Melbourne Screen Studies Group seminar: various presentations

Friday, April 29, 2016 15:00 - 17:00


'A Different Time: Disruptive Temporality in Stephen Page's Spear' Felicity Ford, The University of Melbourne

'Surface Depth: Aesthetics in Contemporary Moving Image Culture' Samuel Harvey, The University of Melbourne

'"Fancy Allusions and Fussy Aesthetics": Bryan Fuller's Hannibal (2013-2015) and the Generic Polyphony of Quality Horror Television' Jessica Balanzategui and Naja Later

'A Different Time: Disruptive Temporality in Stephen Page's Spear'
Felicity Ford, The University of Melbourne

While time is a structuring presence in our everyday lives that anchors and assigns each moment a fixed and fixable past, present and future, the cinematic space frequently problematizes the notion of temporality through multiplicity, repetition and loss. Discussing contemporary atemporal cinema, Todd McGowan refers to films that distort and disrupt time as being 'the cinema of the drive, in which narrative is oriented around a foundational moment of traumatic loss."[1]In this paper, I consider how the compression of temporality in Stephen Page's recent dance film, Spear (2016) creates a liminal space that allows for social and political trauma from Australia's troubled history to be re-worked and negotiated. The film was released earlier this year to wide critical acclaim and follows Djali, a young Indigenous man, as he struggles to reconcile the traditions of his community with modern Australian life. It features almost no dialogue and refuses to adhere to a conventional narrative trajectory. Instead, the dance sequences seem to be born out of memory and rumination: echoing the past and conjuring the future. 'Temporal' is commonly understood as relating to time but it also refers to worldly rather than spiritual affairs. This second meaning returns time to the earthly secular and reinforces it as something concrete, something fixed - not to be associated with the imprecise and fluctuating spiritual realm. I argue that Page's revision of cinematic time allows for an alternative narrative space that prioritizes the importance of memory and feeling over structure and order. This disruption of time and place directly challenges the authority of temporality in order to prioritize the felt imaginary of a very real and traumatic history of systemic abuse on a social, political and economic level. By displacing cinematic time, the film aligns temporal disruption with an alternative, and specifically Indigenous, narrative.

Felicity Ford is a PhD candidate and tutor in Screen and Cultural Studies at The University of Melbourne. Her research is primarily concerned with disruptions to cinematic form in relation to sound, vision, movement and time and focuses on the way in which these disturbances intersect with questions of criminality, sexuality and disability.

'Surface Depth: Aesthetics in Contemporary Moving Image Culture'
Samuel Harvey, The University of Melbourne

This paper addresses the complex and ever-changing concept of aesthetics in contemporary moving image culture. As a philosophical notion, aesthetics are generally concerned with artistic judgments, and are mobilised to define beauty and the value of art. In this paper, I propose that this calibration of aesthetics is no longer viable for Screen Studies. I return to the etymology of the word aesthetics to map out filmic experiences in relation to the sensuous and emotional capacities that unfold on the surface of the moving image.

Examining a perfume commercial directed by Sofia Coppola in 2008 for Dior, I draw on recent work by Giuliana Bruno to explore the fabrication of the surface in modern visual culture. Bruno's theories understand the surfaces of the moving image to be an enveloping phenomenon, and the filmic spectator is 'draped' in cinematic affect. Of particular interest with this 'wearing of images' is the notion that contemporary filmic surfaces dissolve the divide between surface and depth, a separation that has informed much of Western philosophy.

This paper mobilises the surface for three possible ways to discuss the changing face of aesthetics in moving image culture. First, the surface permits us to stop thinking about aesthetics as being exclusively connected to judgments of art and beauty. Second, it enables us to stop equating film aesthetics as purely related to narrative, industrial, and economic practices, and thus opens up more imaginative ways to handle the forms and experiences of film's fleeting appearances. Third, it opens up a more expansive genealogy of the moving image. In understanding aesthetics as the meeting point of the emotional histories of both the spectator and film, this paper wishes to address the ephemerality of aesthetics in contemporary moving image culture.

