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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.

Professor Nico Baumbach

Professor 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

Catherine Quan Damman, New York University