Dr. Martha Blassnigg

08.09.69 – 27.09.15

Martha Blassnigg 08.09.69 – 27.09.15, by Michael Punt.

Michael Punt (2016) “In Memoriam: Martha Blassnigg, 08 September 1969–27 September 2015”, Leonardo. 49:1, 87-88
Roger Malina – Passing of friend and colleague Martha Blassnigg, the art science technology community mourns
The Eye Film Institute – Film scholar Martha Blassnigg passed away
Memorial Page at Trauer Hilfe – Frau Prof. MMag. Martha Maria Blassnigg


Reader in the Anthropology of Media

Martha Blassnigg is co-convenor of Transtechnology Research and Associate Editor for Leonardo Reviews (MIT Press), Leonardo Reviews Quarterly; Editor-in-Chief for Transtechnology Research Open Access Papers and a member of the Leonardo review panel.
Blassnigg is a Cultural and Media Anthropologist, trained in Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy, and parallel in Film and Cinema Studies, with a background in film restoration, documentary filmmaking and photography as research practice. She has completed two documentary films and has previously worked as film restorer at the Netherlands Filmmuseum (now EYE Film Institute Netherlands).

Doctor of Philosophy – (The Cinema and its Spectatorship: The Spiritual Dimension of the ‘Human Apparatus’), University of Wales, Newport, 2007. Supervised by Prof. Dr. Michael Punt, examined by Prof. dr. Patricia Pisters (University of Amsterdam) and Prof. Dr. Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe (University of Lincoln).
Cultural Anthropology (undivided MA), Film and Cinema Studies (undivided MA) and Philosophy – Universities of Vienna, Cologne and Amsterdam. (Thesis ‘Seeing Angels and the Spiritual in Film: An Interdisciplinary Study of a Sensuous Experience’ including the documentary film ‘Shapes of Light’, VHS, col. 35mins, 2000)
Practice in the application of audio-visual media for empirical research practice (in fieldwork, interviews, reporting and documentation, e.g. photography and documentary film-making), with a background in film-restoration, archiving (Netherlands Filmmuseum Amsterdam) and film-projection.
She has been visiting lecturer at the Department of European Ethnology, Humboldt- University Berlin, Associate Lecturer at the University of Plymouth and University of Wales, Newport. She has also been Senior Teaching Fellow at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture at Justus-Liebig University in Giessen.

Blassnigg undertakes philosophical and historical research in order to situate the metaphysical dimensions of technology and art within the processes of human cognition. In this she focuses on the perceptual experiences and affordances of audio-visual mediation in both a historical and contemporary context in relation to issues such as time, memory, empathy, intuition, and consciousness. She combines empirical research (anthropological methods) with historical and philosophical studies of media and mediation from a user perspective addressing issues concerned with epistemology, knowledge versus belief, agency and free will, aesthetic intuition and holistic approaches to the body-mind correlation.

She was recently co-investigator of a 3-year international research project funded by HERA/ESF, which she co-wrote in collaboration with Michael Punt. The project was entitled “Technology, Exchange and Flow: Artistic Media Practices and Commercial Application” (more information on this website under “HERA: Technology, Exchange and Flow”). In this context she has been working on the implications of aesthetic intuition on memory processes, consciousness and affection exploring the agency of the beholder and the involved cognitive processes and interpretive frameworks with an attempt to develop a philosophical/anthropological conception of intuition as a heuristic for the aesthetic immersion and epistemology for affective knowledge and experience transfer. She applies Bergson’s understanding of memory, affect and intuition as crucial constituents of the underlying internalised processes to the experiences of audio-visual environments during and after the mediated event and contextualises this in current discussions of memory, consciousness and affection in the fields of psychology, consciousness studies and philosophy.
She has also been conducting research into the current discourse and practice of transdisciplinarity as part of the International Network for Transdisciplinary Research (see INTR) at the intersection of arts, humanities, science and technology.

