Talks and Speakers

JOhannes Binotto

Disfigurations of Cinema: Film Technology as Disruption

As philosophers of science and technology have shown, technological inventions – contrary to common belief – never simply serve one predetermined purpose, nor are the invented devices just tools in the hands of their users. Rather, technology needs to be considered as an autonomous inter-actor, actively participating in any process of production and bestowed with, what Gilbert Simondon calls „a margin of indetermination, which is what allows for the machine’s sensitivity to outside information.“ While never fully working as planned, technology necessarily produces something else then what was intended. Picking up on this idea of technical devices not just as means of production, but at the same time disruptive forces, my talk aims to show how film technique and the devices of both past and contemporary cinema not only serve representation and display, but are at the same time troubling, irritating and disfiguring, but eventually also re-inventing cinema. We will have to encounter in the very technology of film the unconscious of cinema.

CV Dr. Johannes Binotto is lecturer for literature, film and media studies at the University of Zurich and at the Lucerne School of Art and Design. His research is focused on the intersections of psychoanalytical theory, philosophy of technology and film history with a particular interest in cinematic and literary techniques as „affective effects“. He is co-editor of the film magazine Filmbulletin and of the psychoanalytic journal RISS. He has published extensively on such diverse topics as the gaze, abject bodies, male hysteria, medias of paranoia or on spaces of anxiety in film, literature and popular culture. Among his recent publications are his monograph on the media spaces of the uncanny („TAT/ORT: Das Unheimliche und sein Raum in der Kultur“ Diaphanes 2013) as well as an edited volume on cinematic architecture („Film/Architektur“ Bauwelt Fundamente 2017). Binotto is currently working on his habilitation project on „Disfigurations: Towards a Poetics of Cinematic Devices“ in which he examines traditional cinematic devices such as rear projection, matte painting or split screen for their subversive potential.



Experimentation in Motion Design

The proposed contribution focuses on contemporary computer-driven imaging processes, particularly on the fringes of film production: motion graphics, title design, and special effects. The peripheral character of these short formats is not only evident through their positioning in relation to movies or TV broadcasts – interspersed, as opening credits or end titles – but equally through their localization in the media system: motion graphics and special effects, throughout the 20th century, weren’t necessarily carried out “in-house” but supplied by self-employed individuals or small studios who acted as sub-contractors. This is currently being perpetuated by the precarious situation of globally active VFX laborers offering work for hire.

I wish to contribute to the conference by complementing the focus on the periphery with a focus on technological experimentation, specifically the appropriated use of physics engines. As suggested in the Call for Papers, computer rendering replaced light and lenses: The computational modelling of optics and mechanics – instead of optics and mechanics themselves – partakes in the practices within the current field of audiovisual motion design to a large degree (e.g. the physics engine Newton for After Effects). Experimentation on the fringes of applied contexts (e.g. showreels and experimental shorts by companies such as Psyop or studio aka) proved to be a fertile testing ground. By looking closer at recent examples for small independent productions which depart from a proper physics-routine and push the models to their boundaries – specifically Ugly by Nikita Diakur (2017) and Cartoon Physics by Alan Warburton (2015, – I hope to shed a light on experimentation in motion design.

CV Stefanie Bräuer pursues a doctoral thesis on oscillography in early 1950s experimental film at the institute for media studies at Universität Basel, supervised by Prof. Dr. Ute Holl and Prof. Dr. Isabel Wünsche which she finalizes at the Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art in Paris during a research stay funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. From March 2014 until February 2017 she contributed as a researcher to the SNCF project Ultrashorts (Lucerne School of Art and Design in collaboration with the institute for media studies at Universität Basel)

Weblink: Stefanie Bräuer


Narration Landscapes

The greatest potential of (digital) media in museums and exhibitions is space. Spaces can be used to tell stories. Information served as narration has the best chance to become knowledge. The combination of the two in a curatorial approach a few years ago marked a radical paradigm shift contrasting the traditional exhibition and self-conception of museums. The idea of creating Narration Landscapes goes a step further. It aims to utilize the positive effects of the physical movement (of the body) on human perception and imagination and combines this with techniques used in filmmaking. The combination of physical activity while being embedded in landscape seems to facilitate human consciousness to reach a state of higher sensitivity and receptivity.

Based on the Narration Landscape approach the author takes a closer look at mobile apps examining their potential in the museum/exhibition context.

