5th Spiral Film and Philosophy Conference: “Interruptions”
5th Spiral Film and Philosophy Conference
May 8-9, 2020
In a recent essay examining the imperial legacy of the camera, Teju Cole writes of the camera as a weapon: “When we speak of ‘shooting’ with a camera, we are acknowledging the kinship of photography and violence.” Three decades earlier, Toni Morrison asserted in her Nobel Lecture: “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.” Both propositions share the same ideas, yet they demand further examination. Cole’s comment on the relationship between photography and violence was made by a practitioner of photography. Morrison’s observation on the relationship between language and violence was brought to our attention by a novelist. In each case, the writer focusses on the material and social issues intrinsic to the use of a specific medium of expression. Refusing to look past the material and social conditions of expression, these two interventions allow us to imagine and to explore new, subversive paths of creation and criticism. It not a coincidence that Cole’s first essay on photography is entirely informed by the concept of the blind spot. And it is not a coincidence that Morrison’s speech, too, invokes a conjunction of blindness and knowledge: “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.” In each case, the creation of images and thoughts stems from a joyous failure to comply and an imaginative refusal to go along. The work of art conjured in this process is one of generative interruption. In his study of the black radical tradition in poetry and music, In the Break, furthermore, Fred Moten has written of the interruptive power of such a poetics: “The history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist. Blackness — the extended movement of a specific upheaval, an ongoing irruption that anarranges every line — is a strain that pressures the assumption of the equivalence of personhood and subjectivity.” Moten’s notion of “anarrangment” speaks here to the simultaneously disruptive and productive potential of paying attention to the social and material conditions of aesthetic forms and the radical potentiality inside aesthetic responses to such conditions.
Both film and philosophy have participated and still participate in sustaining systemic oppression. This has taken both overt and covert forms of violence and exclusion — each perpetuating the policing of what counts as compelling questions to ask, what forms of knowledge matter, who is heard and seen, and under what conditions and where a subject can appear. And yet, if film has the ability to do philosophy, to question itself and its limitations and possibilities, and to pose new problems for philosophy, then perhaps film also has the potential to challenge its own imperial and oppressive habits and conditions as well. In a hegemonic context, the interruption of dominant ways of thinking and showing allows for alternative modes of knowledge and imagination, subjectivity and being, to emerge. Christina Sharpe, in her recent study In the Wake, makes a compelling case for what she calls the analytic of “wake work,” a theory and a praxis that turns on the imagination’s ability to imagine otherwise with and against rupture. Alongside Cole’s and Morrison’s important points, in Moten’s and Sharpe’s work we discern a certain interruptive gesture that refuses the work of normative canons and formations of knowledge, an aesthetics and politics of interruption that can both expose the ideological underpinnings and assumptions of institutional conjunctions like film and philosophy and contribute to new possibilities and spaces for (re)arranging subjectivities, communities, and the very legacies and practices of such institutions themselves.
For its 5th edition, the Spiral Film and Philosophy conference wants to bring the potential of interruption to the forefront. It proposes to do so at the confluence of three areas: the epistemological, the political, and the aesthetic. What happens to ideas and forms when the imagination stumbles? What kinds of resistance emerge when traditional representation breaks down? Which modes of belonging do we share when the spectacle is suddenly interrupted? What happens when the dynamics of domination — in aesthetic, formal, durational, spatial, psychological, historical, etc. terms — are rendered inoperative? In the spirit of these questions, we challenge all participants to go above and beyond the common idea according to which it is “easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.” We contend that cinema and moving images have value, even and especially when they do not work as intended, as programmed, or as expected; when they fail, stutter or stammer; when they confuse their objects, miss their targets, or (suddenly or gradually) fall apart. As such, this call for papers is open to but also extends beyond the experience of cinematic rupture. Spiral welcomes contributions for 20-minute presentations from scholars, artists and practitioners whose work pertains to topics and themes of interruptive and inoperative cinema, but also (and not limited to):
- Postcolonial cinema
- Blackness in moving images
- Sabotaging the imperial gaze
- Towards a destituent cinema
- Camera obscura and ideology
- Militant cinema and activist cinema
- Evasive cinema and mass surveillance
- Images moving beyond the Western canon
- Decommodification and the movie industry
- Visibility and invisibility: filming the blind spot
- Anarchaeological practices and the audio-visual
- Pictures resisting productivity in neoliberal regimes
- Indigeneity and visual culture in Canada and elsewhere
- The subversive value of catastrophic failures in visual media
- Reclaiming speculative vision in the age of the Anthropocene
- “Anarranging” film grammars and representational economies
- Failure in algorithmic cinemas and the value of digital artifacts
- Breaking the status quo regarding representations of climate crisis
- The virtues of failure in cinematic experimentation and in visual art
- Queer and trans approaches to cinema aesthetics, history and politics
- Afrofuturism and indigenous futurism and the reframing of science-fiction
- Alternative imaginaries and histories of cinema as reconfigured through radical politics
The confirmed Keynote Speaker is Elizabeth Reich, Assistant Professor, Film & Media Studies, in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focusses on the intersections of Black Studies, digital media, Afrofuturism, and social movements in historical, global, and transnational contexts. She is author of Militant Visions: Black Soldiers, Internationalism and the Transformation of American Cinema (Rutgers, 2016) and her co-edited collection, Justice in Time: Critical Afrofuturism and the Struggle for Black Freedom, is under contract at University of Minnesota Press. She is also coeditor of “New Approaches to Cinematic Identification,” a special issue of Film Criticism. She is also co-editing another special issue of Film Criticism entitled “Recovery Missions: Black Film Feminisms.” Her next monograph is on time and reparation, and recent essays have appeared in ASAP Journal, Film Criticism, Screen, Post45, ASAP/J, World Records Journal, and African American Review. She is also a contributing editor to ASAP/J and serves on the editorial board of Film Criticism.
The 5th Spiral conference will be held in Toronto, Canada, on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9, 2020.
Please send a 350-word abstract, bibliography (5 references max.), 5 keywords, and biography (with institutional affiliation, if applicable) in ONE DOCUMENT and as an EMAIL ATTACHMENT to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 15, 2020. Notifications about acceptance or rejection of proposal will be sent promptly.
Conference Registration Fee:
Conference Attendance: $100 (Canadian)
Graduate Students and Underemployed: $50 (Canadian)
Conference website: spiralfilmphilosophy.ca
The Spiral Collective in collaboration with
The Department of Cinema and Media Studies,