Part of the GEM Lab's 2022-2023 Works-in-Progress series
Self-Images and the “Ethic of Reviewing” in Global Film, Art, Activism, and Psychiatry in the late 1960s and early 1970s w/ Kate Rennebohm
//Mar. 20, 2023
//1250 Guy, FB 630.15
This presentation recounts the historical apex of the mediated ethical-political paradigm that I term “reviewing.” In this framework, which develops over the course of the 20th century only to retreat during the 21st, individuals ascribe moral and political benefits to the act of watching themselves on screen—a response, I argue, to longer histories of cinematic “self-viewing.” As I will show here, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw the zenith of this ethic, with artists, activists, filmmakers, sociologists, and psychiatrists around the world turning film and video cameras on those they desired to help; that is, by putting them in contact with their onscreen, mediated selves. This presentation will chart a tension that emerges in these instances between the desire to instrumentalize self-viewing in the service of programmatic or quantifiable moral “improvements” on the one hand and the belief that moving images provide a site of cathected ethical-political focus and activity (a site not available elsewhere), on the other. A reading of the recently rediscovered Italian video verité film Anna (Grifi & Sarchielli, 1975) will chart this movement from the first (programmatic) thread in the ethic of reviewing to the second, in which ethical work is undertaken by the individual at the behest of or in encounter with their own, cinematically-mediated images—with all the promise, limitations, and unpredictability that entails.
Kate Rennebohm has just completed a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University, Canada. Her work investigates the intersection of film theory and philosophy, visual studies, media theory, and ethical and political philosophy, and she is currently working on a book project titled “Reviewing the Self-Image: Ethics, Politics, and Moving Image Media.” Her work has been published in October, MIRAJ, Cinema Scope, and different edited collections. She is the co-editor of the recent Screen dossier “Projecting Cavell: New Contexts, New Questions” and her essay on “enforced skepticism” is available in the current issue of Critical Inquiry.