CV Cord-Hinrich Grote earned a diploma in industrial design at the University Essen, Germany. Early during his studies, he intensively involved in space related media art. At a time when computers were not yet widely available the resulting installations and performances were mainly based on video projections and broadcasting technologies. Nevertheless, simple techniques were developed to enable interactive environments and audience participation. Grotes early works have been documented in catalogues and exhibited in museums and institutions such as Abteibergmuseum Mönchengladbach, Folkwang Schule Essen, Athaenaeum Chicago or the Bauhaus in Dessau. Since more than 20 years Grote is professionally concerned with museum and exhibition projects with focus on new media. He worked for 8 years as head of design at design and architectural practice ag4 mediatecture, Cologne. Since 2010 he works as art director and senior project manager at Atelier Brückner, Stuttgart, where he covers all phases from first concept through all design stages until production and realisation including technical research & development and project management.


How Contemporary Visual Storytelling Practice Follows Technology

Visual Storytelling, and specifically cinema, has developed as a uniquely technological art form. Born from the machines of inventors and engineers like Muybridge, Edison, and the Lumiere brothers, it was up to artists to find their own uses of the early technological advances and create their own languages, norms, and practices. These have all evolved ceaselessly during the 20th century. Since the DSLR revolution of the 21st century, however, the changes in visual storytelling have become faster and ever more upending to the status quo of artistic practice. 

Now, with the advent of smartphones, aerial drones, and mainstream virtual reality, practitioners of visual storytelling are finding themselves faced with both new opportunities and existential risks. News stories are often told with bystander video, filmed in excellent quality and high resolution, but often in a vertical format. Will we see the rise of vertical cinema? High quality drones have put jaw dropping camera moves into the hands of teenagers. And in VR, cinematographers struggle to find what role they have when the audience defines camera framing and can look wherever and whenever they want in 360 degrees. What’s more, as 360 camera systems become more capable and higher resolution, they will be able to replace multiple cameras and operators. Will cinematography be reduced to pushing a button? Will all creative intent be defined in the last phase of post-production? 

The death of cinema has been forecast many times over, and it seems certainly premature to do so again. But with the development of so many new and potentially divergent avenues in visual storytelling, what will be the future of artistic practice in this realm? In order to survive, visual storytellers must surely be ready, and even eager, to adapt their practices in response to, and even anticipation of, the technologies to come. And with a bit of ingenuity, those that embrace these new technological changes will find themselves with the opportunity to tell new stories in ways never thought possible.

Neal will speak about his experiences producing the 48 Hour Film Project before and after the DSLR revolution, running Virtual Reality production events (hackathons, etc.), producing a film about CERN using entirely GoPro cameras, and working with the Artist in Residency program at CERN, which invites artists to develop new artistic practices in collaboration with scientists and engineers.

CV Neal is currently the director of the CineGlobe film festival at CERN, the European Particle Physics lab and home to the LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland. Simultaneously, he serves as the Director of Production for TEDxCERN. He was the invited chairman for the World VR Forum in 2017, and is on the committee of the Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF). On top of that, Neal has produced the 48 Hour Film Project in Switzerland since 2008, is the director of a documentary film on high-speed bicycles, named Human Power, and is currently producing a documentary on CERN that was entirely shot by the engineering staff in the underground caverns. He has produced numerous workshops in science storytelling and virtual reality with organisations such as the Tribeca Film Institute, Lift Conference, and the GIFF. When he’s not working with film or science communication, Neal also happens to dabble in the mechanical engineering of ultra-stable, low-mass structures and integration for the ATLAS Experiment at CERN.


Player-designed Narratives: In-game Movie-making as Artistic Research Practice

With the emerge of Let`s Plays, Funtages, Speedruns and other forms of transformative plays, the urge of the players arose to bring their own narratives into the videogame space. The gaming industry answered to these demands with the integration of a variety of tools for recording, editing and composing audiovisual material – first as part of Game Engine Technology and later as integral part of the game itself. In 1996’s Diary of a Camper by United Ranger Films the ability to record your actions and later play them back within the game was inscribed into the demo-file format. The format was shared via the internet and by loading it into the running game the prerecorded actions took place in the privacy of one’s own screen. Nowadays and within a magic circle that is spread out to forums, chats, and other web presences, narration also takes place in-between gamespace and webspace and as part of a flourishing participatory practice. Players designing their own stories, creating their own events as groups and thereby forcing the game industry to make these events become reality. The possibilities of creating your own/groups narratives where never that easy.

This presentation will focus on two aspects of telling stories within video game space: (1) the development and integration of tools for enabling storytelling, such as timeline editor, modifications for acting etc. and (2) the creation of shared experiences in a networked online community. Both aspects will show the player’s power and urge to tell stories. In a second part, I will argue that besides developing fictional narrations, the action of making movies in video game space can also be used as a vehicle for researching the video game complex: As part of an artistic research strategy, where the linearity of film supports the investigation of non-linear game worlds. In doing so, one can find well-embedded standardization-processes of race/class/gender, otherwise cloaked by atmospheres and other immersive effects. As examples, I will show excerpts of my own artistic research practice as an in-game movie maker.

