Keynote Lectures

All the lectures can be viewed at The Lisbon Consortium Videos.

Tony Bennett (Centre for Cultural Research – University of Western Sydney)

The Work of Culture Concepts: Culture as a Way of Life

The work of culture/culture at work: these terms raise questions that can be posed at many different levels ranging from, for example, how the work of artists, film directors, and television producers connects with and works on social worlds through exhibition practices, engagements with contemporary social and political issues, and the conduct of everyday life through reality television and similar genres. But they are questions which also concern the work that is performed by particular concepts of culture, and the role that these play in framing how we think about the relations between culture and society, or culture and economy, and how, in doing so, they shape the activities of intellectuals, artists and cultural producers of various kinds. My concerns in this paper will be with the different kinds of work that have been performed by the concept of culture most strongly associated with cultural studies: that of culture as a whole way of life. In introducing this concept into the vocabulary of cultural studies, Raymond Williams attributed its invention to the late nineteenth-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor. While the connection between what Williams had in mind and what Tylor actually said now looks quite tenuous, the early formulations of cultural studies were undoubtedly influenced by the anthropological definition of culture that was subsequently developed in America by Franz Boas and his students. Originally applied to the study of the ways of life of Native Americans, its subsequent extension to the analysis of the ways of life of mainstream America in the 1940s and 1950s informed Williams’s work and that of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. My concern in this presentation is to examine the different kinds of work this concept has performed throughout different phases of its career with a view to identifying how we might best use it now as a means of connecting the work of culture to changing society.

Andreas Huyssen (Columbia University)

Urban Imaginaries, the Feuilleton, and the Metropolitan Miniature

The lecture discusses a mode of metropolitan feuilleton writing in the Baudelairean tradition that is crucial to an understanding of urban imaginaries in the first half of the 20th century. The modernist miniature emerged as an experimental literary space to test new metropolitan perceptions in the context of the breakdown of boundaries between the visual and verbal arts and the rise of photography and film. Pertinent texts by Kafka, Rilke, Benn, Kracauer, Jünger, Benjamin, Keun, and Musil insist on the Eigensinnof the literary in relation to other media and visual perception. First published in feuilletons of metropolitan newspapers or magazines, none of these texts was ever accompanied by images or illustrations. Nor were images added when these short prose texts were later collected into the volumes by which we now know them. This fact and the intense focus on the urban condition in a key period of metropolitan development in Europe distinguishes them quite starkly from the writing practices of post-World War II writers such as Alexander Kluge or W.G. Sebald who liberally combine text with pictures.

George Yúdice (University of Miami)

Audiovisual and Music Networks in Latin America

Social networks consist not only of sets of individuals and organizations linked in many kinds of relations. These networks also do work. In the particular cases I examine, they organize music and audiovisual circuits, even in cases like Brazil in which there are significant resources for these arts. These networks have been constructing alternative circuits and venues for a diversity of styles that generally do not make it into commercial or government-supported venues. We might say that they are reorganizing the cultural sphere, often in the absence of cultural policy support. In one set of cases, these networks are generating a new cinephilia and a new paradigm of audiovisual circulation. In the other case, I present the efforts of a range of actors and networks who are working together to construct a Central American music sphere. In this latter case, very little is known outside the region about Central American musics. The efforts of these networks are aimed not only at creating transnational music circuits but also getting the musics known locally as well as internationally.

Naomi Segal (Birkbeck – University of London)

Sharing Ideas: Cultural Literacy and the Art of Translation

What does a literary scholar whose field is modern languages actually do? This paper presents two projects that, between them, cover six years of collaborative activity, from 2007 to the present, offered here as an example of what can be done with an comparative interest in literature and language. The first is a set of European-wide debates on ‘cultural literacy’: the vast range of research being conducted now in Europe (and beyond) by those of us who started out as literary scholars and are now turning a literary lens on other subjects as varied as the human genome, cultural memory, walking in the city and the poetry of migration. The second is a new kind of training in translation and editing in which academics and professional translators come together to train Anglophones to work with non-Anglophones to produce fluent and idiomatic English, both literary and academic.

Joseph Heathcott (New School for Social Research, NY)
The Known City: Visual Cultures of Urbanism in the Twentieth Century
 

Despite the uncanny nature of the city, we do everything we can to convince ourselves that we understand it.  Nowhere is this more the case than in those professions dedicated to divining and prophesying the urban through the gentle arts of persuasion.  This lecture examines the cultural production of the city across a range of visual tropes deployed over the last century by architects, planners, social reformers, investors, and marketers to render the city known–and indeed knowable.  Through maps, ideographs, diagrams, photographs, and trade films, we will trace the visual registration of powerful narratives that reveal the organization of an urban imaginary.  We will also review the emergence since the 1960s of new forms of cultural production among artists and activists whose interventions, détournements, and insurgent geographies raise fundamental questions about the limits of planning and design, and about what we can and cannot know of our cities.

Amit Pinchevski (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Archiving Trauma: Holocaust Testimony and Audiovisual Media

Since its establishment in 1979, the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University has given rise to numerous studies on history, memory and trauma in the wake of the Holocaust. While acknowledging its audiovisual nature, previous accounts have nevertheless failed to consider the significance of this novel archival formation and how it shapes the production and reception of survivors’ testimonies. This talk occasions an unlikely encounter between the trauma and testimony discourse as developed in the context of the Yale archive, and the theory of “technical media” as developed by German media theorist, Friedrich Kittler.  I argue that the trauma and testimony discourse has a technological unconscious in the form of videotape technology, which crucially conditions the way trauma is conceived in this discourse.  The question of archiving trauma has special importance today, as the media of cultural memory are changing from analog to digital.  I will finally offer some reflections on the status of trauma and testimony under the conditions of digitization.

