In recent years a number of extensive reviews have attempted to canonize the genre of the essay film, and to specify its formal arguments. In our look at the moving image as essay, which is accorded the potential for critical competence via its referential linkage of visual with explicitly intellectual (primarily literary) image and knowledge production, concepts such as “resistance,” “discomfort, “ and “non-availability” recur. In the context of art, television, and cinema, we have brought together works that actively make use of these elements.
The central location of the moving image essay today is the field of art, from where the genre draws its formally influential elements. This was not the case back in the 1990s, when television was still crucial for distribution and financing. Especially public television channels offered space for formal experiment and an alternative public arena. Television increasingly became the material and content of experiments in essay film. Der Ärger mit den Bildern (The Trouble with Images, 1973) by Harun Farocki and Color Adjustment (1992) by Marlon Riggs are typical works that consciously moved away from cinema, the starting point of the moving image. In the cinema the film essay denotes both a countermovement and a free space. Cinema Novo was developed as a counterpoint to Hollywood cinema in the 1950s, which dominated the Brazilian film market at the time. Critiques of social injustice, authentic expression, and dialogue with the viewers were characteristically included in the genre.
Over three evenings the thread will be spun and flexibly linked to questions concerning the essay as form. The context of the moving image essay will ideally interweave with debates on the appropriation of formal strategies by the invisible hand and the role of technical apparatus in connection with contemporary production of the moving image and counter-public spaces.
The program was designed by Leander Gussmann, Ipek Hamzaoğlu, Martina Kigle, Elke Liberda, Kai Maier-Rothe, Inka Meißner, Lina Morawetz, and Alain Volpe. The idea for this film series was developed at a seminar with Diedrich Diederichsen at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.