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Spiral Film and Philosophy Conference 2019 : Extended CFP - Spiral Film and Philosophy Conference 2019 - It’s Alive! Film / Form / Life


When May 17, 2019 - May 18, 2019
Where Toronto
Submission Deadline Jan 30, 2019
Categories    film   philosophy   media   theory

Call For Papers

New deadline Jan. 30

Spiral Film and Philosophy Conference 2019:

It’s Alive!
Film / Form / Life

Toronto, Canada
May 17-18, 2019

On the walls of the Chauvet cave in France, drawings of animals dating back to 30,000 years are represented with additional sets of legs. Recently, it was suggested that far from being naïve mistakes, these additional limbs were meant to represent life forms in movement. Thousands of years later, Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotography attempted to capture animated life by decomposing its movement in discrete images. In 2013, National Geographic published a short video of a sprinting cheetah recorded with a Phantom camera filming at 1200 frames per second. The engine for cinema’s genesis, it appears, is closely intertwined with the challenge of giving form to animated life.

It is no coincidence that the recent mutations reshaping both how movies are being made and experienced are taking place right at the moment when a geological age radically transformed by human activities for thousands of years is finally being granted its own name: the anthropocene. The relentless recreation of the world has for long been the concern of artistic expression, from animation in the paleolithic age, to attempts by early cinema at decomposing life’s movement, to the most recent feats by ground breaking digital technologies redefining the realm of vision. Ongoing mutations in the ways in which we experience a world itself perpetually changing demand that we constantly come up with new forms of expression. From this perspective, life itself seems currently suspended in the tension between what Georges Bataille once called the “formless” and the desire (if not the need) to give a sensible and intelligible form to our lives. Life forms, far from being fixed, increasingly appear to be in flux, transitioning from one state to another, through genetic cloning and digital simulation.

This year’s Spiral Film and Philosophy conference wants to examine how cinema has been and may very well still be teetering on the threshold of that which is yet without a recognizable form — the unsayable, but also the untamed: what exists beyond regimes of traditional representation — and the reproduction of recognizable forms of life. As such, this call for papers is open to but also extends beyond the mere cinematic capture and representation of life. It welcomes contributions about filming life, including but not limited to:

• recent breakthroughs in 3D cinematic rendering of previously invisible molecular activities;
• “cartoon physics” and animation (including puppetry, claymation, stop-motion, etc.);
• micro-cinematography experiments and time-lapsed representation of vegetable life;
• data visualization of population transformation and movement (migration, etc.);
• Muybridge’s and Marey’s motion studies to early scientific cinema;
• medical deployments of photography and the cinematic image;
• life, movement and death of cyberbody, digital organisms;
• life under neoliberal capitalism, accelerationist aesthetics;
• cinema and automatism (Bazin, Cavell, Surrealism, etc.);
• biological (science-)fictions (Painlevé, Cousteau, etc.);
• machine vision, drone vision, surveillance cinema;
• imaginary monsters, monstrous imaginaries;
• environmental disasters, the chthulucene;
• posthuman life and the anthropocene;
• sensory ethnography, haptic cinema;
• afrofuturist depictions of life;
• live cinema, interactive TV;
• metamorphosing bodies;
• queer animation;
• biopolitical cinema.

We invite participants to think forms of life as being more than the mere subject of a cinematic regime of representation. What would it entail, for example, to think of cinema itself as a form of life in constant flux, resisting any definitive spectacular commodification? More to the point, what would it mean to think of a kinetic animation of form — or style, or ethos — as being radically inseparable from its content? Could “cinema” be more than an objectified mise-en-scène, but the designation for an ensemble of living practices and technics taking place in a specific but ever-changing environment?

We also welcome papers that engage with the work of specific philosophers and theorists who think about forms of life and philosophy from a variety of perspectives and further relate them to questions of cinema and media studies. We also welcome filmmakers, media practitioners, and activists to present and discuss their work.

