetic focused research into these genres needs to include a consideration of cognition and embodied viewing practices in assessing their cultural significance and exchange between production sectors.
Research update IP01:
The IP01 project has exceeded the initial scope of the IP through a number of emergent materials and concerns. Further archival research and material sharing with partners within the CRP continues to strengthen the initial findings of the IP; that of the perceptual and experiential dimension of a flow between commercial and artistic film practices as traced through the mutual relationships between avant-garde and advertising film.
In the period October 2011 – March 2012 major activities comprised the continuation of primary research and literature review, seminar participation, preparation for presentation and screenings for the TEF expert seminar in Plymouth in January 2012. The TEF Expert Seminar “Screening the Sublime” took place on the 21st of January and included Prof. Malcolm Le Grice and Prof. Anthony Hill, experimental filmmakers who had both worked with the advertising industry at various times. This expert seminar was key for the knowledge exchange between the IPs with a larger constituency of eminent experimental filmmakers and stakeholders from academia, archives and industry.
The research has now isolated a critical mass from both advertising and avant-garde film:
PL/PI (Punt): The PI of IP01 is the CRP lead and has been principally engaged in project management and the overall project cohesion, oversight and organisation and diffusion of ongoing research and networking. His research has focused on the methodological implication of the overall CRP project with a focus on transdisciplinarity (see also the International Network for Transdisciplinarity Research, INTR), research on early television for a chapter in a book (see Blassnigg 2012) and in preparation for the forthcoming book.
The IP01 team participated in the TEF Expert seminar in Vienna, the HERA KT event in Zagreb and the TEF Expert Seminar in Plymouth. It had a number of informal meetings with partners and is working dynamically with the APs who have continued their generous support. The PI has also led the submission of the application for the KT funding (in collaboration with the RF) and is currently preparing the start of this additional project for April 2012.
RF (Blassnigg): The research fellow’s subproject situates the exchange between commercial and advertising film with experimental film practice from the point of view of perception (the active cognitive, emotional engagement of audiences); this is proceeding according to plan. The historical research on interconnections between late 19th century advertising and early cinema has been completed and the focus, as presented at the TEF Expert seminar in Plymouth, has culminated into a study of the empathetic and affective participation of the audiences with audio-visual media, as it has been conceptualised by aesthetic theorists, philosophers and psycho-physiological scientists at the turn of the century. The research findings have brought to light a revision of the so-called avant-garde of the early 20th century arts within the cutting-edge technological and scientific innovations of the late 19th century, which at the same time carry forward an understanding of perception as embodied sensory experience as conceptualised during the Romanticist period. The project exemplifies this interconnection through the analysis of visual works in the arts, sciences and commercial sectors (literature and archival research), and a synthesis of the key discourses. The RF is currently synthesising the research findings and material and preparing for the writing and finalisation of the book chapters. One chapter has already been finalised as part of an anthology edited by the RF (in press with Amsterdam University Press). This study sets up the intellectual framework for the historical and philosophically informed approach of the IP01 (UK), by combining a transdisciplinary investigation into the intersection of technological form, aesthetics, commercial intention and user practices in the engagement with AV media.
PhD (Woodward): The continued archival and online research of avant-garde and experimental film has revealed core examples of work for dissemination alongside advertising film materials, with a particular focus upon the use of the techniques of defamiliarisation, such as minimalism, utilised throughout materials spanning the 1940s to the 70s/80s in the NL and UK. The continued literature survey regarding the perceptual and experiential dimensions of AV media have uncovered a rich stream of material neglected within film and media studies, which carry considerable weight in accounting for the relationship between avant-garde and advertising film opened up by the archival research. The recovery of specific literature from the psychology of perception (esp. Arnheim, Gombrich) has become the staple of an inquiry into the perceptual dimensions of AV material. This has been applied to an alternative framework of art and media through the work of Aby Warburg to provide a rich heritage of an extended literature with which to support and further the findings of the IP. The dissemination of these materials in line with the survey of literature regarding the immaterial and perceptual dimensions of media forms, have opened up a further line of inquiry not foreseen within the original project outline; the similarity/ constancy of these techniques over historical time, specifically from the 1960s-70s to the present day, which permeate both advertising film and avant-garde film. These findings have also opened up an implication of research not foreseen by the initial proposal, that of the re-emergence of interest within the neglected track of the perceptual and experiential within film and media studies, which has taken a materialist approach to analysis. The wealth of findings so far suggest that this neglected track of the perceptual carries considerable weight within certain sectors of the humanities that deals with AV media. A final visit to the video artists archive REWIND in Dundee in March 2012 will provide access to the work of video-artists working in and around television during the 1970s and 80s, which is expected to reveal a continuity with the formal techniques isolated so far. Links with REWIND Italia will also allow access to further video art works from a pan–European perspective.