KEYNOTE: ‘Dissolves of Passion’: Materially Thinking through Editing in Videographic Compilation
University of Sussex
(at time of presentation)
Catherine Grant is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. She established (and continues to curate for) the open access campaigning website Film Studies For Free, and the Audiovisualcy video group, and is also founding editor of the academic digital publishing platform REFRAME. She has published widely on theories and practices of film authorship and intertextuality, and has edited volumes on world cinema, Latin American cinema, digital film and media studies, and the audiovisual essay. A relatively early and prolific adopter of the online short video form, she is founding co-editor (with Christian Keathley and Drew Morton) of [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies. This new peer-reviewed publication was awarded the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award of Distinction for 2015.
In this lecture, I will attempt to tell the story of a video essay from beginning to end, to try to re-create its creation, to understand its collective and contingent origins as well as its particular forms of material thinking. This kind of practice-led research knows not what it thinks before it begins; it is a coming to knowledge that is ‘not the awareness of a mind that holds itself aloof from the messy, hands-on business of work’, as Tim Ingold writes (following Heidegger), but, rather, ‘immanent in practical, perceptual activity’. The video essay in question is ‘Dissolves of Passion: A Film Within a Film’, an eight-minute-long compilation of slowed down versions of all of the dissolves (or fading in and out, superimposed shots) that I could locate in and extract from David Lean’s 1945 movie Brief Encounter (U.K.) in the order in which they appear in that film. With its procedures largely predetermined by these basic formal, chronological and ‘completist’ aims, the kind of audio-visual assemblage I made may not sound like either the most critical, or the most creative, of film scholarly activities. But in my experience, such parameter-based videographic explorations of elements of filmmaking can turn out to be a compelling methodology for academic research projects. In this case, the chosen parameter was one that drew on existing ‘found footage’ traditions of compilation filmmaking as well as on film and moving image scholarship. The resultant video is distinctly derivative—indeed, it is a useful ‘limit case’ in unoriginal creativity. But through its transformative re-workings, I was able to make some discoveries about the material at the same time as framing a particular audio-visual experience of it.