Tuesday 6 March 2012

Knowing that/knowing how? On audiovisual film studies, part 1: practice-led film research

Research in progress by Joanna Callaghan for the fourth long format film in the series 'Ontological Narratives' which will take Jacques Derrida's epistolary novel The Post Card as starting point.
    In this research film, the possibility of a deconstructive film is discussed with world leading experts on Derrida using a range of clips as counterpoints.
    Ontological Narratives is an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project led by Callaghan in collaboration with Martin McQuillan. [Also see 'The Post Card - Adaptation'; for more on this project see here and here]. See also Callaghan and McQuillan's important film on the current convulsive state of UK Higher Education, "I melt the glass with my forehead".
We can therefore turn this [film theory/film practice divide] debate into an explicitly philosophical issue, by not presupposing that knowing that and knowing how simply overlap; they are two different types of knowledge whose relationship needs to be thought through. It is the theorization of the link/overlap between the two types of knowledge that seems to be missing. [Warren Buckland, Film-Philosophy Discussion List, January 31, 2012]
[The debate about film theory and practice] has a history which, in the UK at least, goes back to the 1970s, when the art colleges taught experimental film making, and the then polytechnics and a few new universities began to include film-making in their undergraduate film courses. Film theory as such was still taking shape, and video was in its earliest stages.  In an atmosphere charged with radical intellectual fervour, the theoretical input led to much experimentation in colleges of creative practice—the watchword of the time was deconstruction. The paradigm for the infusion of theory into practice could be found in the work, for example, of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, who established themselves on screen and on page, together and separately, as leading denizens of both. Some of the people emerging from this habitus made the break and went on to successful careers in the mainstream, but independent film-making informed by theoretical critique remained in the margins. [Michael Chanan, 'Revisiting the Theory/Practice Debate', Putney Debater, February 15, 2012 (hyperlinks added)]
Audiovisual works, it may be argued – films, videos or some other form – are already discursively articulated, they not only incorporate language (as dialogue, voice-over, intertitle, and so on) but are quasi-linguistic in their very form. The analogy between language and cinema, for example, has been explored with particular rigour in structuralist film theory, not least in the work of Christian Metz. It might be argued that if audiovisual forms are inherently discursive, then an intellectual argument can equally well be presented in the form of a film or video as in a more conventional written form. [Victor Burgin, 'Thoughts on 'research' degrees in visual arts departments', Journal of Media Practice, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2006] (hyperlink added)]
The misgivings about the legitimacy of practice-based research degrees in the creative and performing arts arise mainly because people have trouble taking research seriously which is designed, articulated and documented with both discursive and artistic means. The difficulty lurks in the presumed impossibility of arriving at a more or less objective assessment of the quality of the research – as if a specialised art forum did not already exist alongside the academic one, and as if academic or scientific objectivity itself were an unproblematic notion. In a certain sense, a discussion is repeating itself here that has already taken place (and still continues) with respect to the emancipation of the social sciences: the prerogative of the old guard that thinks it holds the standard of quality against the rights of the newcomers who, by introducing their own field of research, actually alter the current understanding of what scholarship and objectivity are. [Henk Borgdorff, 'The debate on research in the arts', The Sensuous Knowledge Project, 2006]

And so begins a mini-series of posts here at Film Studies For Free on the practical possibilities for, and the critical debates about, audiovisual film studies research and 'publication'.

Below, in this first instalment, FSFF links to freely-accessible, online resources relating to the notion of film practice as a form of film/video theorising, in other words, as a reflexive and/or affective meditation on the ontological qualities of film or video (a 'felt framing', in Julian Klein's great phrase to describe artistic research). It's certainly a good excuse to showcase some of the burgeoning, open access work (and open access publications, or free publishers' samples) in the very healthy field of Moving Image Practice as Research (aka 'Research by Practice' or 'Practice-Led research).

Some studies of Practice-Led Research
Two Open Access journals for AV/media practice work:
Two free publishers journal samples:


1 comment:

alexj said...

It is my sense that there are many more opportunities to do this in the UK then there are in the US. Although many of us have been eeking out such possibilities on a personal/professional level (convincing colleagues, departments, institutions to support us as one-offs), there are very few places where students can work in this way (not to mention professors) with institutional, programatic support. Histories (and practices) of national intellectual culture seem critical to your investigation, and I look forward to your thoughts on this (and others) as you pursue this line on inquiry.