Loco/Motion

The Nineteenth Century Studies Association is holding its 34th annual conference at Fresno, California, 7-9 March 2013. The conference is entitled Loco/Motion and will explore the theme of travel and transport in the long nineteenth century (1789-1914, in case you weren’t sure). The call for papers asks for papers and panels that “capture the sense of movement at work and at play”.

As the Of Victorian Interest blog reports, there is to be a specific panel on pre-cinema and early film:

As part of the 2013 NCSA conference, Arnold Anthony Schmidt is seeking papers or presentations for one or more panels about pre-cinema and early film technology, as well as on silent film creators (producers, actors, directors) and images (representations of class, culture, gender, or race) produced anywhere before 1914. Film – i.e. “moving pictures” — fits neatly into the conference theme of Locomotion, which I interpret very broadly.

If they like, scholars might address the theme literally (treating images of travel and physical movement) or metaphorically (e.g. technical evolution; camera movement; narrative or character development; cultural, historical, or psychological change). Feel free to email me if you have questions about the appropriateness of a topic for presentation.

Those interested are invited to e-mail 250-word abstracts of 20-minute papers and one-page CV to Arnold Anthony Schmidt at aschmidt@csustan.edu by 30 September 2012. They hope to include screenings at the conference (as of course they should), so applicants should include details of materials they might wish to show.

So, how has the digital revolution been for you?

Domitor conference taking place at the University of Brighton

I’m taking part in a panel at the Domitor conference (Domitor being the international body for the study of early cinema, whose biennial conference is taking place in Brighton). The theme is ‘Digital Technologies and Early Cinema’ and four speakers have been asked to address the subject of the digital revolution’s impact on the study of early cinema. Each of us has been asked to kick things off by speaking for ten minutes on “how the digital revolution has changed your practice”. For me, it seems appropriate to write my response in the form of a blog post. So here it is.


Hello. I was intrigued to see in the conference programme that the affiliation given with my name was not my institution but my website. My day job is curator for moving images at the British Library, where I am mostly concerned with television, news programmes and born digital media; so, the moving images of today. My hobby is early cinema, with its chief expression being a website, The Bioscope, which I maintain as an information source on those areas of early and silent cinema that interest me – and presumably others, since it enjoys a reasonably good readership for what is – let’s face it – quite an obscure subject, even within film studies.

I have been writing The Bioscope for just over five years, during which time I have produced 1,364 posts (that is, individual pieces of writing), amounting to some 600,000 words. That’s seven or eight books’ worth, had I been so inclined to write books instead, but why put the measure in books? As I often say to people when talking about the site, more people read the Bioscope in a single day than probably have read any of the articles or books that I have written or co-edited have received in years. I’m not tied down by a need to achieve a quota of academic publication for any research assessment exercise. I simply like communicating things to people. And it gets read.

The Bioscope allows me to choose whatever subject interests me, to write in a light yet informative style which suits the online medium and certainly suits me as a writer, and it gives me responses to what I am doing. Posts receives comments, the blog’s software tells me how many people have visited each piece of writing, individual posts get cited in any online (and offline) writings, and I am in contact with people from around the world, both early film scholars and those merely curious. The Bioscope is in a constant state of communication. Write poorly, or infrequently, and the viewing figures start to fall. The price paid for the attention is constant vigiliance.

I’m not interested in reviewing films, nor in giving opinions as such. The aim of the Bioscope is to communicate information, encouraging others to explore the growing range of online research opportunities for themselves. So the site has come to specialise in information on digitised journals, newspaper sources, assessments of databases and other resources, as well as promoting conferences, festivals, publications and so on, broadly relating to early and silent cinema around the world. The emphasis is on early cinema in its different contexts – film as art holds little interest for me – and on the relevance of early cinema today. If it were purely an exercise in revisiting the past, it would be pointless. Early cinema must be of interest because it is relevant, because through its study we can learn more of the world. This, for me, is what the digital revolution is doing, showing how early cinema connects with the worlds that surround it.

So, I’m particularly interested in early cinema in its various contexts – that is, the ways in which it connects with other forms of social, political, economic or cultural activity. This has been, of course, a major feature of early cinema studies in recent years, and something which Domitor itself has helped encourage through conferences such as these, with their impressive diversity of speakers and perspectives. It also connects my hobby with my work, because at the British Library I am chiefly concerned with the moving image medium as it supports other subjects, and how the digital world is providing opportunities not simply to increase access, but to facilitate the integration of diverse resources and to encourage new forms of discovery. I want researchers to pursue a particular theme and find the book, the newspaper article, the image, the sound recording and the film on that theme all in the one place, and to make exciting discoveries through these associations. And that’s what we must want for early cinema too.

Having said all this enthusiastic stuff, there are aspects to this sort of writing that bother me. Firstly, that constant vigiliance can be wearing. One feels the need always to be finding new material, to be publishing with some degree of frequency, to stay fresh, to keep up those readership figures. These maybe entirely self-imposed pressures, but they exist all the same.

Secondly, and more importantly, there is the possible impermanance of some many of these web resources on which we increasingly depend. I wrote a recent post about websites on early and silent cinema that have disappeared recently. They included such important sites as the Ariel Cinematographica Register and The Silent Cinema Bookshelf. Most websites, even after they have been taken down, can be found archived on the Internet Archive, and national libraries are increasingly moving into web archiving – the British Library hopes soon to start archiving the UK web space, for example.

