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“Sites of Cinema” takes a new approach to the question of cinema at the moment when cinema is said to be in decline, even in some accounts said to be facing its “death.” At this moment, when are focused on a convergence of moving image forms into a single delivery system we take up divergence over convergence, a divergence. Alternative to André Bazin’s question “What is Cinema?” “Sites of Cinema” will ask “Where is Cinema?” Where has it been seen to be and where will it be spaced in the future—as theoretical construct, national culture, material object, artistic work, social practice and space of exhibition. Cinema has moved and is still moving—from theatrical stages to museum walls, in and on buildings as well as within historical nations and regions of the world. “Sites of Cinema” signals our interest in site-specific cinemas plural but also cinema as a total apparatus—the “cinema of the mind” for the mass audience.

Nico Baumbach

Jane Gaines

Kaylee DeFreitas

Meeting Schedule

7:00 PM
The Lossy Elegance of “Dark Brandon”: Compression, Memes, and Irony Post-Trump
Jason LaRiviere, Columbia University


In this election-themed edition of Sites of Cinema, I will interrogate the memetic phenomenon of “Dark Brandon” through the media theoretical lens of compression. The ironic (or is it?) appropriation of sci-fi-tinged images of President Joe Biden over the last year by liberals and leftists provides a case study in a form of political communication that has proven to be vital to understanding the stakes of the current media ecology. In 2018, media theorists Geert Lovink and Marc Tuters identified memes as a form of “idea compression” that markedly determine the contradictions of the online subject, but only one side seems to have weaponized this insight: “As the far-right have discovered, memes express tensions that can’t be spoken in the political correct vocabulary of the mainstream media. To what extent can these empty formats symbolize the lived experience of global capitalism? Is it true that the left can’t meme?” I will take up their pressing questions by first surveying how compression has become a key term for cultural theory in the 21st century before closely reading the hyperstitional potential of “Dark Brandon”—analysis that will require laser-eyed focus on the affordances of memes as speech.

Patrick Harrison, University of California, Berkeley

12/06/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Enigma, Opacity: Race and Psychoanalysis Revisited
Homay King, Bryn Mawr College


Psychoanalytic theory seems more necessary than ever in an historical moment marked by widespread political disenfranchisement, combined with renewed attachment to the idea of a self-sovereign, self-possessed, and—perhaps most significantly—self-knowing subject. But why is self-knowledge construed as a necessary precondition for a capacitated, agentive subject? In this paper, the author put two concepts in dialogue, Jean Laplanche’s enigmatic signifier and Édouard Glissant’s opacity. Together, they trouble the fiction of a self that is completely transparent to itself and provide a path beyond its impasse. The paper concludes with an interpretation of visual works by African Canadian artist Stan Douglas.

Alexander Galloway, New York University

02/02/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Deluge, Flow, Stream: Immediacy as Video Style
Anna Kornbluh, University of Illinois, Chicago


If the golden age of tv has passed into the mica age of streaming, can we speak of "stream style"? This talk considers the aesthetic features and economic determinants of the stream. Defined by distributors-turned-producers, a priority of circulation, reflective of the broader intensity of circulation in 21st-century capitalism, now contours the very images and ideas before the camera. The resulting homogeneity of "flow" is evident in formal features like immanentized cinematography, looping plotlessness, genre dissolve, and medium meld. And this circulation-centric, engulfing deliquesence also links streaming aesthetics to other contemporary arts undergoing disintermediation.

Catherine Quan Damman, New York University

03/30/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Listening with an Accent: The Documentary Audit as Raciolinguistic Pedagogy
Pooja Rangan, Amherst College


This talk explores the role of documentary forms in cultivating “neutral” listening habits that justify linguistic profiling and discrimination, and their capacity to engage audiences in listening with an accent, or listening with a relational awareness of one’s embodied social vantage. To that end, I offer a history, a method drawn from my co-edited anthology Thinking with an Accent (UC Press 2023), and an illustration of that method in practice. Early sound documentaries by the British GPO Film Unit were instrumental in shaping the “objective” listening vantage that has become the habitualized locus of documentary listening, or what I call the documentary audit. Pioneers of the neutral commentator voice, these films exported a supralocal accent as a national-imperial norm and gave audiovisual form to raciolinguistic ideals. I trace the postcolonial resonances of the documentary audit in the evidentiary logic of forensic speech analysis through an engagement with works by artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Abu Hamdan’s investigations of the linguistic profiling of asylum seekers by UK immigration authorities are both diagnostic and propositional: they show how documentary forms and comportments are complicit in listening for an accent, and simultaneously cultivate a perceptual and interpretive mode that does not listen for so much as with an awareness of the place from which one has been taught to listen.

Lana Lin, The New School

04/27/2023 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Oversharing: Appropriation After AI and the Internet
Leo Goldsmith, The New School


What happens to a radical aesthetic strategy when it’s hardwired into the networked tools we use every day? This is the question raised by appropriation art today: once a key modernist and postmodernist strategy—deployed across many disciplines and media forms, from painting and sculpture to cinema and music—the act of reuse is now a default operation of networked digital technologies. Addressing appropriation’s many forms—including collage, montage, readymade, and sampling, with a particular emphasis on found footage film—this talk investigates the ways in which the reuse and remixing of pre-existing materials has become standardized as part of the basic functionality of networked devices, vernacularized as part of internet culture, and, more recently, weaponized by machine-learning technologies that scrape, rework, and recirculate data. As this practice becomes ubiquitous—at once central to media economies and tightly policed by algorithmic IP detection—what happens to appropriation’s original provocations around artistic authorship, automation, “found”-ness, consumption, and property?

Tiffany Sia, Artist, Filmmaker, and Writer