Samuel Harvey is a PhD candidate at The University of Melbourne. His thesis, 'Rococo Film Aesthetics and the Sinuous Cinema of Sofia Coppola', explores how the eighteenth-century decorative style of the rococo has emerged in contemporary film, as particularly evident in the work of director Sofia Coppola. Harvey is interested in film aesthetics, and his work primarily explores the more sensuous, emotional, and empathetic aspects of film. In particular, Harvey is concerned with the synaesthetic aspects of film spectatorship, and how the moving image inspires our complete sensorium. Further research interests include architecture, fashion and film, animation, and the construction of the moving image.

'"Fancy Allusions and Fussy Aesthetics": Bryan Fuller's Hannibal (2013-2015) and the Generic Polyphony of Quality Horror Television'
Jessica Balanzategui and Naja Later

Hannibal 'the Cannibal' Lecter is one of contemporary popular culture's most prominent and recognisable models of monstrosity. In alignment with Robin Wood's definition of the monster as that which threatens normative boundaries, across the numerous texts and mediums that constitute Hannibal Lecter's mythology the figure of Hannibal defies normative diegetic limitations, operating self-reflexively and collaboratively with his medium to destabilise hermetically sealed generic forms. Bryan Fuller's television series 'Hannibal' (NBC, 2013-2015) has amplified the polyphony of Hannibal Lecter's monstrous transmediality and generic hybridity. Fuller's series further develops Hannibal Lecter's function as both an authorial and an anchoring force across Hannibal mythology, embedding a perverse provocation of boundaries into the very aesthetic and narrative constitution of the text. In the transition from cinema to television, the horror genre typically hybridises generic syntactics to effect seriality. This tendency is particularly evident in the contemporary alignment of horror and Quality TV, a discordant fusion that Fuller's series self-consciously exemplifies. Fuller's Hannibal embellishes Quality horror television's syntactic hybridity, rendering the dissonant fugue of generic tendencies a key component of Hannibal Lecter's playful and perverse monstrosity. The series layers generic influences: Hannibal quotes the police procedural; the cooking show; and, in Hannibal's own excessive power and abilities, interweaves a note of the supernatural. In tandem with the series' polyphonic quotation, Hannibal Lecter biographically exceeds the bounds of a normative lifespan and knowledge, while simultaneously exceeding the confines of a singular narrative or generically pure text: he is a classically educated musician and an artist; a trained chef and a butcher; a surgeon; both a consulting and practicing psychiatrist; and he is a cannibalistic monster. The character of Hannibal Lecter and the television medium thus work self-reflexively through excessive trans-generic quotation to express the monstrous consumption at the core of Hannibal mythology.

Dr Jessica Balanzategui is a sessional lecturer and tutor at The University of Melbourne, and a research assistant within the University's Transformative Technologies Research Unit. Her thesis explored the construction of uncanny child characters in a recent assemblage of transnational horror films from America, Spain and Japan. She has published work on horror media in refereed journals such as M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture and Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media - for which she also co-edited the special bumper issue "Transmedia Horror" - and in edited collections published by McFarland, Lexington Books and Palgrave Macmillan. She is currently co-authoring a monograph on Bryan Fuller's Hannibal (2013-2015) with Professor Angela Ndalianis and Naja Later, and is co-organising the interdisciplinary conference "Feasting on Hannibal" to take place at the University of Melbourne in November, 2016.

Naja Later completed her PhD at The University of Melbourne, researching the relationship between New Horror, post-9/11 terror culture, and screen media. Her recent projects include political narratives of Captain America; generic hybridity in Blade; and the Slender Man as transmedia folklore. She is a founder of the All Star Women's Comic Book Club, an awarded public speaker, a guest co-editor of Refractory: a Journal of Entertainment Media, and an organiser of the "Feasting on Hannibal" 2016 conference.


Event type



Deakin on Bourke Street, conference room, Deloitte Building, 550 Bourke Street, Melbourne