PhD Defense 10 May, 2pm

I am very happy to be able to announce the upcoming defense of my PhD dissertation. March 15, the PhD Committee approved my dissertation and with that also the defense date. In the Netherlands, the defense usually takes place approximately two months after the approval of the dissertation and is held as a public ceremony.

The defense will take place on Wednesday 10 May, 2pm at the University of Amsterdam’s Agnietenkapel. On the committee will be  – apart from my supervisor and promotor Professor Julia Noordegraaf (UvA) – the following distinguished members:

Prof. dr. Vinzenz Hediger, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Prof. dr. Frank Kessler, Universiteit Utrecht

Prof. dr. Barbara Flückiger, Universität Zurich

Dr. Eef Masson, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Prof. dr. Patricia Pisters, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Prof. dr. Charles Jeurgens, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Prof. dr. Giovanna Fossati, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Below is a glimpse of the cover of the printed version prepared for the defense. The cover image is a so-called summary visualisation of the film L’obsession du souvenir – a Gaumont production from 1913 starring Suzanne Grandais – which I created with the scientific visual analytics software ImageJ. There is more info about how and why this visualisation was created here.

More info on the event can be found at the University of Amsterdam’s and the Research School for Media Studies’ websites here and here.

Cover_Film_History_in_the_Making

Update: Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography

Since 2014 I have been putting together a bibliography of scholarly literature which in one way or another addresses aspects of using and analyzing digitised archival film or film-related sources in research. In particular I have been interested in how scholars currently recast old traditions of film historical research or imagine new ones with digital techniques and tools of analysis. As the bibliography kept growing bigger I began to feel it was necessary to turn it into a thematic bibliography which in a clearer way shows which publications belong to different research traditions. To achieve this, I have recently grouped the publications into a few categories – eight in total. The categories are:

  1. Audiovisal Essays, Found Footage and Remix Culture
  2. CD-Roms, Historical-Critical DVD Editions and Annotation
  3. Stylometry and Cinemetrics
  4. New Cinema History, Databases and GIS
  5. Online Collections, Presentation and Curation
  6. Digital Film Restoration and Historiography
  7. Scientific Visualization, Visual Studies and Epistemology
  8. Digital Exhibition Design and Museology

While I find these categories fairly accurate and productive they are of course debatable, but this is how I felt the publications should be grouped together at this point. I think most of them speak for themselves but my choices of which publications to include in which sections do perhaps require some explanation. On the most basic level, it is a condition for me that a publication offers – in some way – a reflection on film historiography by discussing either a theory, model, method or representational practice which is computer-based or which uses digitised sources or digital means of analytical intervention. As a consequence many publications which discuss these categories/themes but which do not address digitisation or computerised methods have been left out. For instance for section one on “Audiovisual Essays, Found Footage and Remix Culture” there are many essays and monographs which in the past decades have dealt with the interrelation between filmic appropriation practices and film historiography but which fall out of my bibliography’s scope because they do not discuss for instance digital video editing techniques or the use of digitised film collections. The same goes for a section such as “Stylometry and Cinemetrics” which does leave out some of the fundamental reference literature for statistical style analysis from BC (Before Computers) in favour of more recent publications. Of course, it goes without saying that the bibliography is not comprehensive (suggestions and comments are more than welcome on c.g.olesen_at_uva.nl !).

When reorganising the bibliography I also updated all the links associated with the publications, when applicable, so they should – at least for the moment – be working fine and forward you to additional, useful information. In addition, this update provided an opportunity for me to add more publications which have recently come to my attention. One title which I am particularly excited about is the recent monograph by film scholar and archivist Adelheid Heftberger (Austrian Filmmuseum), Kollision der Kader – Dziga Vertovs Filme, die Visualisierung ihrer Strukturen und die Digital Humanities, on the computer-based visualization of structures within Dziga Vertov’s films. This is the outcome of Heftberger’s fascinating doctoral research and the Digital Formalism project in which she meticulously annotated the shots in a group of Vertov films using the open source software Anvil. By doing this it became possible to visualize structures in Vertov’s work using different kinds of scientific, visual analytics (such as MatLab and ImageJ). In her book she discusses the broader implications of these methods both for Vertov research and for the digital humanities. The book is published in a new series on Film Heritage (Filmerbe) directed by Professor in Audiovisual Heritage Chris Wahl at the Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf in Potsdam. Somewhat related – but fundamentally different in its approach and scope – I have also added and recently acquired film scholar André Habib’s book La Main gauche de Jean-Pierre Léaud (Les Éditions du Boréal, 2015). Habib’s book aspires to combine a more anarchic, cinephile tradition of film appreciation with contemporary, representational practices opening with a reflection on the evocative potential of the beautiful visualizations of among other films Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (USA, 1960) created by San Francisco-based artist Jim Campbell. Made with ImageJ techniques (or, at least entirely reminiscent of scientific visualizations created with ImageJ techniques) Habib, I think, may with his book possibly be opening a path for film scholars who draw on cinephile theory to historicize films and who wish to define and appropriate such visualizations to their own ends within this tradition. It undoubtedly promises an exciting read in the near future!

kollisionderkader

Data-Driven Film History at the FIAT World Conference 2014, Amsterdam

I am currently busy working on the project ‘Data-Driven Film History: a Demonstrator of EYE’s Jean Desmet Collection’ which is a small pilot project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) running from September 2014 till May next year. The aim of the project is to develop a demonstrator tool which proposes new ways for scholars to research and visualize the Jean Desmet Collection held at the EYE Film Institute Netherlands, a collection which has been almost completely digitized.