But web archives take only occasional snapshots of a site – perhaps four a year – and often they do not include associated media such as video files, while databases and other such complex underlying systems are beyond web archiving. Databases cost money to support, and more money to keep them up to date (a static database is a dead database), and we can’t depend on them to remain online forever. I have worked on a number of research databases, happily all still going, but each at the whim of uncertain funding, or change in the host institution’s priorities. Crucially, links to files and pages change when sites are changed, making citation hazardous. Fundamentally the web does not stand still, for as much as it adds such huge amounts, it also loses vast amounts, as old information is overlaid by the new.

The British Library

There are significant shifts in information power relations which may affect what we can access, and from whom. At the moment, we identify most research collections with the institutions that hold the physical originals. This makes the research web very much a reflection of the physical research environment. The website and associated resources of a body such as the British Library become an extension of its physical reality.

But what happens when everything becomes digital? Who are the owners then, when anyone might manage, host or otherwise point to digital resources if they have the means to do so? What is the purpose of a physical library in a digital world? Who will need libraries or archives at all, in the long run, if Google can do it all for us? And if the private sector largely takes over that which traditionally we have expected to be delivered by the public sector, what will the access be like, what will be the price we pay for it, what will we have lost?

Media History Digital Library

I don’t think our national libraries and archives are going to disappear, and I think access is only going to increase and to be fabulous, though we will have to pay more for it than has been the case up until now. I do think that new kinds of institutional-like sites will emerge, however, which could supplant the work of some of the traditional institutions. The Media History Digital Library, for example, a non-profit initiative which is digitising extensive numbers of classic media periodicals that are in the public domain; or even the humble Bioscope, if it wants to become a focal point for the discovery of early film research resources. But how long will the Media History Digital Library last? Will I get bored of The Bioscope tomorrow and go off and do something else instead? The web world feels so impermanent, like it has been built on a whim. The web world feels so impermanent, like it has been built on a whim. The web is not going to disappear. It is where we now discover, interpret, re-use and share our researches. It is where early cinema belongs. But we’ll never be able to be completely confident that what we find online today will still be there tomorrow. And it is hard to build scholarship on such uncertainty.

I said that the value for me in early cinema is its connection with other subjects. This is what has been so good about the digital revolution, showing how early film fits in, not only with the world that created it, but with our world today. Indeed, at times I’m surprised we still have early cinema studies and it hasn’t evolved into something else, giving the associations and connections the digital environment provides. It’s why I so enjoyed Josh Yumibe‘s paper yesterday, which talked of the use of colour in our field, but threaded together an argument that brought in Hunger Games, Harry Smith, Loie Fuller, Scriabin, Kandinsky and D.W. Griffith, making early film concerns timeless and relevant.

As an expression of this, and as sort of tribute to Yumibe’s paper, I’ll finish off with a video which I posted on The Bioscope last Christmas, when not many people saw it, so here’s a chance to do so again. It brings together our world and their world in a witty and thought-provoking fashion, and demonstrates for me that the digital revolution has been, more than anything else, such fun.

On location

Well, this is good to see. Having bemoaned the fact that there were few silent film-related conferences on the horizon, here’s news of another. It’s the Second International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema, happily building on the promise of the First from last year. It’s entitled On Location, and the conference runs 21-23 February 2013 at the University of California Berkeley, with complementary film screenings at the Pacific Film Archive. The call for papers has just been issued, and here it is:

Call for Papers

Format: A two-and-a-half day conference that combines plenary lectures, concurrent paper panels, workshops, and film screenings with live accompaniment at the Pacific Film Archive.

Concept: This conference will address the emergence and historical development of “location” as a cinematic concept as it underwent a series of important transformations in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Concepts of location have become more interesting in recent years as digital artists increasingly render well-known and entirely fictional urban and natural landscapes using sophisticated digital tools. Studio sets have given way to green-screen spaces, and iconic landmarks are subject to new forms of digital manipulation. Reflection on contemporary media practices has created intellectual curiosity about the idea of cinematic place as a historical phenomenon in all of its various manifestations.

During the silent era, filming moved from interiors to exteriors, and from low-tech production sites such as the Black Maria to studio cities like Cité Elgé, Babelsberg, and Universal City. Whereas some national and regional cinemas became closely associated with natural location settings, others were identified with the manufacture of locations through in-studio simulations or the effects of montage— “creative geography” in the widest sense. In turn, location-dependent genres such as Westerns, travelogues, ethnographic films, documentaries, and city films developed specific attachments to place. Exhibition locations shifted from vaudeville theatres to nickelodeons to picture palaces and from urban centers to small towns. Hollywood’s simultaneous development as a real and imagined place affected models for studio filmmaking and cinematic geography around the world.

This conference asks: How was the idea of “location shooting” developed alongside and sometimes in opposition to “studio set”? When and how did “location” emerge as a complex site of production, a lure for audiences, a generic rubric, and a guarantee of realism, as well as a site of artifice and fantasy? How was the cinematic articulation of a broad range of locations influenced by pictorial traditions such as the picturesque, landscape painting, and photography? What are the social and political implications of these varied sites of production and exhibition?

We welcome proposals from scholars in a variety of disciplines and will consider both silent-era and historically comparative approaches. International perspectives are especially welcome.

