Cinema, Film, Experience: Deep History, Contingency and the Sublime

Michael Punt and Martha Blassnigg

The purpose of the seminar is to extend the dispositif of deep history by considering the practical (quotidian) engagement with technologies as a transdisciplinary practice in which there is provisional, material resolution in the form of artefacts.

Martha Blassnigg will present and situate a particular interpretation of transdisciplinarity that informs much of the work of our researchers. It will draw attention to the various understandings of transdisciplinarity and consider it as an approach to fullness: an open-ended process related inquiry in which the recognition of the unknown, unexpected and unforeseeable is regarded as important in the construction of knowledge. It takes the view that knowledge is primarily a self-reflective process at both the level of the individual researcher and the disciplinary frameworks and should be understood as a ‘verb’ in its interconnection between ‘knowing, doing, being and relating’. In short, to reflect Alfonso Montuori’s sentiment to bring transdisciplinarity back to the realities of the practices of everyday life (see: Alfonso Montuori, Foreword to Niculescu, Basarab (ed.). 2008. TransdisciplinarityTheory and Practice. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press).

From this, Warburgian point of view, we will ask if film, in its incarnation as cinema, can be seen as a persistent rehearsal of transdisciplinarity as a creative strategy for production and a post-hoc technique for critical analysis.

Michael Punt will offer a reading of the beginning, middle and end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, Dir. Blake Edwards) and ask, in the context of the current debate in deep history, when a film ends and a movie begins (in its own terms) and if the persistence of this question throughout the cinematic experience of the film provides a gateway to the sublime. Even at its moment of most satisfactory narrative and technological (techno-logical) closure: the end of the film strip, the ‘salvation’ of the prostitute, the ‘finding’ of the cat and the ‘formation’ of the heterosexual couple, Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains open-ended and an unresolved transdisciplinary object through the active presence (perception/ conscious awareness) of the audience.

This poses two further questions: is the narrative dominance of film as a cinematic medium symptomatic of its inception in a late nineteenth century imaginary nourished by self-reflexivity? Does this allow us to empathise more fully with Etienne-Jules Marey’s recognition of the unknown in the dialogues between cognitive competence and technological innovation? In preparation for this seminar you may want to view Breakfast at Tiffany’s and consider it as a transdisciplinarity text: a self-reflective framework with an open attitude toward the expression of the sublime (or at the very least mythological, religious or esoteric knowledge).

Reading for seminar: Montuori, ‘Transdisiplinarity