Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Material Responses to Immaterial Things

Catherine Moore The Material in the Immaterial - an archive of 1930s films from Angola and Namibia and contemporary physical and material responses.

Catherine Moore worked as a filmmaker before her return to academia, and so created a recording to accompany her paper. This means she had to time it well - and she did!

How does the immaterial become material? Working on a seventy year old archive of ethnographic film at the Powell-Cotton Museum, she studies how this apparently immaterial data has important haptic qualities and how it manifests itself.

Returning the archive footage the countries in which it was made in 2008, she shows how people responded to the images in so much more than words, the embodied response and 'enactive memory' becoming the focus of her research. Vision, as Merleau-Ponty writes, is 'palpitation with a look'. Visuality is an embodied response to the world, and embodiment is not subordinate to linguistic response. Nor are gestures simply momentary - they are part of a wider experiential and mental whole.

Through a video montage, Catherine aims to challenge widespread notions of ethographic film as purely 'pornography of distance', and through the comparison of the Efundula coming of age ceremony, break down that gap which is sometimes created between the viewer and the viewed subject, by siting the original film next to more modern footage, thus imbuing the older material with contemporary relevance.

This montage encourages the viewer to watch differently, in a more embodied way, to view the recordings as different in their material nature. This, like Mariano's presentation, throws the gaze once more on the process of creation and it's creator. Thus we can come to a memetic, multi-sensory understanding of that we consider 'other' to ourselves.

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