Possible lines of inquiry include but are not limited to:

  • Audience localities
  • Hybrid exhibition places and practices
  • The historical development of “on-location” shooting
  • “Universal geographies” (as in: California contains all landscape types)
  • “Creative” geographies (as in: Kuleshov’s montage-produced “artificial landscape”)
  • Shooting locations vs. studio locales
  • “Site-specific” film aesthetics and practices
  • Ethnographic framing of film location
  • The phenomenology of the film set (tricks, facades, mixed-media mise-en-scène)
  • The production of place through genre
  • Imaginary places/animation locations
  • Censorship and locality
  • Studio cities
  • The registration and production of landmark locations
  • The locations of film distribution
  • The relationship between “diegesis” and “location” in film-analytic discourses
  • Depth, stereoscopy, and place
  • “Place” as enduring history in psycho-geography

Submission process: Proposals should include a title, an abstract (500 words max), a short bio (150 words max), and mention of any A/V needs. The papers themselves will be limited to 20 minutes, including any audio-visual material. Proposals should be submitted by October 15, 2012 to theconference@berkeley.edu, with notification by mid-November.

So there you are. Get scribbling (if you are so inclined), and let’s hope that the Berkeley conference becomes an established part of the silent film studies landscape.

Silent film sound

From the book cover for Rick Altman’s Silent Film Sound

I don’t know what might be the cause, but there has been a dearth of silent film-related conferences so far this year. Maybe the upcoming Domitor conference (from which the Bioscope will be reporting) has so dominated the landscape that there hasn’t been the urge to come up with anything that might compete with it. Or maybe it’s because we don’t need to confer quite so much these days because we’re all talking to one another online (now there’s a topic for discussion).

But film conferences aren’t quite dead yet, and a call for papers has just been issued for Silent film sound: history, theory and practice, which is to take place 22-23 February 2013, at Kiel, Germany. The conference, which takes its title from Rick Altman’s highly influential book Silent Film Sound, is being organised by Christian Albrechts University Kiel, in collaboration with Kiel Society for Film Music Research.

Here’s the full call for papers (for which the deadline is 30 June 2012):

Silent film sound: history, theory and practice
Friday 22 – Saturday 23 February 2013

Christian Albrechts University Kiel, Germany
in collaboration with Kiel Society for Film Music Research

We are pleased to invite proposals for papers in the broad theme “Silent film sound: history, theory and practice”, to be presented at a conference of the same name on February 22 – 23 at the Christian Albrechts University Kiel.

With a few exceptions silent cinema was never silent. Cinemas and other spaces of film exhibition were in fact rather loud places where music, voices and sounds intermingled during the screening.

Today public interest in silent cinema is on the rise. Film screenings with live accompaniment have gained popularity in recent years, silent films are shown in concert halls and at festivals and they are (again) staged as events and not simply as presentation of a piece of entertainment or art.

Music and sound for silent film are relatively young fields of study and most research focuses on the American tradition. With this conference we seek to expand the field for other – especially European – regions, and compare them with well documented American cases.

We aim to gather scholars from various disciplines, to discuss and reflect on current and historical approaches to the study of sound and music and moving images. We particularly encourage both musicologists and film scholars to participate in the debate surrounding this topic, in order to benefit from each other’s perspectives and to challenge prevailing views and methodologies in this thriving field.

Ultimately, we aim to strengthen the European and international research network concerned with the variety of sound and musical practices in silent film accompaniment. We also want to discuss contemporary practices of silent film accompaniment and explicitly invite musical practitioners to share and discuss their experiences with us.

Papers may address repertories or issues relating to one of the following areas (or others related to the conference theme):

  • Film narrator/lecturer
  • Sound effects in silent film exhibition
  • Relationship of cinema with antecedent theatrical forms like Vaudeville and Variety
  • Relationship with theater music, opera and musical theater in general
  • Early film and the music recording and publishing industry
  • Singers in cinema
  • National and regional idiosyncrasies of silent film sound
  • Gender aspects in production, performance and reception
  • National identity in musical forms (community singing)
  • Diegetic music in silent cinema
  • Silent film and popular music/jazz: improvised or compiled (structural and formal issues)
  • Mechanical music
  • Opera films, music films
  • Early transmedial star systems
  • Historical discourse about music in cinemas
  • Issues of research, teaching and knowledge transfer
  • Contemporary practices of silent film accompaniment
  • Experimental silent film and its accompaniment

Proposals (max. 350 words) for 25-minute presentations should be sent to Claus Tieber (claus.tieber@univie.ac.at), no later than June 30, 2012. Please include a short biography, all current contact information (name, e-mail, phone number, affiliation) and specific AV requirements.

We plan to publish a book based on the refereed proceedings.

More information : http://soundofsilents.wordpress.com

Well, that looks like a fairly thorough survey of the kinds of questions likely to be thrown up by such a subject. It’s quite close in its preoccupations to the recent Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain project, and seems to be part of a welcome trend of cross-disciplinary investigation, with musicologists (hopefully) as likely to be attracted to the themes as film historians.

You can always find information on early and silent film conferences, future and past, on The Bioscope’s Events pages – and do let me know of any other such conferences coming up.

Domitor comes to Brighton

The twelfth Domitor conference, entitled “Performing New Media, 1890-1915” takes place in the UK at the University of Brighton, 18 to 22 June 2012. Domitor is the international society for the study of early cinema, and has held a conference every second year since 1990. This is the first time it has been held in the UK.

