Magis Spring School 2016 : Bodifications - Mapping Body in Media Culture
Call For Papers
XIV MAGIS - Gorizia International Film Studies Spring School
Gorizia, 9-14 March 2016
Bodifications: Mapping the Body in Media Cultures
From the 2016 edition onwards, the MAGIS - Gorizia International Film Studies Spring School will promote a long-term research project dedicated to the historical transformations of the body in media cultures. This project is based on the premise that the epistemological understanding of the body has been changing in the Western World starting from the second half of the 19th century at least. The body-mind opposition that has traditionally informed Western thought has been challenged: no longer discarded as a mere “vessel” for the mind – therefore irrelevant, or even “dangerous”, to reason (Grosz 1994) – the body has started to be considered as the very condition through which we access the knowledge of the world. In a phenomenological perspective, the body is in fact the vehicle through which our own experience of the world come into being: in other words, it is ‘our general means of having a world’ (Merleau-Ponty  2012, 146). The body is therefore conceived as an object of the world and as point of view on the world, a space from which exteriority is established and through which interiority is constructed at the same time (Fabbri and Marrone 2001). Moreover, the definition of the body as a biologically predetermined entity, characterized by ahistorical and fixed features, has been challenged by, amongst other things, the two following ideas. Firstly, the idea that the body is a discursive construct, informed by a complex series of regulatory norms and power relations (Mauss  1973; Foucault  1979). Secondly, the idea the body and its evolution have been influenced by technology, seen as a co-evolutionary partner of the human being, and thus capable of modifying the biological determinations of the body itself (Leroi-Gourhan 1993). In this sense, ‘behaviours, morphologies, and even physiologies are the outcome of a set of processes through which every society acts on the bodies, this way literally constructing them’ (Borgna 2005, VI).
According to this epistemological perspective, the body is therefore seen as a fundamental vector (and “filter”) of knowledge and as a bio-political and techno-cultural artefact in which different ideological and material tensions meet and collide. In the late modernity, this perception of the body has reached its full development, while at the same time being rearticulated by further cultural processes, such as significant changes in the economic structures, the atomization of social agencies, the political and theoretical action of social movements, and the possibilities offered by scientific and technological innovation. In this context, the body becomes a reflexive entity, the object of options and choices, a sort of individual project aimed at the redefinition of the self and of identity (Giddens 1991; Bauman 1999). This paradigm of the “body-as-project” has developed in at least two different (though closely interrelated) directions. On the one hand, the human body (as conceived in modern humanist thought) has been reconceptualised as an “obsolete” object whose senses and capabilities need to be enhanced and whose limits need to be overcome. During the last decades, in fact, different social discourses and practices – such as those produced by body art, plastic surgery, bodybuilding, cyber punk, etc. – have all worked towards the definition of a post-human and post-organic body, freed (at least in part) from biological constraints and limitations (e.g. Halberstam and Livingston 1995; Stelarc 1994). On the other, the body is perceived as a “political” project aimed at manifesting and (re)defining specific social values and lifestyles. It is in fact primarily through their work on the body that individuals construct and affirm their identities in order to find their place (and recognition) in the social world. Of course, this body-project is at the crossroad of several contradictions and tensions: as also stated by feminist, queer, and race studies, individual strategies of self-construction through the body must always engage in a process of negotiation with (or against) the system of meanings employed by the social order to make sense of the body itself (e.g. Butler 1993; Pitts-Taylor 2003; Kaw 1997).
Moreover, the transformations of the body (and of its relationship with the mind) in contemporary technological landscape do not only affect the body as an object of study, but also concern the observing subject (Black 2014). The Humanities are now facing a gradual relocation of forms and places of knowledge construction, thus undergoing a drastic change in their theoretical framework. Many scholars in the field have now left behind an out-dated “Vitruvian” attitude, as they find themselves involved in ‘endlessly ramified networks’, in which they constantly rework their fluid identities and environments, they ‘construct, and [are] constructed’, recognizing themselves as ‘spatially extended cyborg[s]’ (Mitchell 2003, 39). Contemporary media relationships in fact ‘[place] scholars in an extended network that combines minds, bodies, machines, and institutional practices, and [lay] bare the fiction that scholars are disembodied intellectuals who labor only with the mind’ (Burgess and Hamming 2011). Therefore, a project dedicated to the synchronic and diachronic study of the body in (contemporary) media cultures should also investigate the ways in which this object is framed, analysed, understood, and disseminated by an interdisciplinary and “stratified” scientific community that is embedded in the very same technological and cognitive relations it aims to describe.