The confirmed Keynote Speaker is Deborah Levitt, Assistant Professor of Culture & Media Studies at The New School, in New York City. She is the author of The Animatic Apparatus: Animation, Vitality, and the Futures of the Image (Zero Books, 2018), and has published articles and interviews in Waking Life: Kino zwischen Technik und Leben, Inflexions: A Journal of Research-Creation, The Scholar and Feminist Online, Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture: Bodies, Screens, and Renderings, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory 2010, and The Agamben Dictionary, among others.

The conference will be held in Toronto, Canada May 17-18, 2019.

Please send a 300-word abstract, brief bibliography, and bio (with institutional affiliation, if applicable) in one document as an email attachment to by January 30, 2019.

Conference Registration Fee:
Conference Attendance: $100 (Canadian)
Graduate Students and Underemployed: $50 (Canadian)

Conference website:

Organized by the Spiral Film and Philosophy Collective in collaboration with the department of Cinema and Media Studies, York University.

Selected Bibliography:

[na] “Bio–Cinema Verité?” Nature Methods 9, no. 12 (December 2012): 1127.

Campbell, Timothy C. The Techne of Giving: Cinema and the Generous Form of Life. Fordham University, 2017.

Canales, Jimena. “Dead and Alive: Micro-Cinematography between Physics and Biology.” Configurations 23, no. 2 (September 17, 2015): 235–51.

Casarino, Cesare. “Three Theses on the Life-Image (Deleuze, Cinema, Biopolitics).” In Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media, edited by Jacques Khalip and Robert Mitchell. Stanford University Press, 2011.

Coccia, Emanuele. Sensible Life: A Micro-Ontology of the Image. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.

Corliss, John O. “A Salute to Fifty-Four Great Microscopists of the Past: A Pictorial Footnote to the History of Protozoology. Part I.” Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 97, no. 4 (1978): 419–58.

Gaycken, Oliver. Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Helmreich, Stefan. “What Was Life? Answers from Three Limit Biologies.” Critical Inquiry 37, no. 4 (2011): 671–96.

Helmreich, Stefan, and Sophia Roosth. “Life Forms: A Keyword Entry.” Representations 112, no. 1 (November 1, 2010): 27–53.

Lamarre, Thomas. The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media. University of Minnesota Press, 2018.

Landecker, Hannah. “Cellular Features: Microcinematography and Film Theory.” Critical Inquiry 31, no. 4 (June 1, 2005): 903–37.

Landecker, Hannah. “Seeing Things: From Microcinematography to Live Cell Imaging.” Comments and Opinion. Nature Methods, October 1, 2009.

Lawrence, Michael, and Laura McMahon, eds. Animal Life and the Moving Image. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Lebovic, Nitzan. “The Biopolitical Film (A Nietzschean Paradigm).” Postmodern Culture 23, no. 1 (2012).

Levitt, Deborah. “Animating Biophilosophy: Animation and the Medium of Life: Media Ethology, An-Ontology, Ethics.” Inflexions, no. 7 (n.d.): 118–61.

Levitt, Deborah. The Animatic Apparatus: Animation, Vitality, and the Futures of the Image. Zero Books, 2018.

Muhle, Maria. “Imitation of Life: Biopolitics and the Cinematographic Image.” Fillip 17 (2012).

Pick, Anat. “Animal Life in the Cinematic Umwelt.” In Animal Life and the Moving Image, edited by Michael Lawrence and Laura McMahon. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Pollmann, Inga. “Invisible Worlds, Visible: Uexküll’s Umwelt, Film, and Film Theory.” Critical Inquiry 39, no. 4 (June 1, 2013): 777–816.

Pollmann, Inga. Cinematic Vitalism: Film Theory and the Question of Life. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018.

Schwartz, Louis-Georges. “Cinema and the Meaning of ‘Life.’” Discourse 28, no. 2 (2006): 7–27.

Stiegler, Bernard. “The Organology of Dreams and Arche-Cinema.” Translated by Daniel Ross. The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2014): 7–37.

Tarizzo, Davide. Life A Modern Invention. Translated by Mark William Epstein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Thacker, Eugene. Biomedia. Minneapolis, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

Zewail, Ahmed H. “Micrographia of the Twenty-First Century: From Camera Obscura to 4D Microscopy.” Philosophical Transactions. Series A, Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences 368, no. 1914 (March 13, 2010): 1191–1204.

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