The conference aims to examine the relationship between performance and turn-of-the-century media technologies, such as the magic lantern, the phonograph, and motion pictures. Its title, Performing New Media, neatly makes the point that the impact of these new technologies upon the 1890s/1910s is paralleled by the impact of the new media technologies of today. This should give the conference a particularly interesting resonance or two, and there will be a special session on “Digital Technologies and New Media circa 1900″. Our new media are changing access to, perceptions of, and the historical interpretation of the media of 100 years ago.

A draft programme has been published, downloadable in PDF form on the Domitor site, or laid out helpfully you below.

MONDAY 18th June 2012

8:30 Pastries and beverages

9:00 Welcomes by Anne Boddington (Dean of Faculty, Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton); Frank Gray (Director, Screen Archive South East); Scott Curtis (President, Domitor)

9:30 Panel 1: Sallis Benney Theatre
Performing “Non-Fiction”

  • Gregory A. Waller (Indiana University), “Circulating and Exhibiting Moving Pictures of the Australian Antarctic Expedition (1911-3)”
  • Rositza Alexandrova (University of Cambridge), “Cinegramme-Sending from the Ilinden Uprising”
  • Rielle Navitski (University of California, Berkeley), “‘Mixtures of Féerie and Document’: Sensational Theater and True-Crime Films in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, 1908-1913”

10:30 Break

10:50 Panel 2: Sallis Benney Theatre
Music, Opera, and Song

  • Beatrice Birardi (Società Italiana di Musicologia), “From ‘Chamber’ to Cinema: The Music by Carlo Graziani Walter for Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (Italy, 1913)”
  • Bernhard Kuhn (Bucknell University), “Intermediality Italian Style: Operaticality and Metareferentiality in the Cinema of the Early 1910s”
  • Jaume Radigales (Université Ramon Llull, Barcelona) and Isabel Villanueva (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, Barcelona), “Le rôle de l’opéra dans le cinéma primitif : Étude des cas”
  • Anupama Kapse (Queens College, City University of New York), “Song and Dance in the Indian Silent Film”

Panel 3: Boardroom at Grand Parade
Exhibition beyond Theatres and Cinemas

  • Jon Burrows (University of Warwick), “Automatic Entertainment: Early Cinema in the Penny Arcade”
  • Oliver Gaycken (University of Maryland), “‘Denizens of the Deep’: F. Martin Duncan, Natural History Filmmaking, and the Brighton Aquarium”
  • Oksana Chefranova (New York University), “The Screen in the Garden: Moving Image Shows in Moscow circa 1900”

12:10 Lunch

1:10 Panel 4: Sallis Benney Theatre
Music, Colour, and Sound

  • Christopher Natzén (National Library of Sweden), “‘Such Music Cannot Be Regarded as Real or Genuine Art’: Swedish Cinema Musicians in 1908-1909”
  • Mélissa Gignac (Université Paris 7), “Le son dans les années 1910 : un exemple d’autonomisation progressive des films”
  • Jennifer Peterson (University of Colorado, Boulder), “Lyrical Education: Music and Color in Early Nonfiction Film”
  • Joshua Yumibe (University of St Andrews), “Colour as Performance in Visual Music, Film Tinting, and Digital Painting”

Panel 5: Boardroom at Grand Parade
Picture Personalities

  • Charles O’Brien (Carleton University), “Griffith Goes West: The Move to California and Its Impact on Actors’ Performances in the Biograph Films”
  • Laura Horak (Stockholm University), “Performing the Film Director: Mauritz Stiller and Vingarne”
  • Ian Christie (Birkbeck College, University of London), “Performers – On Stage and Now on Screen”
  • Chris O’Rourke (University of Cambridge), “In the Flesh: Personal Appearances and the Picture Personality in Britain before 1915”

2:30 Break

2:50 Panel 6: Sallis Benney Theatre
Performance and Pedagogy

  • Marina Dahlquist (Stockholm University), “Health on Display: The Panama Pacific Exposition (1915) as Sanitary Venue”
  • Frank Kessler and Sabine Lenk (Utrecht University), “‘Kinoreformbewegung’ Revisited: Performing the
    Cinematograph as a Pedagogical Tool”
  • David Williams (independent scholar), “The Letchworth Experiment, 1914-1917”
  • Kaveh Askari (University of Western Washington), “The Artist’s Studio on Display: Workspace as Educational Space”

Panel 7: Boardroom at Grand Parade
Performing Femininity

  • Liz Clarke (Wilfrid Laurier University), “Old Wars and New Women: Performing Active Femininity”
  • Diana Anselmo-Sequeira (University of California, Irvine), “‘Neither Here, Nor There, But Everywhere’: How Early American Film Disembodied Adolescent Girlhood”
  • Leslie Midkiff DeBauche (University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point), “When the Law Is the Audience: Codifying Performance in a New Medium”

4:10 Break

4:40 Panel 8: Sallis Benney Theatre
Reconsidering Early Japanese Film: Sounds, Stories, and Performances
Panel Chair: Hiroshi Komatsu (Waseda University)

