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Direct Theory : Experimental Film / Video As Major Genre (94 Edition)


Direct Theory : Experimental Film / Video As Major Genre (94 Edition) Cover


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"Art is thinking in images."and#151;Victor Shklovsky

Undulating water patterns; designs etched directly into exposed film; computer- generated, pulsating, multihued light tapestriesand#151;the visual images that often constitute experimental film and video provide the basis for Edward S. Smalland#8217;s argument for a new theory defining this often overlooked and misunderstood genre. In a radical revision of film theory incorporating a semiotic system, Small contends that experimental film/video constitutes a mode of theory that bypasses written or spoken words to directly connect Ferdinand de Saussureand#8217;s "signifier" and "signified," the image and the viewer. This new theory leads Small to develop a case for the establishment of experimental film/video as a major genre.

Small contends that the aesthetic of experimental film/video would best be understood as a coordinate major genre separate from genres such as fictive narrative and documentary. He employs eight experimental technical/structural characteristics to demonstrate this thesis: the autonomy of the artist or a-collaborative construction; economic independence; brevity; an affinity for animation and special effects that embraces video technology and computer graphics; use of the phenomenology of mental imagery, including dreams, reveries, and hallucinations; an avoidance of verbal language as either dialogue or narration; an exploration of nonnarrative structure; and a pronounced reflexivityand#151;drawing the audienceand#8217;s attention to the art of the film through images rather than through the mediation of words.

Along with a theoretical approach, Small provides an overview of the historical development of experimental film as a genre. He covers seven decades beginning in France and Germany in the 1920s with European avant-garde and underground films and ends with a discussion of experimental videos of the 1990s. He highlights certain films and provides a sampling of frames from them to demonstrate the heightened reflexivity when images rather than words are the transmitters: for example, Ralph Steinerand#8217;s 1929 H2O, a twelve-minute, wordless, realistic study of water patterns, and Bruce Connerand#8217;s 1958 A Movie, which unites his themes of war-weapons-death and sexuality not by narrative digesis but by intellectual montage juxtapositions. Small also examines experimental video productions such as Stephen Beckand#8217;s 1977 Video Weavings, which has a simple musical score and abstract images recalling American Indian rugs and tapestries.

Small adds classic and contemporary film theory discussions to this historical survey to further develop his direct-theory argument and his presentation of experimental film/video as a separate major genre. He stresses that the function of experimental film/video is "neither to entertain nor persuade but rather to examine the quite omnipresent yet little understood pictos [semiotic symbols] that mark and measure our postmodern milieu."


Includes bibliographical references (p. 115-116) and index.

About the Author

Edward S. Small is a professor of theatre and film at the University of Kansas. He is a film theorist with a specialization in semiotics and a prize-winning film/video artist specializing in experimental production.

Product Details

Experimental Film/Video as Major Genre
Small, Edward S.
Southern Illinois University Press
Carbondale :
Film - History & Criticism
Experimental films
Experimental films -- History and criticism.
Film & Video - History & Criticism
Film - General
Film and Television-History and Criticism
Edition Number:
1st Edition
Edition Description:
1st Edition
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.3 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » General
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Genres
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism

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