Date of Degree

6-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

David Joselit

Committee Members

Claire Bishop

Amy Herzog

Noam M. Elcott

Subject Categories

Film and Media Studies | Modern Art and Architecture

Keywords

Expanded Cinema; Film co-operatives; exhibition history; black box; white cube; media archaeology

Abstract

This dissertation reconstructs “Europ”—an informal network of artists interconnected through the film cooperative movement who propagated expanded cinema throughout Western Europe in a series of artist-organized screenings, festivals and exhibitions in the late 1960s and 1970s. While Europ was never actually realized as a project, I deploy the name as a retrospective device for bringing together experimental filmmakers from Austria, Germany and the U.K. Expanded cinema was an experimental art form that stretched the definition of film by incorporating diverse media, including multiple screens and projectors, live performance, and installation. It thus resisted the confines of traditional cinemas, as it breached the cinematic apparatus to reach into the real time and space of the spectator. These qualities of the work led the artists to exhibit them in galleries instead.

I argue that the Europ-organized exhibitions constitute the first significant examples of film projection within the gallery setting, as part of a larger mission to prove film a viable medium of visual art. The site of the gallery became privileged not only because of its spatial properties, but because of the status that it could confer upon film, securing its place within the longer trajectory of twentieth century art. Europ’s deliberate and consistent commitment to this goal thus constitutes the biggest difference between European and U.S. expanded cinema. Compared to their U.S. counterparts, the Europ artists were also more wary of new media technologies and espoused a structural-materialist film practice that was anti-commercial, anti-illusionistic, anti-narrative and anti-spectacle.

Europ’s exhibitions foreshadow our present moment, when the ubiquity of film installation in the gallery has supposedly blurred the difference between the “black box” and the “white cube.” I perform a media archaeology of early film exhibitions to illuminate the motivations behind the relocation of film to the gallery, including the types of decisions made, the diversity of options available, and the artists’ dreams to reinvent cinematic experience. This dissertation thus intervenes in the literature on the projected image by writing one of the first historical accounts of gallery-based projection, complicating the discussion of the black box and white cube as apparatuses, which has hitherto been largely theoretical.

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