CV Thomas Hawranke is an artist and researcher, living and working in Cologne, Germany. In 2005 he joined the artist group susigames, working on participatory video-game-installations. As a member of susigames, he was an artist in residence at the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) Karlsruhe, where he held a scholarship for artistic research in video games. With susigames, he exhibited his work at national and international venues such as the File Festival São Paulo, the File Game Festival Rio de Janeiro, the Wired NextGen in Los Angeles and exhibitions at the Center for Art and Media (ZKM). In 2009 he co-founded Paidia Institute, a group of artists and scientists who work together at the threshold of research. Within this group, he held workshops for the European funded Migrating Art Academies Network (MIGAA) and exhibited the collectively produced work of Paidia Institute at the transmediale 11 in Berlin, at the Academy of the Arts in Berlin, and at the Nam June Paik Art Center in South Korea, among others. His solo work is highly connected to video games, where for example a plant plays a first-person-shooter, the artificial intelligence of the CryEngine is forced to break its own rules or an ape model is massively spamming the human-dominated world of GTA V. His last work, Grand Ape Town, was exhibited in the context of human-animal relationships at the Animal Lovers venue at the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK) in Berlin. 

Thomas Hawranke has a diploma in media art from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and is currently finishing his practice-based PhD at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar, Germany. His dissertation investigates the modification of video games as a method for artistic research. He works at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne in the field of transmedia space, installation and sound.


Marek Jancovic

In the Eye of the Beholder: Portable Media and Animal Audiences

The rapid spread and ubiquity of video streaming platforms and affordable mobile video equipment has brought about not only new narrative patterns and formats, but also new audiences. One particularly undertheorized but increasingly prominent “demographic” is that of non-humans, also commonly known as cats, dogs, and other pets and non-domesticated animals. Being a spectator – as a specific historic mode of perception – always also used to imply being a human. Yet we are ever more frequently confronted with animal-machine interactions in which humans are relegated to a historically unprecedented bystander role. Monkey selfies and videos of frogs attacking electronic bugs on a smartphone screen or of a German shepherd watching Zootopia and howling along with the wolves go viral because they’re fun, but also somewhat unsettling. Seeing animals operate cameras and exhibit affective responses to moving images not only irritates notions like authorship and audience, but also suggests that Kittler was right and media are not – and perhaps never were – about “us”. YouTube titles like “Videos for Cats to Watch” or “Birds and Squirrels HD” mark the formation of a peculiar new genre – a genre remarkable not because of some unique qualities that classical film analysis might be interested in, but rather because it signals a crisis of anthropocentric spectatorship.

This paper will consider the co-emergence of portable media devices and non-human media practices, and its technological and bioethical implications for the future of media and media theory. Undeniably, part of the pleasure and purpose of the videos-for-cats genre is facetious voyeurism: the animal’s interaction with the device serves not only to distract cats from the boredom of upper middle class pet life, but also to entertain humans by watching them watch. Such videos became possible because recording and disseminating content once considered too trivial to film is now easy and cheap. But witnessing animals taking on subjectivities previously reserved for humans also points to the inadequacy of theories of media and the moving image which have not accounted for this possibility. Technologies of perception are braced by the quantification and standardization of the abilities of the human body. What happens when animals leave their cultural role as undead symbolic figurations and start becoming viewing, listening, operating media subjects?

CV Marek Jancovic is a lecturer and PhD candidate at the Institute for Film, Theater and Empirical Cultural Studies at the University of Mainz, Germany. His research interests include archaeologies of early media technology, formal and informal economies of global media and preservation practices of contemporary archival institutions. He holds a research MA in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.


New Rituals of Film

Through an extensive body of work in the field of virtual reality, film director Johan Knattrup Jensen started to explore and challenge the rituals of film, both in the making of and in experiencing cinema. This presentation will take the audience through all significant virtual reality projects created through the progressive production studio MAKROPOL, and describe the discoveries as well as the challenges, and what thoughts lead to the development of the ritualistic and ceremonial approach to cinema. 

CV Johan Knattrup Jensen graduated from filmschool in 2012, and his work have since been shown in most of the major film festivals, incl. Cannes, Locarno, IDFA, and New York Film Festival, as well at biennales, art galleries and museums all over the world. His work traverses both cinema, installation, and performance, and he is considered to be among the pioneers of cinematic virtual reality.

Weblink: Johan Knattrup Jensen

Florian Krauträmer

Staging the Everyday: How GoPro and Modern Cameras Change Amateur Filmmaking

Saving special moments for later remembrance was always a goal of amateur photography and filmmaking. This is also true for new camera systems like the so-called „action-camcorders“, small and easy to use cameras, which are especially known of the GoPro, one of the best-selling camera worldwide. But besides the latest basketball trick-shots or surf videos one can also find representations of the everyday on places like the GoPro channel. An ordinary jump into the backyard pool or a family croquet game, if it is made with a new kind of a camera, it also finds a place to be shared and watched. With the aid of new equipment or post production possibilities, even the most common activity can be presented like an adventure.

