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Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film

Jeffrey Skoller
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv81f
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  • Book Info
    Shadows, Specters, Shards
    Book Description:

    Shadows, Specters, Shards examines experimental films, including work by Eleanor Antin, Ernie Gehr, and Jean-Luc Godard, that take up events such as the Holocaust, Latin American independence struggles, and urban politics. In his discussion of avant-garde film of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Jeffrey Skoller reveals how a nuanced understanding of the past is linked to the artistry of image making and storytelling.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9531-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xlvi)

    The film begins with images of a contemporary city street intersection. Nothing special is occurring. Daily life is seen in the passing of cars and trucks; people are crossing the streets. There are the hazy sunshine and deep shadows of a summer afternoon. In the long static shots I begin to see signs in the shop windows, a clock. The ambient sound of the street confirms the prosaic quality of the scene. This could be a city in almost any affluent country. The camera begins to cut to other shots revealing different points of the intersection. Each shot is separated...

  5. 1. Shards: Allegory as Historical Procedure
    (pp. 1-38)
    Ernie Gehr, Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi and Craig Baldwin

    The incorporation of recorded sounds and images into artworks has shifted the ways in which artists have understood the movement of time and the uses of memory. In these works, physical objects—specifically audiotape and motion picture film—produce new perceptions of the relationship between the past and present and the construction of history. I briefly trace a shift from an interplay between the ephemeral and subjective apprehension of the past as suggested by Proust’s notion of involuntary memory inÀ la recherche du temps perdu(In Search of Lost Time) to one complicated by an engagement with a moment...

  6. 2. Shadows: Historical Temporalities 1
    (pp. 39-68)
    Eleanor Antin, Ken Jacobs and Daniel Eisenberg

    Our desire to understand the confusing and chaotic nature of historical events often gives rise to narrative forms and their conventions. They are created to give a sense of coherence or a rationale that helps explain why events occur in the ways they do. Notions of inevitability, predictability, and causality are central to such conventions and become binding agents that seem to cement fragments of events into seamless, whole stories that satisfy our apparent need for closure.

    This is a literary as well as an ideological problem, for as much as anything else, the narrative representation of history consists of...

  7. 3. Virtualities: Historical Temporalities 2
    (pp. 69-108)
    Jean-Luc Godard, Daniel Eisenberg, Abigail Child and James Benning

    If the rubble-strewn cities of Europe were the mise-en-scène for the postwar cinema of neorealism, with its melodramatic examinations of the brutality of fascism, then the empty space left by the removal of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is the image of an emerging post—Cold War cinema. Through the use of the same modern technology with which Europe destroyed itself, the Germans (and their country’s occupiers) rebuilt West Germany after World War II, thus rendering virtually invisible the convulsive destruction that the war had brought on. Not only had the geography of Europe changed, but many of the cities...

  8. 4. Specters: The Limits of Representing History
    (pp. 109-148)
    Ernie Gehr, Charles Burnett, Abraham Ravett and Claude Lanzmann

    So says Shoah survivor Simon Srebnik, standing in a green and lush open field in Chelmno, Poland. The combination of the deadpan look on his face as he is speaking and the inert, pastoral quality of the landscape, both of which seem to be covering up more than we can imagine, makes the possibility of representing what Srebnik experienced as a thirteen-year-old boy seem impossible. As the scene in Claude Lanzmann’s filmShoah(France, 1986) continues, the camera records the empty field as Srebnik walks silently through it. His seeming inability to put into words the connection between what he...

  9. 5. Obsessive Returns: Filmmaking as Mourning Work
    (pp. 149-166)
    Leandro Katz and Patricio Guzmán

    The point of departure for this chapter was a recent experience of re-viewing my own filmNicaragua: Hear-Say/See-Here(1986) with a small group of people. The film, a portrait of daily life in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution, at the height of the United States—Contra war, is a one-hour travelogue in which I explored the country, looking at the ways the revolution was transforming the society. The film makes the point that behind all the cynical Cold War propaganda, what was being destroyed was the sense of idealism and possibility that the revolution had created in the daily lives...

  10. Coda: Notes on History and the Postcinema Condition
    (pp. 167-192)
    Mark Rappaport, Tony Sinden and Zoe Beloff

    Throughout this book I have worked to acknowledge the expanding possibilities for contemporary avant-garde film practice by making a case for a wide range of aesthetic approaches to the imaging of history. In the final two chapters, I paired films from more typically avant-garde film contexts such as Ernie Gehr’sSignal—Germany on the Airand Abraham Ravett’sThe Marchwith films more commonly classified as dramatic narrative or social documentary such as Charles Burnett’sKiller of Sheepand Patricio Guzmán’sChile, la memoria obstinada. By making the claim that these and several other works can be construed as avant-gardist,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 193-204)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  13. Filmography and Distributors
    (pp. 215-218)
  14. Permissions
    (pp. 219-220)
  15. Index
    (pp. 221-232)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)