Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film

Overview

Avant-garde films are often dismissed as obscure or disconnected from the realities of social and political history. Jeffrey Skoller challenges this myth, arguing that avant-garde films more accurately display the complex interplay between past events and our experience of the present than conventional documentaries and historical films. Shadows, Specters, Shards examines a group of experimental films, including work by Eleanor Antin, Ernie Gehr, and Jean-Luc Godard, that take up historical events such as the ...

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Overview

Avant-garde films are often dismissed as obscure or disconnected from the realities of social and political history. Jeffrey Skoller challenges this myth, arguing that avant-garde films more accurately display the complex interplay between past events and our experience of the present than conventional documentaries and historical films. Shadows, Specters, Shards examines a group of experimental films, including work by Eleanor Antin, Ernie Gehr, and Jean-Luc Godard, that take up historical events such as the Holocaust, Latin American independence struggles, and urban politics. Identifying a cinema of evocation rather than representation, these films call attention to the unrepresentable aspects of history that profoundly impact the experience of everyday life. Making use of the critical theories of Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze, among others, Skoller analyzes various narrative strategies - allegory, sideshadowing, testimony, and multiple temporalities - that uncover competing perspectives and gaps in historical knowledge often ignored in conventional film. In his discussion of avant-garde film of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Skoller reveals how a nuanced understanding of the past is inextricably linked to the artistry of image making and storytelling.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816642328
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 8/14/2005
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Filmmaker Jeffrey Skoller is associate professor of film, video, and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His visual works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Arsenal Kino (Berlin), Latin American Film Festival (Havana), and National Film Theatre (London), among others, and his essays have appeared in DISCOURSE, New Art Examiner, Afterimage, and Film Quarterly.

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Table of Contents

1 Shards : allegory as historical procedure 1
Eureka, Ernie Gehr
Dal polo all'equatore, Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi
Tribulation 99 : alien anomalies under America, Craig Baldwiin
2 Shadows : historical temporalities 1 39
The man without a world, Eleanor Antin
Urban peasants, Ken Jacobs
Cooperation of parts, Deniel Eisenberg
3 Virtualities : historical temporalities 2 69
Allemagne annee 90 neuf zero, Jean-Luc Godard
Persistence, Daniel Eisenberg
B/side, Abigail Child
Utopia, James Benning
4 Specters : the limits of representing history 109
Signal - Germany on the air, Ernie Gehr
Killer of sheep, Charles Burnett
The march, Abraham Ravett
Un vivant qui passe, Claude Lanzmann
5 Obsessive returns : filmmaking as mourning work 149
El dia que me quieras, Leandro Katz
Chile, la memoria obstinada, Patricio Guzman
Coda : notes on history and the postcinema condition 167
Rock Hudson's home movies, Mark Rappaport
Dichotomy, Tony Sinden
Beyond, Zoe Beloff
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    innovative techniques of alternate films for capturing history

    The filmmaker and associate professor of new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago sees that despite being 'unapprehendable' though being 'often sensed,' the shadows, specters, and shards of the title 'are nevertheless part of the energy of the past and exert themselves as a force on the present.' It is the avante-garde filmmakers rather than the mainstream or conventional ones relying on narration, chronology, and cultural symbols who tap into such 'unseen forces' in their films to create an 'awareness of other temporalities in which linear chronologies are called into question in favor of other temporal structures such as simultaneity and virtuality.' This not only better reflects the way individuals and societies are aware of history, but also reflects the innumerable heterogeneous incidents, events, personalities, tendencies, etc. which make for history and have little coherence. Skoller goes beyond analysis of the shards, etc., as characteristics of postmodern culture and as these have often been used by writers and artists to reflect this culture or to comment on or in some cases criticize it. Skoller puts these characteristics in a useful and in some respects productive light by examining them as techniques rather than simply effects. His material is not laudatory, however nor does it especially commend the techniques for history does not lend itself to stable definition or complete comprehension by means of any techniques. The author is concerned mainly with noting that the shadows, specters, and shards despite their elusiveness, incompleteness, and even insubstantiality are better suited to not only recording but also conveying history. The material of the book is in large measure illustration of this central point by considering how movies by leading and influential avant-garde filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Daniel Eisenberg, Ken Jacobs, and Patricio Guzman have dealt with historical issues and material even though this has not been widely recognized or accepted.

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