  • Ryo Okubo (University of Tokyo), “Teachers, Benshi, and Itinerant Entertainers: Magic Lantern Performances in Japan at the End of the Nineteenth Century”
  • Sawako Ogawa (University of Tokyo), “From Kodan to Kyugeki: How the Japanese Storytelling Tradition of Kodan Was Assimilated into Early Japanese Cinema”
  • Manabu Ueda (Ritsumeikan University), “The Development of Regional Characteristics during the Emergence of Moving Picture Theaters: A Comparison between Tokyo and Kyoto”
  • Masaki Daibo (Waseda University), “Reception of Film d’Art and Its Impact on Japanese Sound Culture”

6:30 Evening Event: Blackwell book reception

TUESDAY 19th June 2012

8:30 Pastries and beverages

9:00 Panel 9: Sallis Benney Theatre
Vaudeville and Comedy

  • Donald Crafton (University of Notre Dame), “McCay and Keaton: The Intermediality of Vaudeville, Animation and Slapstick Cinema”
  • Maggie Hennefeld (Brown University), “Performing Film Form: Vaudeville Theater and Early Motion Picture Comedy”
  • Gwendolyn Waltz (independent scholar), “20 Minutes or Less: Short-Form Film-and-Theatre Hybrids—Skits, Sketches, Playlets, & Acts in Vaudeville, Variety, Revues, &c”
  • Pierre Chemartin and Santiago Hidalgo (Université de Montréal), “Learning Film Performance Through Comics”

Panel 10: Room G4
Transnational Corridors: Southeast Asia, the Americas, Scandinavia

  • Nadi Tofighian (Stockholm University), “Circuit of Commerce and Cinema: Singapore and the Southeast Asian Film Market”
  • Joel Frykholm (Stockholm University), “From Movie Palace to Media Spaces: New Perspectives on the Exhibition Contexts of the Multi-Reel Feature Film, 1913–1915”
  • John Fullerton (Stockholm University), “Reframing the Panorama in Mexico: Early Actuality Film and Nineteenth-Century Lithographs and Photographs”
  • Anne Bachmann (Stockholm University), “Trajectories between Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm: What Norwegian Male Stars Brought to Swedish Biograph, 1913–1915”

10:20 Break

10:40 Panel 11: Sallis Benney Theatre
Performing Resistance

  • Natascha Drubek (University of Regensburg) “Unruly Projectionists and Censorship in the Cinema of Czarist Russia”
  • Denis Condon (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), “‘Offensive and Riotous Behaviour’: Regulating the Irish Cinema Audience, 1910-15”
  • Alison Griffiths (Baruch College, City University of New York), “Old New Media: The Time Warp Case of Motion Pictures in Prison”

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Panel 12: Sallis Benney Theatre
Old and New Media

  • Giusy Pisano (Université Paris-Est), “Au commencement était le son!”
  • André Gaudreault (Université de Montréal) and Philippe Marion (Université de Louvain), “D’un tournant de siècle à l’autre : l’animation restaurée”
  • Wanda Strauven (University of Amsterdam), “The Performing Screens of Early Cinema”
  • Andrea Haller (Deutsches Filminstitut), “Presenting New Media of the Nineteenth Century in the Context of the Twenty-First-Century Museum: The Case of the German Film Museum in Frankfurt”
  • Katherine Groo (University of Aberdeen), “Cut, Paste, Glitch, and Stutter: Remixing Early Film (History)”

2:30 Break

3:00 Special Session: Digital Technologies and New Media circa 1900: Sallis Benney Theatre

4:30 Break

5:00 Panel 13: Sallis Benney Theatre
Magic Lantern

  • Valentine Robert (Université de Lausanne/Université de Montréal), “De la page à la performance, de la toile à l’écran − ou comment la nouvelle culture des médias s’approprie et transforme le tableau vivant”
  • M. Magdalena Brotons Capó (Universitat de les illes Balears), “Les plaques de lanterne magique à l’origine de l’image cinématographique”
  • Sarah Dellmann (Utrecht University), “Getting to know the Dutch: Magic Lantern Series on the Netherlands Considered as Screen Practice”
  • Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (University of Trier), “Screening Sensations and Live Performance”

6:30 Break, Evening Event: Magic Lantern Show with David Francis

WEDNESDAY 20th June 2012

8:30 Pastries and beverages

9:00 Panel 14: Sallis Benney Theatre
The Circus and the Occult

  • Annie Fee (University of Washington), “Circus and Cinema: A Fairground Audience at the Gaumont-Palace”
  • Patrick Désile (Université de Paris), “Cirque et premier cinéma : Antagonismes et convergences”
  • Emmanuel Plasseraud (Université Paris-Est Marne-La-Vallée), “Médiums et nouveaux médias : Projections cinématographiques et performances médiumniques entre 1895 et 1915”

Panel 15: Room G4
Literature, Visuality, and Early Film

  • Pam Thurschwell (University of Sussex), “G.A. Smith, Psychical Research and Film: Disembodied Aesthetics and the Illusion of Embodiment”
  • Laura Marcus (Oxford University), “Conrad’s Figurative Understandings of the Cinema”
  • Jonathan Freedman (University of Michigan), “Henry James and G.A. Smith: Illusion and Visuality”

10:00 Break

10:30 Panel 16: Sallis Benney Theatre
Shadowplay

  • Thierry Lecointe (chercheur indépendant), “Entre nouveauté et continuité : Le spectacle cinématographique serait-il une emergence du théâtre d’ombres français?”
  • Marco Bellano (Università degli Studi di Padova), “The Sound of the Shadows: The Aesthetics of Music for Shadow Plays in Late-Nineteenth-Century France”
  • Canan Balan (Istanbul Sehir University), “Early Multimedia Performances in Late-Nineteenth-Century Istanbul”

