Ambient poetics and critical posthumanism in expanded cinema

London College of Communication / University of the Arts London
DoS: Professor William Raban
second supervisor: Dr Nicky Ryan


Posthumanism is a contested term, seen by some as leading towards a merging of human bodies and technology and by others, more critically, as a renewal of the ethical debate regarding human exceptionalism. Through a study of this critical approach and its potential relation to expanded cinema, a set of propositions is formulated. New knowledge emerges through the application of these propositions towards the expression of critical posthumanism.

By looking at formal, conceptual and methodological underpinnings a proposal for such a posthumanist approach is made. Firstly, aided by Timothy Morton's 'ambient poetics' environmental tendencies in artist film and expanded cinema are exposed. Secondly, conceptual ideas 'beyond the human' in a similar field are revealed. Finally, the environmental footprint of moving image production is scrutinized. Central to this investigation is the desire to change prevailing narratives regarding nature and environment. Instead of regarding environment as a subject outside the cultural domain, environmental immanence and shared consciousness are regarded as central cultural values within a productive posthuman debate.

This theoretical approach is set in motion through a practice-based project in which organic processes are applied to generate images on discarded and outdated 35mm film. By using plants, mud and salt in conjunction with alternative photochemistry, images are 'grown' on motion picture film. Moreover, digital images are gathered using a camera extension that allows a point of view beyond the human. Background and foreground are reversed, in order to reveal the prominence of natural elements in an urban setting. These images are used in a performative or spatial context that places the viewer within the work.

By bringing together theory and practice a conclusion emerges, opening up further possibilities to develop and apply the newly found knowledge, not only in expanded cinema but also in other fields.

Full thesis to be published in 2017.

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