Volume 3, Issue 1: Interrogating
Plus, a new podcast episode dedicated to the TV Dictionary!
It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the three-year anniversary of The Video Essay Podcast. Where has the time gone?! This issue also marks the third volume (!) of Notes on Videographic Criticism.
When I first started the podcast — and then later this newsletter — I imagined that it would become a space where others could share and republish/broadcast their work and thoughts on videographic criticism. I’m very pleased there will be more of that on these platforms in the coming months. Stay tuned!
First up is a report on the recent online symposium, “Interrogating the Modes of Videographic Criticism.” What follows was created by students in the Audiovisual Media Production course taught by Alan O’Leary at Aarhus University. It was edited by Alan O’Leary, Alissa Lienhard (Leibniz University Hannover) and Lida Shams-Mostofi (Leibniz University Hannover), with input from Maria Hofmann and Kathleen Loock.
Contributors include: Matilde Marie Glud Holm, Nikolaj Forsberg Hargaard, Rebecca Hagde, Signe Melhaven Pedersen and Christina Borring Gorsen, Pernille Patima Johansen, Pil Kaadt, Rebekka Thude Nielsen, Sebastian Witt Hammershøj, Sarah Dunne, Caroline Jensen, Daniel Theil, Daniel Gregersen Nielsen, Emilie Rahr Brammer, Marlene Krueger, Emma Cecilie Juelsgaard Rasmussen, Kaj Feddersen, Katrine Degn Buttenschøn, Malene Brix Ley, Maria Munoz Canizares, Peter Bruhn Westergaard, Sofie Klausen, Sofie Mathilde Bech, Trice Camilla Rodi Hansen, Teresa Gracia De Vargas, Asger Langebæk, Cecilie Kusk Clausen, Emma Visti Petersen, Jonas Møldrup, Lydia Baumgartner, Alberte Timmermann, Bastian Lykkebo, Anders Bak Jakobsen, Jetittha Susricharoensuk, Amalie Bonde, Josefine Gyldenløve Knudsen, Mads Lindhard Hulvej, Malthe Storm Blomgren, Marianne Skov Pedersen, Estel la Cantarell Torres, Sørine Skriver Fjeldgaard, Torvald Pockel, Vincent Christopher Winther, Zeynep Metinsoy, Wai Lam Antonio Wong, Sif Stensgaard Hermansen, Simon van Nguyen, Søren Lassen Jensen, Pilar Padron, Hong Yiu Tiffany Yeung, Amanda Rafaelsen Troelsen, Anders Nørdam Søndergård, Claudia Albarrán Muro, Anna-Sofie Abkjer Kofod.
Below is just the beginning of the report. You can read it all here.
Report of Online symposium
Interrogating the Modes of Videographic Criticism
24-25 February 2022
The symposium ‘Interrogating the Modes of Videographic Criticism’ was held online for nearly forty participants (speakers, chairs and respondents) and an audience of about 200 attendees, on 24 and 25 February 2022. Organized by Maria Hofmann (film scholar and video essayist), Kathleen Loock (Leibniz University Hannover), and Alan O’Leary (Aarhus University), the symposium featured emerging as well as established voices in order to build networks and to expand the community of videographic practitioners and researchers.
Day 1 was devoted to interrogating the affordances and knowledge claims of three distinctive modes of videographic practice: Desktop Documentary, Parametric/Deformative/Experimental and Personal Explorations. Day 2 was devoted to five workshops run in parallel (on videographic ‘entanglement’, sound, animation, accessibility and the ‘accented’ videoessay) followed by a closing roundtable which presented a range of perspectives on videographic criticism and the symposium debates.
Day 1 Panels
Panel 1: Desktop Documentary
Convened by Maria Hofmann and chaired by Maria Pramaggiore (NUI Maynooth)
The first speaker on the symposium’s first panel was Juan Llamas-Rodriguez (University of Texas at Dallas). In his presentation ‘Searching for the World on your Desktop’, he highlighted the use of desktop documentaries as a teaching tool. He spoke about the connection between global media and desktop documentaries and pointed out that videos and clips have the ability to act like digital postcards sent around the world. Furthermore, he pointed out how personal and individual desktop documentaries can be, considering for example personal folders and documents visible on the videoessayist’s desktop. He finished with a discussion of desktop documentaries in terms of ‘research as narrative experience’, where the viewer is invited to accompany the essayist on the documentary investigation.
In ‘Get Ready With Me: Sharing struggles, stories, and screens in the video essay on YouTube’, Grace Lee (video essayist at What’s So Great About That) considered YouTube as a video sharing platform and as a cultural space in itself. Lee framed her discussion with reference to a trend circulating on the platform: various videos entitled ‘Get Ready With Me’, where creators sit in front of the camera putting on make-up or otherwise preparing for their day, often speaking about topics unannounced in the clip title. Lee found analogies with her own approach to videoessay making in this form, including the sharing of process and the willingness to digress on arbitrary themes. Lee also showed screen shots and clips from her current work in progress, foregrounding what she described as her own lo-fi ‘aesthetic of authenticity’.
