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Thomas Elsaesser: “Media Archaeology as Symptom”
Thursday, March 17, 2016 @ 5:00 pm EDT
For nearly one hundred years, the moving image has been discussed primarily from the perspective of photography: organizing our questions and theories around cinema as an ocular dispositif, based on light, projection and transparency, or as a recording dispositif, based on index, imprint and trace. In the age of digital imaging technologies, some of which have little to do with optics, such a history of the moving image seems too narrowly conceived. The broadly based, if loosely defined research field calling itself “media archaeology” not only locates the cinema within more comprehensive media histories, it also investigates apparently obsolete, overlooked, or poorly understood past media practices. The expectation is that by once more “opening up” these pasts, one can enable or envisage a different future. The question then arises: is media archaeology a (viable) disciplinary subject or a (valuable) symptom also of changes in our ideas of history, causality and contingency?
Thomas Elsaesser is Professor Emeritus at the University of Amsterdam and since 2013 has been teaching at Columbia University. Among his most recent books are: The Persistence of Hollywood (New York: Routledge, 2012) and Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses (New York: Routledge, 2nd edition 2015, with Malte Hagener). Forthcoming is Film History as Media Archaeology – Tracking Digital Cinema (Amsterdam University Press, 2016).