Panel 17: Room G4
Institutional Histories of Moving Pictures in the South West UK before 1914

  • John Plunkett (University of Exeter), “Variety Halls and Touring Visual Entertainment in Plymouth, 1860-1890”
  • Joe Kember (University of Exeter), “Plymouth’s ‘Home of Cinema’: The Long Institutional History of British Town Hall Picture Shows”
  • Rosalind Leveridge (University of Exeter), “‘A Complete Entertainment from the Moment They Enter’: Cinema and Community in the Coastal Resorts of the South West, 1909-1914”

11:30 Lunch

12:30 Panel 18: Sallis Benney Theatre
Narrators

  • Alain Boillat (Université de Lausanne), “Projections fixes / animées: approche historiographique et théorique”
  • Judith Buchanan (University of York), “‘Guttersnipe’s Dialects and ‘élocution soignée’: The Ranging Cultural Performance Registers of Early Cinema Lecturers”
  • May Adadol Ingawanij (University of Westminster), “A Late ‘Early’ Cinema: Orality and Siam’s 16mm Era”
  • Martin Loiperdinger (University of Trier), “Missing Believed Lost: The Film Narrator Then and Now”

1:50 Break

2:10 Special Session: Brighton 1978/2012: Sallis Benney Theatre

4:00 Sessions end

6:00 Evening Event: Frank Gray’s Brighton Show

THURSDAY 21st June 2012

8:30 Pastries and beverages

9:00 Panel 19: Sallis Benney Theatre
Technology I

  • Benoît Turquety (Université de Lausanne), “L’histoire des techniques comme source pour l’histoire des pratiques performatives”
  • Katharina Loew (University of Oregon), “Specters of the Theater: 3-D Cinema in the 1910s”
  • Doron Galili (Oberlin College), “The Invention that Will Out-Edison Edison: Early Cinema and Moving Image Transmission”
  • Ted Hovet (Western Kentucky University), “From Circle to Oblong: Standardizing the Borders of the Projected Image in the 1890s”
  • William Boddy (Baruch College, City University of New York), “The Spectacle of Technology: Cinema and Outdoor Advertising in Early-Twentieth-Century Visual Culture”

Panel 20: Room G4
Place and Exhibition

  • Marta Braun (Ryerson University) and Charlie Keil (University of Toronto), “Architecture and Performance: Toronto’s Screen Media Landscape at the Turn of the Century”
  • Paul S. Moore (Ryerson University), “Early Cinema’s ‘Social Media’ Moment: Local Views in Mainstream Picture Shows in North America before the Nickelodeon”
  • Leigh Mercer (University of Washington), “Barcelona on the Move: The Metropolitan Cinemaway at the Intersection of Tourism, Entertainment, and Urbanism”
  • Begoña Soto Vázquez (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid), “Cinema as Extension of the Train and the Journal: Considering a New Audience for the Cinematograph, Madrid 1900-1912”

10:20 Break

10:40 Panel 21: Sallis Benney Theatre
Historiography, Nation, Femininity, and Performance

  • Philippe Gauthier (Université de Montréal/Université de Lausanne), “L’historiographie de la performance dans le cinéma des premiers temps et l’émergence de l’histoire universitaire du cinéma”
  • Gunnar Iversen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), “Performing New Media and the Creation of National Identity: Kräusslich and Köpke in Norway before 1910”
  • Stephen Putnam Hughes (University of London), “Performing Authority at the Cinema in Victorian India”
  • Shelley Stamp (University of California, Santa Cruz), “Lois Weber at Rex: Performing Femininity Across Media”

Panel 22: Room G4
Performance Beyond the Silent Screen: Comedy, Criminality and the Fashioning of a Multimodal Cinema

  • April Miller (University of Northern Colorado), “Vamp until Ready: Parlor Songs, Pseudoscience, and the Ephemeral Performance of the Silent Screen Vampire”
  • Vicki Callahan (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), “Simulation Platforms for Writing Film History: A Scalar Presentation on Mabel Normand and Cinematic Performance”
  • Michele Torre (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), “Transforming Comedic Performance for the ‘New Media’: Lina Bauer Does Film Comedy”

12:10 Lunch

1:10 Panel 23: Sallis Benney Theatre
Technology II

  • Richard Brown (independent scholar), “A New Look at Old History”
  • Paul Spehr (independent scholar), “Scopes, Phones, Graphs and Grams: Movies and Phonographs at the Introduction of Cinema”
  • Frank M. Scheide (University of Arkansas), “Freeman Owens: Early Arkansas Home Movie Exhibitor, Cinematographer, and Inventor of Motion Picture Technology from 1908-1972”
  • Stephen Herbert (Kingston University, London), “Recreating the First Cameras: A Twelve-Year Project”

