Practices of Inscription and Recollection

Amanda Egbe with Claudy Op den Kamp, Jacqui Knight and Martyn Woodward


In 1824 Dr. John Ayrton Paris, (a ‘scientist’ and subsequently Humphry Davy’s biographer), demonstrated a Thaumatrope to the Royal College of Physicians in London. Although he possibly did not ‘invent’ it,  he subsequently marketed a version as a ‘philosophical toy’. The Thaumatrope is often cited as one of the key inventions in teleological histories of cinema technology. What is frequently overlooked in the story of technology is the use of a material invention and human cognitive competence to explore profound philosophical issues. Following on from last months discussion of scientific instrumentation and the rhetoric of display, we will consider the more recent practice of optical duplication of cinematic material as a philosophical instrument. We will explore the dichotomy of commercial printing technology used in the film industry and structuralist materialist film practices as an intervention in the discussion of the multiplicity of time layers, speeds and a-synchronicity as an everyday experience. Of particular consideration in this context will be the role of the optical printer in the film archive which re-inscribes philosophical aspects of the everyday into the technological, political and economic discourses of cultural heritage.

The seminar departs from a paper by Amanda Egbe entitled ‘Towards a Structural Materialist Archive: The (Im)Material Aspects of Duplication’ (attached) which deals with the problematic of materialism in the archival practice and the role of the optical printer. Claudy Op den Kamp will introduce the optical printer and some of the applications and variables involved in duplication (in the context of an archive/lab), Jacqui Knight will illuminate the optical printing technique as a cinematic and creative apparatus in relation to her own practice, and Martyn Woodward will ask the question whether digitisation eradicates this very philosophical dimension.

Reading for seminar:
Towards a Structural Materialist archive: The (Im)Material Aspects of Duplication