Aesthetics of Contact: A New Theory of Materialist Film

Kim Knowles (University of Aberystwyth, UK)

Photochemical film is redefining itself in the age of the digital, carving out new creative and political significance as an art of resistance. This talk, which expands on a recently published article entitled ‘(Re)visioning Celluloid: Aesthetics of Contact in Materialist Film’, argues that material engagements in current celluloid film practice open up new ways of visioning the world by calling attention to surfaces.
We can therefore see how the anti-illusionist political gestures of the 1960s, theorised by Peter Gidal as structural-materialist film, might be reframed to take into account contemporary concerns. What does it mean to talk about materiality in the 21st century? How can the material specificities of film, with its unique form of tactile communication, open out to broader philosophical questions of seeing and being? In answering these questions, I draw on new materialism and environmental politics to build a new theory of materialist film.

Kim Knowles is lecturer in Film Studies at Aberystwyth University, Wales and Experimental Film Programmer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. She has published widely on early avant-garde film, poetry and photography, as well as contemporary experimental film in the context of technological transition. She is the author of A Cinematic Artist: The Films of Man Ray (Peter Lang, 2009; 2012).

Aesthetics of Contact: A New Theory of Materialist Film