In ‘Disappearing into the Mise-en-Abîme: Implying but Not Making Arguments in the Video Essay’, David Sorfa (University of Edinburgh) spoke from an avowedly film-philosophical perspective to wonder what we are doing when we make videoessays about film. He proposed a comprehensive taxonomy of possible reasons given for writing about film (that a film is entertaining, morally edifying, aesthetically or politically significant and so on). But what about desktop documentary? Such work seems, he said, to dwell somewhere beyond interpretation. Philosophy on some accounts is not about things but about how we speak about things; so, if a film can be philosophy, able in some respects to do what prose philosophy is less equipped to do, than a video-essay about film is speaking about how we speak about things…
Stephanie Brown (Washington College) began her discussion in ‘Desktop Documentary and the Practice of Everyday Life’ with how she uses popular culture as a shared language, and of how popular culture embeds itself into our everyday lives through our social interactions. She considers the desktop documentary a uniquely productive format in which the computer screen acts as both lens and canvas, making it possible to create content while simultaneously interacting with others – a process of looking while also being looked at. She referred to the interface of TikTok, where users have the possibility of both recording and looking into the camera with a ‘duet’ feature that makes it possible to put on a ‘musical presentation’ by people watching and performing at the same time. Brown described the desktop documentary as a response to how everyday life is increasingly digitized and suggested that it surpasses the traditional academic paper in being able to grasp this.
Kevin B. Lee (Università della Svizzera Italiana) acted as respondent to the panel. He was appreciative of the ‘guerilla aesthetics’ he noted in the work of Grace Lee and Stephanie Brown, but pointed out that while the desktop documentary allowed accessibility, this accessibility was still a question of images, and therefore positioned us as (mere) spectators. Reality, in such an address, remained at issue. In playful fashion, Lee finished with an invitation to join in ‘Desktop Documentary Bingo’, sharing a table of keywords he had transcribed from the four presentations, reproduced below.
The rest of the report continues here.
TV Dictionary w/ Ariel Avissar
Today's short episode features a conversation with Ariel Avissar, a lecturer, PhD student and Tisch Film School Scholar at Tel Aviv University, and the creator and curator of the ongoing TV Dictionary project. The premise of the project? Try to capture the essence of a TV series with only a single word. The task? Make a short video that pairs the dictionary definition(s) of that word with a clip or clips from a single series.
And also learn more about the upcoming roundtable dedicated to the project at the CST online slow conference. The roundtable will be held at 3:15 - 4:45 pm BST and feature Libertad Gills, Catherine Grant, Evelyn Kreutzer, Johannes Binotto, Ariel Avissar and Jason Mittell. More here.
News & Notes
Please send news and notes for future newsletters to email@example.com.
In collaboration with the website Filmexplorer, Chloé Galibert-Laîné, Johannes Binotto, and Kevin B. Lee have curated a new “Video Essay Gallery.” The first of five programs centered on a different theme, “Home Positions,” can be accessed here.
A new issue of MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism was just published and features a mix of written and audiovisual work. More here.
Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin have released a new project, “The Audiovisual Essay Collection,” which assembles some of their best work since 2012, “often in reworked, technically upgraded versions.” Read more about the project here.
Be sure to check out the 4th volume of the Essay Library Anthology, “We Asked a Bot to Name 18 Video Essays.” Watch here.
Tune in to "Three works in progress by academic filmmakers,” a hybrid event on June 2 hosted by the Filmmaking Research, Academic Film and Videographic Criticism research unit at Aarhus University. More here.
The Watershed Film Critics’ Workshop returns for its 6th edition with a focus on video essays as part of Cinema Rediscovered. The workshop (July – Sept 2022) will be led by Jonathan Bygraves with guests including Catherine Grant, Jessica McGoff and Charlie Shackleton. The deadline to apply is June 13. More here.
The video essay program at MUTA festival returns for another year. The deadline for submissions is June 22. Details in English and Spanish here.
“Theory & Practice of The Video Essay,” an International Conference on Videographic Criticism, will be held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from September 22-23, 2022. Learn more here.
The SCMS Digital Humanities and Videographic Criticism SIG is now on Twitter. Give them a follow here.
A new talk from Kevin B. Lee, “The Spatial Languages of the Video Essay.” Watch here.
A new website created by Jason Mittell to showcase undergraduate work: Media Mirrors: Critical Analysis of Film & TV and Film & TV.
Jason Mittell shared the exiting news of a new series, Videographic Books: Film & Media Scholarship in Sound & Image, he has started with the team at Lever Press. Learn more here.
Cormac Donnelly has started a new blog, Deformative Sound Lab, where he is chronicling and sharing videographic experiments he is creating as part of his PhD research, which focuses on film sound and videographic practice.
And a special shoutout to Ian Garwood, who created this video after listening to the latest episode of On Your Screen!