The presentation will concentrate mainly on GoPro-videos. On this basis, a set of sub genres will be established to evaluate in which perspective they are documenting or staging the everyday and how they are presenting the means of presentation. The focus is not on the extraordinary sport clips but on the mundane ones. The question is, which part have the different kinds of media, techniques and platforms in representing the „real“, and in which way does the brand of those cameras determine the look of amateur filmmaking.

CV Florian Krautkrämer is a postdoc at the Braunschweig University of Arts, Braunschweig and currently substitute professor for film studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany). He teaches media studies and film studies. In his dissertation, he focussed on writing in film (2013). Research interests: mobile media; digital film; post cinematography; screen studies; documentary film and experimental film.


Visual Mediations, Affordances and Social Capital

The digitisation process and the expanded context of new media has given rise to myriad mediation tools or platforms, media in short, from which prosumers choose. Specific media forms are employed at certain times. In the development of these routines, both the distinct affordances of each media are taken into account, as well as particular experiences to be thereby enabled. For transnational families, the material and technological aspects of singular media come under scrutiny insofar as they promote social co-presence and the generation of social capital. Photography is used not only to record and build memories for the future but to extend the present. Skype affords meeting significant others for coffee. Snapchat photographs are employed as mirrors to check hairstyles and apparel before a night out. The emphasis on recording for the future vanished along with the magical meaning associated with analogue visual media. The definition of picture-worthiness changes and networked images become instruments of socialization.

CV Patricia Prieto-Blanco (born 1981) lectures Media Studies at the University of Brighton, UK. Her area of expertise are visual methods of research, photography and reception studies. She is the editor in chief of Networking Knowledge – the Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, YECREA representative of the Visual Cultures Working Group, as well as an advocate of interdisciplinary, participatory and practice-based research and a proud member of HYSTERIA radical feminist collective.


Ipad – the Movie: Small Forms, Small Hands Or the Challenge of Minor Forms and Formats

The eponymous video that gives this paper its title is a stop-motion animation of approximately 14 seconds “screen time” called Ipad that has been made by a girl of the age of six in 2013. It shows a rocket travelling back and forth between two planets. As a media archaeologist and scholar of amateur and child media I would like to pick up Richard Buckminster Fuller’s suggestion that a “way to see what tomorrow is going to look like is just to look at our children.“ On a conceptual level my contribution is organized within the context of the new field format studies.  

CV Alexandra Schneider is Professor of Film and Media Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz. Her fields of expertise include Amateur Film and Media Practices, Media Archaeology, Digital Storytelling, Children and Media, and World Cinema. She is the author of ‘Die Stars sind wir’: Heimkino als filmische Praxis (Marburg: Schüren, 2004) and has co-edited several volumes. Her work has been published in NECSUS, Projections, Film History, Bianco e Nero, and Visual Anthropology. 


Using Narrative Cues in 360° Storytelling

Immersive formats offer incredible opportunities and unique challenges to the filmmaker.  Storytelling in 360° video allows the filmmaker to immerse the viewer within a scene, but also requires the filmmaker to adapt existing skills particularly in scene design and direction, in order to convey a narrative in such a way as to retain immersion. Sound, lighting, and movement cues may all be used to unobtrusively guide the viewer though an immersive story in a way that feels organic, whilst allowing the filmmaker to tell the story they wish to convey. This presentation will cover blocking and choreography, lighting, and scene design in 360° films, and ways in which a scene can develop with both static and non-static cameras. I will discuss how to re-imagine a scene from a traditional ‚flat‘ video format, to an immersive format, and show examples from experiments the BBC Research & Development Department have conducted over the last two years.

CV Alia Sheikh, Senior Development Producer, is a filmmaker working in the BBC’s Research and Development Department, running the department’s experimental filming projects.  Alia has been investigating immersive video formats since her work on BBC R&D’s Surround Video system in 2010 and has previously designed experiments to test a variety of immersive filming techniques including for ultra-high frame rate and high dynamic range video capture.  At present her work is focused on the research questions of how to effectively convey a narrative and unobtrusively direct attention in immersive environments. She has achieved inconspicuous lighting schemes for 360 filming (including in a coal mine, a rave and a festival) created a mixed live-action/CG 360 experience set in the world of a John Wyndham alien invasion, worked with fight directors and theatre groups to investigate 360 choreography and has used an operator on a self-stabilising unicycle to capture smooth 360-degree moving video. Her latest project allows the viewer to embark on a personal exploration of the Edinburgh International festival. She is looking forward to meeting you.