The Jean Desmet collection is an immensely important collection, recognized as UNESCO World Heritage in 2011, which contains approximately 950 films from cinema’s early years from between 1907-1916, 2000 posters, 700 posters as well as some 120.000 business documents. It is a collection which especially in the 1980s and 1990s through screenings at the silent film festival Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone in  Italy made film scholars aware of the great variety and richness of for example film colours in the silent era, and has been crucial in understanding the cinema distribution networks in the Netherlands as well as in Northern Europe. The Dutch film historian Ivo Blom who is one of the most knowledgeable scholars on the collection has written in more detail on this in blog posts and in book form (which can be downloaded for free!) here and here.

It is exactly the aspects of film distribution and colour that we wish our tool to address and which we are currently figuring out how could be done best. I will write about this later in more depth, when we have gone beyond the phase of deciding on the research design and determining exactly how the programming will be done. Yet, for those who cannot wait and are eager to know more about our project, I will be co-presenting a paper on the research questions and methods we have lined up so far, tomorrow at the world conference of the International Federation of Television Archives (FIAT) at the Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam with my colleague Jasmijn van Gorp from Utrecht University. The paper is co-written with Eef Masson (University of Amsterdam), Giovanna Fossati (EYE Film Institute Netherlands/University of Amsterdam) and Julia Noordegraaf (University of Amsterdam) and a livestream can be followed here, so there is no excuse for not tuning in at 3.30 pm CET!

FIATconferencebanner

PhD Defence Sonia Campanini/Guest lecture Barbara Flueckiger

The upcoming week will be eventful for students and scholars with an interest in issues of film preservation and presentation in Amsterdam.

Thursday 17 April Sonia Campanini, joint PhD Candidate of the Università degli studi di Udine and the University of Amsterdam, will be defending her dissertation on the preservation and presentation of film sound with particular attention to sound practices of the silent era. Info on the defence can be found here.

Sonia gave a very fascinating guest lecture on her research on among other things Gaumont’s Chronophone in a seminar series on research methodology which I co-taught in early 2012 for the students of the Preservation and Preservation of the Moving Image MA, so I am particularly excited about seeing the final outcome of her research very soon.

The dissertation committee will include among others Barbara Flueckiger, Professor of Film Studies at the University of Zürich in Switzerland. At the Media Studies department of the University of Amsterdam we saw this as a nice occasion to invite Flueckiger to give a guest lecture on her extensive research on the historiography of film color, her Timeline of Historical Film Colors  and the broader activities of her Diastor research team. As I have had  the responsibility of setting up that lecture and can see that there are still a few places available, I post the info on it below for people who might be interested in joining.

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Vogel

Description of Hermann Wilhelm Vogel’s color system in the Timeline of Historical Film Colors developed by Professor Barbara Flueckiger at the University of Zürich.

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Tuesday 15 April between 5.15pm – 7pm, the Media Studies department of the University of Amsterdam will be welcoming Barbara Flueckiger, Professor at the University of Zürich, for a guest lecture on digital film restoration and film color historiography.

The lecture will focus on Professor Flueckiger’s current research in the framework of the project DIASTOR Bridging the Gap Between Analog Film History and Digital Technology (http://diastor.ch/), and its recent involvement in the restoration of Robert Wiene’s “DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI” (1920). After the lecture there will be a Q&A and an open discussion.

The lecture will take place at the following location:

Potgieter zaal, Universiteitsbibliotheek
Singel 425
1012 WP Amsterdam

A map of the University Library’s ground floor where the Potgieter zaal is located can be found here:http://cf.uba.uva.nl/nl/rondleiding/

Attendance is open to interested students and researchers but registration is necessary as the number of seats available is limited. You can register by contacting Christian Olesen on the following address: c.g.olesen@uva.nl

SCMS 2014

I am currently attending the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. The 55th of its kind which is taking place in Seattle this year. Yesterday I gave a talk to a small but dedicated crowd on video essays as a (possible) research practice in film historical scholarship and was overall quite happy with how it went. You can read the abstract for my presentation below.