2:30 Break

2:40 Special Session: Domitor General Assembly: Sallis Benney Theatre

4:00 Break

4:30 Panel 24: Sallis Benney Theatre
Programming and Performance

  • Laurent Guido (Université de Lausanne) and Laurent Le Forestier (Université de Rennes), “Performance et programmes : le cinéma programmé parmi des performances / les performances dans les programmes de cinéma”
  • Richard Abel (University of Michigan), “Motion Picture Advertisements, Programming and Performance”
  • Ansje van Beusekom (Utrecht University), “Performing Films in Winter 1904, 1905, and 1906: Albert Freres and Their Exhibition Skills in Multipurpose Buildings in Dutch Cities”
  • Ranita Chatterjee (University of Westminster), “‘Bringing out from Europe the Latest Scientific Illusion’: Performing New Media in British India”
  • Priska Morrissey (Université Rennes 2), “De l’invention des génériques: étude du cas français (1908-1914)”

6:00 Evening Event: Conference Dinner (details to be announced)

FRIDAY 22nd June 2012

8:30 Pastries and beverages

9:00 Panel 25: Sallis Benney Theatre
Fregoli, Reynaud, and Lightning Sketches

  • Frederic Tabet (Université Paris-Est), “La transparence du Fregoligraph”
  • Christelle Odoux (chercheuse indépendante), “L’application par Émile Reynaud de la photographie à son Théâtre optique: les Photo-peintures animées (1896)”
  • Jean-Baptiste Massuet (Université Rennes 2), “L’appropriation des Lightning Sketches par le Cinématographe, de la performance scénique au cartoon”
  • Malcolm Cook (Birkbeck College, University of London), “Performance Times: The Lightning Cartoon and the Emergence of Animation”

Panel 26: Room G4
Early Cinema (A)live! Sound, Body Performances, and Media Constructions of Presence

  • Wolfgang Fuhrmann (University of Zürich), “Listening to the Image: Ethnographic Film’s Long Beginning”
  • Kristina Köhler (University of Zürich), “Tango Mad and Affected by Cinematographitis: The 1910s Dance Crazes, Early Cinema, and Rhythmic ‘Contagions’ between Screens and Audiences”
  • Daniel Wiegand (University of Zürich), “‘Performed Live and Talking. No Kinematograph’: Amateur Performances of Tableaux Vivants and Local Film Exhibition in Germany around 1900”
  • Franziska Heller (University of Zürich), “Lumière Re-Mastered? Early Cinema Today and Its ‘Digital Performance’”

10:20 Break

10:45 Panel 27: Sallis Benney Theatre
Stage and Screen

  • Ivo Blom (VU University of Amsterdam), “The Cross-Medial Case of Lyda Borelli”
  • Nic Leonhardt (LMU Munich), “Pictorial Dramaturgy. Theatre and Visual Media around 1900”
  • Stephen Bottomore (independent scholar), “The Lady of Ostend”

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Panel 28: Sallis Benney Theatre
Showmen

  • Caitlin McGrath (independent scholar), “‘The Eye is a Great Educator’: J. K. Dixon at Kodak”
  • Peter Walsh (Sheffield University), “Standards of Practice in Transition: The Showmanship of Jasper Redfern as It Emerged”
  • Maria A. Velez-Serna (University of Glasgow), “Mapping Showmanship Skills and Practices in Scotland”
  • Artemis Willis (University of Chicago), “‘Marvelous and Fascinating’: L. Frank Baum’s Fairylogue and Radio Plays”

2:30 Break

3:00 Special Session: Closing Roundtable: Sallis Benney Theatre

4:00 End of conference

This is certainly a remarkable range of papers and themes, with a healthy mixture of leading names in the field and new scholars coming to the fore. The Bioscope will be there for a couple of days at least, and will be producing an on-the-spot conference report for you. There are a lot of old friends named above that it will be good to see again.

The full delegate rate for the five days is £140.00 (concessions rate £80.00), with a daily rate of £30.00. All presenters have to be members of Domitor, but attendees not presenting do not have to be members, which is a sensible arrangement. Further details and online booking are provided by the University of Brighton. General information on the conference, including location and travel information, are available on the Domitor site.

By the way, it’s been noticeable this year how very few conferences there seem to be worldwide this year that are either directly or indirectly devoted to silent cinema. If anyone knows of such events coming up, do let me know.

For your diaries

Audience at the Giornate del cinema muto, Pordenone

Well folks, in just a few days it will be 2012, and it is time once again for our annual round-up of what is scheduled to be happening in the silent film world over the next twelve months. You can find further details about the conferences and festivals coming up in the relevant blog sections for these, while our calendar lists all that’s coming up in one handy place. We are considering a reorganiation of the site in the near future, but for the time being those sections remain.

OK, and it will come as a surprise to no one that things kick off with January. The Slapstick festival in Bristol, UK, returns 26-29th, with its traditional mixture of silent comedy classics and present-day TV and radio comedians. StummFilmMusikTage, the annual festival of silent films held in Erlangen, Germany, also takes place in January, though no dates have been given as yet.

February is going to have special interest for the silent film world as the Academy Awards take place on the 26th, and we’ll all be rooting for The Artist just so that we can tell everyone we’ve been backing the right horse all along. The Kansas Silent Film Festival takes place at Topeka, Kansas on 24-25th (no programme announced as yet).

March looks busy, with Cinefest, the annual collectors’ festival at Syracuse, New York, taking place 15-18th – no programme as yet, but bookings begin in January; the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, Scotland’s first silent film festival now in its second year, to be held in Bo’ness, 16-18th; another relative newcomer, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, to be held 29th March-3rd April; and the twelfth Festival du film muet in Servion Switzerland, 29th March-1st April. With any luck, the Kilruddery Silent Film Festival should be returning this month, held in Bray, Ireland. Finally, there will be the major event of the first US screenings with orchestra of the fully restored Napoléon at the Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA, 24-25th, 31st and 1st April.

