Ontologies of the Moving Image: From Paper Prints to Flipbooks

Amanda Egbe

The seminar will present an assemblage of film artefacts: paper prints, posters, books, slides, filmstrips, flipbooks, in order to ask what can we understand about the moving image when viewed outside of the cinematic apparatus of screen and auditorium?

According to Elsaesser there is a need for a new mapping of the moving image in the wake of research over the last 30 years on early cinema, which has led to a better understanding of changes in audio-visual media technologies.    

Key elements of cinematic perception have become internalised as our modes of cognition and embodied experience, such that the ‘cinema effect’ may be most present where its apparatus and technologies are least perceptible. Cinema’s role in transforming the past and historical representation into collective memory is now a matter of intense debate, while its ‘invisible hand’ in our affective life and in our modes of being-in-the-world – our ontologies – has preoccupied psychoanalysis and philosophy. (Elsaesser, 2004)

Going beyond the “cinema effect” and work of film scholars concerned with spectatorship, cultural identity and embodiment, this seminar explores the connections between early film apparatuses, optical toys and pre-cinematic technologies such as the Kinora, the filoscope and the reproduction of the filmic image such as mutoscope reels, paper prints and flipbooks. The seminar discusses the networks/dispostifs of what constitutes the moving image, acknowledging that there is no singular mode of experience, rather that, context, materials and spectatorship co-constitute it.

Starting from an exposition of the case of the paper print collection at the Library of Congress and examining the presented artefacts, the seminar explores what becomes visible about the “cinema affect(s)”, that is, the moving image as the interaction between material apparatus and the viewer, framed within the context of its use as a way of understanding the ontologies of the moving image.


Elsaesser, Thomas. The New Film History as Media Archaeology. Cinémas: Revue d’études cinématographiquesCinémas:/Journal of Film Studies 14, no. 2-3 (2004): 75-117

Contextual reading can be found here: Elsaesser_The New Film History