So, now it is time to enjoy a wealth of great talks and projections until Sunday. I am especially looking forward to Saturday’s screening of Harry Smith’s Heaven and Earth Magic (1957/1962) together with a program of classic experimental films by among others Jud Yalkut. The remaining days will also be a time for meeting people with whom I share research interests and who I do not get a chance to see often, and of course to drink coffee; Seattle is full of great cafés!

scms seattle

From Film Historiography to Videography: Film Historical Video Essays as Scolarly Research Practice 

Recently established online academic journals and video communities such as Frames Cinema Journal and Audiovisualcy testify to an increased tendency to research film history in the form of video essays. While films on film history have existed in the forms of compilation films since the 1920s as a means of discerning aesthetically significant films, and in filmic appropriation art and documentaries since the late 1960s at a nexus with academic film history, the proliferation of scholarly video essays indicates that audiovisual film history is gaining momentum as a conventional scholarly practice. With attention to this development, this paper adresses the need for developing standards for assessing scholarly video essays and critically evaluate the perspectives they establish on film history. The aim of raising such a discussion the paper stresses, is to facilitate the further integration of the scholarly video essay into academia as a research practice. To answer how this could be done, the paper proposes a conceptual avenue which combines meta-historical perspectives from scholarship on filmic appropration art and current debates in digital humanities on the evaluation of digital scholarship.

To bridge these two perspectives the paper takes its cue from the recent introduction to digital scholarship, Digital_Humanities (MIT Press, 2012), co-authored by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner and Jeffrey Schnapp which invokes the subjective filmmaking of Chris Marker and Errol Morris as a conceptual model for evaluating time-based digital scholarship1. Departing from their proposition, the paper reflects upon the intersection between scholarly film historiography and independent filmmaking, thinking along the lines of film scholar Bart Testa’s conception of filmic appropriations as ”pedagogical interventions” applicable for teaching in film studies curricula (Testa, 1992) and the meta-historical perspective developed by film scholar Christa Blümlinger on the appropration works of Jean-Luc Godard, Ken Jacobs and Alexander Kluge (Blümlinger, 2009). Mobilizing key concepts from these scholars’ works such as moment, materiality and re-enactment in relation to examples of video essays from Frames and Audiovisualcy, the paper expounds on these concepts’ applicability as scholarly standards for evaluating film historical video essays, to conclusively propose a new direction for their further integration into scholarly practice.

Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography

With this post I introduce a new page which I have added to my blog called ‘Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography’. Moving deeper into my research I have become increasingly aware of how little literature exists specifically on the theory and practice of digital methods in film historical research. For that reason I thought it was particularly urgent to try to create an overview of the existing literature, and to create an awareness about this still somewhat limited discussion, first of all for my own sake but potentially also for scholars with similar interests. Hopefully, it may engender additional suggestions from readers, which I may have overlooked.

The page will be updated each time I stumble upon something relevant, so make sure to check it regularly if you, like I am, are particularly interested in this topic. Should the page grow significantly I might consider restructuring it into a thematically structured bibliography, but as for now I did not see a good reason for doing that.

For the sake of simplification I have avoided including general literature on film historiography and film archiving history as it would mean listing a very large number of film historical reference works. In other words, the aim here is not to surpass the effort of Jean Mitry’s Bibliographie internationale du cinéma et de la télévision (1966-1968) but rather to create a growing list of writings on the digital research practices that are currently emerging.

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A Numerate Film History

Detail from the flyer accompanying the symposium “A Numerate Film History? Cinemetrics Looks at Griffith, Sennett and Chaplin (1909-1917)” at the University of Chicago

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I have written a little introduction to the bibliography which reads as follows:

With digitisation of film heritage occurring at an increasing pace, the past decade has seen an array of digital formats of access and reuse emerge, in scholarly as well as in museum contexts, to become central to the production, contemplation and validation of film historical knowledge: video essays, data visualizations, DVDs, online platforms and museum installations are formats that increasingly permeate sites of film historical knowledge.

As pointed out by film and media scholars Vincenz Hediger (2008), Malte Hagener (2011) and Katherine Groo (2012) with regard to this development, it becomes increasingly urgent to understand how and if the appropriations of digitised films in these formats confirm, challenge or reformulate understandings of film history.

Addressing this debate and the concerns it expresses, I have established the bibliography below with the aim of enhancing the overview of emerging uses of digital methods in film historical research amongst film and media scholars. I have called it “Digital Film Historiography – A Bibliography” to align it to the sub-field of “Digital Historiography” which has existed in the discipline of history for well over a decade and has already seen the publication of several pioneering monographs. As historian David J. Staley puts it in his 2003-monograph Computers, Visualization and History – How New Technologies Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past:

Without our recognizing them as such, visual secondary sources do exist in our profession in the form of diagrams, maps, films, dramatic recreations, and museum displays. While these visual secondary sources surround us daily, historians accord them supplementary status to the ‘real history’ we believe is written (p. 59-60)

My hope in making this bibliography is that the aforementioned formats can indeed be recognized as secondary sources of film history and contribute to the scholarly discussion about their theoretical implications. The bibliography is updated regularly.

Enjoy!