Recent Publication:
Blassnigg, M. (Editor), Deutsch, G. and Schimek, H. (Associate Editors)
(2013). Light Image Imagination. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press (Framing Film Series, AUP/EYE)

LIGHT IMAGE IMAGINATION is an anthology of text- and image-essays by international scholars and artists who lead critical discourses in audio-visual media history, practice and theory. The main focus of the contributions lies in discourses and topics around 19th and 20th century innovations in arts, media and technology, and their media-archaeological and philosophical foundations. It juxtaposes text and image-essays to stimulate dialogue and associative interconnections in order to discuss the creation, perception and projection of images (both mental and material) and their specific relationship with light and imagination. A key feature of both the individual contributions and the book as a whole is that disciplinary boundaries are challenged in order to amplify and enrich the thinking about mediated images. The anthology is accessible to a broad readership and will appeal especially to a constituency that views the boundaries between science, art and technology as a permeable and exciting territory to explore.
The contributing authors and artists work at the interdisciplinary intersections of the Arts, Sciences and Humanities. Their expertise includes film and media theory, media archaeology, cinema history and theory, philosophy, history of science and technology, astronomy, computer music, literature studies, neuroscience, psychology, art history, art practice (painting, photography, film, video, digital arts; music composition).

Previous research outcomes have been published as Time, Memory, Consciousness and the Cinema Experience: Revisiting Ideas on Matter and Spirit (Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2009); chapters and articles have appeared in Leonardo, Convergence, Technoetic Arts, REAL Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature, Medicine Studies and in the anthology Screen Consciousness: Cinema, Mind and World edited by R. Pepperell and M. Punt (Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2006).

In the book Time, Memory, Consciousness and the Cinema Experience she applies Henri Bergson’s  philosophy to an ontology of the cinema spectatorship and opens a discussion on the issues of time, movement and esprit (mind) in a broad interdisciplinary context of the late 19th, early 20th century with a focus on the oeuvre of Etienne-Jules Marey. It revisits his work in a dialogue with Bergson’s thinking and emphasises the connections with art in his own commentaries as well as in relation to Aby Warburg’s method of the Mnemosyne Atlas. Through a “thick” reading of the intersections between science, technology, art and popular culture in relation to the emerging cinema, it resituates the spiritual dimension in the spectators’ cognitive processes. It draws on insights of an under-researched dimension in Bergson’s work in an application to a contemporary understanding of spectatorship in audio-visual environments and discusses the cinema as philosophical dispositif.

Research background
The scope of her research background includes:
- Film and cinema theory (focus on discourses around ontology, immanence, affect and senses), history and philosophy.
- “Early cinema” and the avant-garde: the convergence of art, science and technology.
– Film archives, restoration and memory practices: methods and practice in relation to digital technologies and media arts.
- Film- and media philosophy with focus on H. Bergson, and the relevance of his oeuvre for contemporary film- and media studies. Subject areas: the problem of time; conceptions of the image, consciousness, memory; aesthetic intuition; subject-object relationship, the so called “spiritual” dimension of cinema and media technology; philosophy of mind.
- Documentary film in relation to contemporary media; ethnographic film/visual anthropology, early non-fiction film/archival footage; aesthetic, realism and the avant-garde, shared consciousness, “coevalness”.
- Convergence of science, art and technology: theory, methods (transdisciplinarity) and epistemology, historical (19th century: “early cinema”) and contemporary: interrelationship between media, mediation and technology.
- Cinema spectatorship and processes of perception of audio-visual media (cognition, memory, intuition, affect, consciousness; synaesthesia, clairvoyance). Human agency in relation to the imagination, production and interpretation of technology: Spiritual/metaphysical dimensions of technology: processes of perception, consciousness, cosmology and mythology; focus on cinema and expanded audio-visual environments and multi-sensory experiences in audio-visual environments (anthropology of the senses).

Previous Research
Her PhD thesis entitled ‘The Cinema and its Spectatorship: The Spiritual Dimension of the ‘Human Apparatus’ dealt with the cognitive dimensions of the cinema spectatorship through the philosophy of Henri Bergson situated within the wider intellectual discourse of the late 19th century in relation to our current understanding of the emerging cinema.
In her Masters thesis at the University of Amsterdam ‘Seeing Angels and the Spiritual in Film: An Interdisciplinary Study of a Sensuous Experience’ (2000) for the studies of Film-theory and Cultural Anthropology (Visual Anthropology) she has compared cinema technology with the phenomenon of spiritual apparitions. Her to this research related documentary film ‘Shapes of Light’ (2000) presents four Austrian artists and clairvoyants who express their belief in angels and mediate their sensorial experiences through their works.
In her practice-based research project on the artist Lotte Hahn’s artistic and personal life, she treats the subject of personal and shared memory in its relation to time and space in the reinterpretation of archival materials.

Curriculum Vitae
Papers and Publications
Teaching interests