Frederik Tygstrup
 
 
Fictions and Facts
 
 
The distinction between fictional and non-fictional claims is a very useful cultural tool, enabling us to frame all sorts of utterances and expressions and understand their import and significance by way of the framing devices they come with. It is also well known, however, that this distinction is being questioned and challenged widely today, ranging from autofiction and mock documentary to infotainment and reality-TV.

This presentation will examine some of the ways in which fiction is being unframed in contemporary social and cultural practices and eventually how the ancient distinction between fiction and non-fiction is losing its operational efficiency. By retracing the notion of fiction and its historical uses, I will examine how the cultural legacy of the craft of fiction is being put to use in society at large and how the power of imagination today develops through a new distribution of fictions and facts.

Elena Esposito (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia)

In and out. Fashion and the culture of transitoriness 

Fashion, which is often regarded as frivolous, is actually an enigmatic topic, emerged dramatically in the course of the 17th century, which signals the riddles and the fascination of modern society. Within the field ruled by fashion (which does not concern only clothes), our choices and preferences are guided by something that is not stable but changes, has only transitoriness as a  foundation (from in to out) – where transitoriness even becomes a value. Fashion signals the prevalence of appearance on substance, of common opinion (what the others like) on authority, of transience on stability. It announces a social order radically different from the traditional one, which affects our big and small everyday decisions and changes our relationship with the world and with objects.

Álvaro Barbosa (University of Saint Joseph, Macau)

Grammar of Sound Design and Music and its relevance in Audiovisual Production

This presentation provides an overview of the theory behind the creative developments in one of the most important media facets – Sound –. Sound and Music Design for Film is a well established area of creative practice that is supported by an extensive body of theoretical work concerning its technical, conceptual and aesthetical issues. A well designed Sound Track conveys meaning and information in ways that are extremely powerful and useful the Audiovisual Production and other fields such as Computer Science Communication, Business and Marketing. The existing awareness of the practices in this area establishes a language that once acquired becomes a powerful tool for the productivity and in novation between practitioners and other stakeholders.

Luís Gustavo Martins (School of the Arts – Catholic University of Portugal)

The impact of Cultural Context on the Perception of Sound and Musical Language and its relevance for the development of Computational models of Audition
Human listening comprises many layers of information analysis and processing. From the transduction of low-level auditory stimuli in the ears to their organization in the brain, higher-level factors such as memory, experience, culture and context information, take an important role in the auditory process. As a result, listening in general is influenced by a large number of variables interacting, cooperating and competing with each other in a rather complex network. Recent research in the field of computational sound and music analysis is now more aware of the impact of the cultural background in the perception of sound and music. This talk will provide an overview of the current approaches to the computational modeling of sounds, music and hearing.

Maria do Rosário Lupi Bello (Open University, Portugal)

The ghost behind the frame. Visual art and temporality

In Andrei Tarkovsky´s opinion, the birth of cinema was not merely the beginning of a new form of artistic expression, but it also brought the invention of a new aesthetic principle. In fact, for the first time in human history, time could be kept and preserved inside a “metal box”, it could be dealt with and contemplated as though it did not vanish. Time had become a “material” substance; it had acquired physical traits; it had assumed “the form of fact”.

Yet, how could this new “substance” be defined? What does the spectator actually “see” when he watches a movie? Stanley Cavell argues that the presence of objects projected on a screen “refers to their absence, their location in another place”; it refers to a world past, a world which is not happening at that moment and which the spectator absorbs like a memory; Tarkovsky follows St Augustine’s description of remembrance, saying that the moving image is a sort of “trace”, the “imprinted” temporal form that things have left in the  human mind, their emotional “vestige”. Similarly, Manoel de Oliveira uses the word “ghosts” to refer to film images: the visible, dynamic traces of immaterial things.

In this paper I intend to address the question of temporality in visual art, particularly in movies, by providing some examples that might help to illuminate the cultural implications of this phenomenon, since the specific kind of persuasion implied in watching a film has to do with the possibility of “re-viewing” time and absorbing it as a form of private experience, thus transforming it into a sort of personal memory.

Paulo Miguel Martins (Catholic University of Portugal)

Industrial Documentary

Industrial documentaries belong to a cinematographic genre with limited visibility in cinema, and rarely used as a valid source of information, but if we look carefully, these films could be very useful as they give us an insight into the economic, social and cultural reality of companies and also on the country’s  context. The picture and sound elements in these films are a large research field, allowing a deeper knowledge of corporate lifestyles in companies and revealing additional information on the written documents. All these records will allow an improved knowledge about different manufacturing systems and labor organizations; social and economic memories represented and multiple aspects of the cultural, social and economic contexts of those days.

In order to have a deeper understanding on this subject, interviews with directors and technicians that lived during those times are very useful. Their testimonies help to clarify how these documentaries were made and which were the reasons and expectations that drove companies, institutions, public and private organizations to commission these works, as well as to identify the economic policies applied in different moments. By observing how collaborators, workers and businessmen were portrayed in these documentaries, we are able to gain insight into the social panorama of the time.

In conclusion, these industrial documentaries should be considered as an historical source for future research in sociological, economic and human sciences in general. This studies will also create an opportunity for young directors and creators to make this kind of movies, finding in industry the support they need to accomplish new artistic projects, so that how Industry is portrayed can become a topic in Art, because some companies still believe and invest in cinema as an important means of cultural expression.

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