Monday, 9 November 2009

In-between-isms: Winnicottian film, media, and cultural studies

'As the first credit [of Michael Haneke's 1989 film Der Siebente Kontinent/The Seventh Continent] rolls, the view shifts to the inside of a car [as above]. It is a shot from the rear: a man and woman are seated in the front, towards the left and right edges of the frame, their heads silhouetted against the windscreen. Immobile, silent, they stare straight ahead, neither speaking to nor looking at one another. With its hold on that image, Haneke’s long take does its work. Taking its time, The Seventh Continent centres its audience in the space between two, in the place where a look, or a word, that might happen does not [...]'Vicky Lebeau, 'The arts of looking: D.W. Winnicott and Michael Haneke', Screen, 50:1 Spring 2009
'Part of [Vicky] Lebeau's work [previewing her forthcoming book The Arts of Seeing: the cinema of Michael Haneke (Reaktion)] focuses on Haneke's use of absence and duration in his ubiquitous lingering shots, which Haneke himself has suggested (echoed by Lebeau) are not so much meditations on death, but unlived lives. Lebeau illustrated by examining the opening sequence of The Seventh Continent (1989), in which the camera is fixed in the back seat of a car, looking forward through the windscreen as the vehicle travels through a car wash. In her analysis of this scene and Haneke's work in general, Lebeau evoked Donald Winnicott's discussion of infantile gazing and the horror of the reflection-less specular image, and ultimately challenges us to consider cinema itself as a form of aural and visual thinking.' Davide Caputo, 'Conference Report: Emergent Encounters in Film Theory: Intersections between Psychoanalysis and Philosophy', Scope, Issue 14, June 2009
'Freud did not have a place in his topography of the mind for the experience of things cultural. He gave new value to inner psychic reality, and from this came a new value for things that are actual and truly external. Freud used the word "sublimation" to point the way to a place where cultural experience is meaningful, but perhaps he did not get so far as to tell us where in the mind cultural experience is.'  D.W. Winnicott in The Location of Cultural Experience
"The concept of transitional phenomena, introduced by the object-relations psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, stems from his ‘discovery’ of transitional objects--the ubiquitous first possessions of young children that belong both to the child and to the outside world, and which occupy an intermediate position between fantasy (inner world) and reality (outer world). Importantly, while transitional objects have a physical existence, they are also pressed into the service of inner reality. Winnicott used the term ‘potential space’ to refer to the intermediate zone inhabited by transitional phenomena. For the child, playing inhabits this ‘intermediate zone’, which is consequently significant in developmental processes. Winnicott argued that this grounds all kinds of adult cultural experience, which is located in ‘the potential space between the individual and the environment’, a space of ‘maximally intense experiences’.
     This model has much to offer by way of understanding of how we might engage with the world at a public level without setting aside our inner lives, our emotions and psychical investments. In the context of T-PACE, it offers new directions for the cultural researcher interested in exploring interaction between the psychical and the social/cultural, between our inner (psychical) and our outer (material) worlds, aiding understanding of key aspects of the way we relate to, consume, produce and use cultural resources, cultural objects and texts of different kinds." Annette Kuhn, T-PACE Project website (hyperlinks added by FSFF)
'Roger Silverstone’s approach to television relies on the insights of D.W. Winnicott for whom the social subject emerges in the “potential space” between the individual and the environment in relation to a transitional object. It is here, in this potential space, that the subject acquires agency, attempts to fulfill its needs, and begins to master space. That process, however, is never complete, and the subject spends much of its life searching for “ontological security” through the appropriation of other transitional objects—such as television—which help ground its experience of time and place and satisfy its needs and desires.' Bryan Ray Fruth, Media Reception, Sexual Identity and Public Space, PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, August 2007 (citing Roger Silverstone, Television and Everyday Life (New York: Routledge, 1994), 9 and 10-12)
Today, Film Studies For Free focuses its attention on some of the highly promising turns taken by the particular branches of film, media, and cultural studies that have been inspired and informed by the work of the British object-relations theorist and psychoanalyst Donald Woods Winnicott.

As FSFF's links-list below testifies, there is an extremely rich vein of openly-accessible Winnicottian film and media research and scholarship online, much of it, happily, authored by the pioneers in, and/or champions of, this field, including the late Roger Silverstone, Annette Kuhn, Victor Burgin, Susannah Radstone and Matt Hills.

Those interested in this field of work should definitely visit the website of the Transitional Phenomena and Cultural Experience (T-PACE) project based at Queen Mary, University of London, convened by Annette Kuhn, with fellow members Matt Hills, Patricia Townsend, Tania Zittoun, and Phyllis Creme. Here, you will find an excellent bibliography of offline research as well as other useful research resources.

At the foot of the post, FSFF has embedded a short and snappily informative video from the excellent Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded collaborative research project Media and the Inner World. The project is directed by Caroline Bainbridge (Roehampton University) with Candida Yates (UEL). MiW brings together academics, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and media figures for a series of discussions about the role of emotion and ideas of therapy in popular culture, and is always keen to attract new writer-contributors for its website: you just have to be interested in the psychocultural aspects of popular culture.

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