The research project promoted by the MAGIS - Gorizia International Film Studies Spring School investigates the role performed by the media in this complex scenario where the body and its cultural perception are constantly transformed and redefined. We aim to address the following issues: 1. The function of media representations in the social (re)definition of the body; that is, the ways in which media texts and discourses produce repertories, iconographies, images, perceptions, models, and meanings that influence the construction of the body and its transformations; 2. The role of media technologies in the physical transformation and enhancement of the body; that is, the ways in which the intersection of body and technology contributes to overcome the biological, neurological, and psychological limits of the (human) body; 3. The role of media technologies in the epistemological reconceptualization of the body as a cultural and scientific object during the last two centuries, and their influence on the concurrent transformation of the observing subject – from external and “detached” to embodied and embedded in the object itself. Drawing on their own specific disciplinary interests and methodological perspectives, the five sections of the School – Post-Cinema, Porn Studies, Visual Arts, Media Archaeology, and Film Heritage – will focus on different configurations of the body:
Post Cinema. The digital/post-organic body
This section investigates the status of the body in the realm of new media, with particular attention to videogames, transmedia platforms, social networks, and other Internet features. The main focus of the 2016 edition will be on the processes through which new technological devices develop the condition of immersiveness, and how this condition affects the uses of the body. We invite proposals on: 1. The strategies through which specific technological devices (such as Virtual Reality headsets, Smart Glasses, Augmented Reality games and applications, etc.) create immersiveness; 2. How immersiveness impacts on the relationship between subjectivity, politics, and power, and on the definition of the borders between human and not human, organic and post-organic; 3. How immersiveness shapes contemporary non-linear narratives and interactive storytelling. 3. The developments of spectatorship in the digital age, and more specifically the ways in which new forms of media consumption engage the body of the viewer; 5. The ways in which the body itself is represented and addressed by new media texts and products (webseries, YouTube videos, grassroots productions, 3D and high definition cinema, videogames, etc.).
Porn Studies. The pornographic/sexualized body
According to Linda Williams’s classic definition, pornography can be described as a “body genre”, that is as a film genre essentially aimed at eliciting bodily reactions in the viewer through the “spectacle” of bodily excess. More recent studies have further developed this idea, starting to investigate the social production of the pornographic body and the affective relationships between pornography and its audiences. On this basis, the section aims to address the following topics: typologies and morphologies of the pornographic body; articulations of the pornographic body in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, ability, and class; pornographic sub-genres, body types, and the pleasures of categorization; sexual hyperbole, excess, and the grotesque in the pornographic body; porn as standardization and porn as subversion of the body; porn star bodies as (cultural) commodities; industrial and social constraints in the construction of performers’ bodies; medicalization of the pornographic body; ways of engaging the viewer: body affects, feelings, and visceral reactions.
Visual Arts. The artistic/performative body
In recent times, the long-standing tradition of Performance Art seems to be changing its course: several artists are turning their attention back to the “outside world”, using their own bodies (as well as the bodies of the audience) as tools to create aesthetic evolutions or even socio-political transformations. Therefore, the Visual Arts section aims to investigate the human body as a transforming factor and a subject of mutation, capable of activating processes of change in contemporary media cultures. The section invites scholars and researchers to explore: 1. The ways in which artistic performances attempt to involve the spectator as a “relational” subject (as Nicolas Bourriaud would say), taking into account performance as well as video art and other audio-visual productions; 2. The strategies and techniques with which these artistic performances engage both the artist and the viewer’s bodies, also considering the possibilities offered by digital technologies and online networks.
Media Archaeology. The archaeological/technological body
This brand new section of the MAGIS Spring School is devoted to the multifaceted scholarly approach that goes under the label of Media Archaeology. Drawing on the outcomes of the XXI Udine Filmforum Conference “At the Borders of (Film) History”, in the next few years this section will undertake a project dedicated to the archaeology of the “technological body” – i.e. the body as constructed by technology – in the analog era. This edition will be focused on the body produced by non-theatrical films and videos. More specifically, we will investigate how film and video technologies have contributed to establish “interrelationships” in the non-theatrical realm, in terms of social identities, technological “gestures”, cognitive processes, and environments. Based on these premises, we invite proposals on: 1. Non-theatrical films and videos as the “material ground” through which cultural discourses and human agency have constructed social identities; 2. How the human body has incorporated technology and how technology has moulded new bodily frameworks, in particular taking into account the non-theatrical realm; 3. How this technological embodiment has created new ways of perceiving and thinking; 4. How the technological body shaped by non-theatrical films and videos has interacted with its own environment, modifying and technologizing its inner structures.
Film Heritage. The Body and Shape of Film History: Forms of Presentation
For its 2016 edition, the section will organize interactive workshops in which former, current, and future ways of (and dispositifs for) presenting film history will be discussed. The digital turn within humanities has increased the interest in e-research and e-presentation, opening up new possibilities for presenting the “body” and the “artefacts” of film history. In this context, growing communities are building new collaborative environments, characterized by interactive access, re-uses, shared tools, and a combination of different archival resources. A similar ethos informs and strengthens the strategies enacted by museums and theatres in the organization of exhibitions aimed at preserving “original” presentations and creating haptic (or archaeological) relationships with films and related materials. In this case as well, the form of presentation defines the content and corpus of what is understood as film history. In order to understand present and future ways of presentation, the section will extensively investigate the “historical” ones, with the aim of building bridges and (re)discovering common issues among former, current, and future forms of presentation. The section is organized by the University of Udine - La Camera Ottica, CineGraph/Hamburg, University of Applied Sciences Potsdam & University of Potsdam (European Media Studies).
The organizers invite single papers and panel proposals
Deadline for proposals: November 15, 2015
Authors will be notified by November 30, 2015 if their proposals have been accepted.
Proposals should not exceed one page in length. Please make sure to attach a short CV (10 lines max).
Submit proposals to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information at: http://www.filmforumfestival.it