Spring will then be upon us, and April will see the British Silent Film Festival moving venue once again, this time to the Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, 19th-22nd- though officially both dates and venue remain provisional for now.

Then comes May, when we shall see the classic film convention Cinevent taking place at Columbus, Ohio, though no exact dates as yet. We do have dates for France’s Festival d’Anères, however, still going strong in Hautes-Pyrénées, 23rd-27th – or at least, we hope so, because just at present their website is down.

June will bring us the twelfth international Domitor conference, taking place in early cinema’s spiritual home, Brighton, UK, 25-28th [Update: dates are now 18-22 June], on the theme of ‘Performing New Media, 1890-1915′. There’s going to be something of a dilemma for some, as Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, for many specialists an essential part of their year, runs virtually parallel to Domitor, over 23rd-30th, with special features on Raoul Walsh, Lois Weber and the regular Films from 100 Years Ago all promised so far. 29th June-1st July will see the fifteenth annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, at Fremont, California, marking the centenary of Broncho Billy Anderson coming to Niles.

In July the sun is hot (is it shining? not it’s not). Aside from the sunshine, there will be the Olympic Games in the UK (27th July-12th August), and we’ll endeavour to have suitably Olympic things happening on the Bioscope as well. For those elsewhere, there will be the San Francisco Silent Film Festival taking place 12-15th; or else look out (hopefully) for something eye-catching once again from Babylon Kino’s StummfilmLiveFestival in Berlin this month. In 2011 Slapsticon, the annual silent and early sound film comedy festival traditionally held in Arlington, Virginia, was cancelled – we await news of what will happen this year.

Few silent film events have announced their dates as far ahead as August, though New York’s Capitolfest, scheduled for 10-12th, and Finland’s Mykkäelokuvafestivaalit, or the Forssa Silent Film Festival, is taking place 31st August-1st September. Festivals generally held this month are Strade del Cinema, held at Aosta, Italy; Jornada Brasileira de Cinema Silencioso in São Paulo, Brazil; Bonner Sommerkino, in Bonn, Germany; and the International Silent Film Festival held in Manila, Philippines. No dates or details for any of these as yet.

And then we will find ourselves in September, and ready for a particularly busy month. No dates announced as yet, but we should be getting Cinecon, the annual classic film festival held in Hollywood; New Zealand’s charming Opitiki Silent Film Festival; the Toronto Urban Film Festival of one-minute modern silent films, held in Toronto, Canada; Sydney, Australia’s Australia's Silent Film Festival (though this could turn up at any point between September and December, judging by past form); the Annual Buster Keaton Celebration held in Iola, Kansas, USA; and Cinesation, the silent and early sound film festival held in Massillon, Ohio, USA.

After all that, what might October hold? Why, Pordenone of course. The Giornate del Cinema Muto takes place 6-13th. Nothing else would dare to think even for a moment of clashing with it, and as things stand it has the month to itself.

November and December don’t seem to have anything fixed, though the Bielefelder Film+MusikFest in Germany and Poland’s Festival of Silent Films, held in Krakow and organised by Kino Pod Baranami, generally occur around this time.

If you know of other major silent films events – as opposd to individual screenings or general festivals with some silents included – do let me know. Hopefully there will be more than just the one conference happening in 2012, while the festivals all deserve your patronage. They take a lot of time, effort and money to put on, they are organised by people who believe passionately in the importance of what they do, and festivals remain the place where the real discoveries are made and silent film history is renewed and refreshed. Hope to see you at one or more such events in 2012.

Looking back on 2011

News in 2011, clockwise from top left: The White Shadow, The Artist, A Trip to the Moon in colour, Brides of Sulu

And so we come to the end of another year, and for the Bioscope it is time to look back on another year reporting on the world of early and silent film. Over the twelve months we have written some 180 posts posts, or well nigh 100,000 words, documenting a year that has been as eventful a one for silent films as we can remember, chiefly due to the timeless 150-year-old Georges Méliès and to the popular discovery of the modern silent film thanks to The Artist. So let’s look back on 2011.

Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès in Hugo

Georges Méliès has been the man of the year. Things kicked off in May with the premiere at Cannes of the coloured version of Le voyage dans la lune / A Trip to the Moon (1902), marvellously, indeed miraculously restored by Lobster Films. The film has been given five star publicity treatment, with an excellent promotional book, a new score by French band Air which has upset some but pleased us when we saw it at Pordenone, a documentary The Extraordinary Voyage, and the use of clips from the film in Hugo, released in November. For, yes, the other big event in Méliès’ 150th year was Martin Scorsese’s 3D version of Brian Selznick’s children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, in which Méliès is a leading character. Ben Kingsley bring the man convincingly to life, and the film thrillingly recreates the Méliès studio as it pleads for us all to understand our film history. The Bioscope thought the rest of the film was pretty dire, to be honest, though in this it seems to be in a minority. But just because a film pleads the cause of film doesn’t make it a good film …

And there was more from Georges, with his great-great-grandaughter Pauline Duclaud-Lacoste Méliès producing an official website, Matthew Solomon’s edited volume Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon (with DVD extra), a conference that took place in July, and a three-disc DVD set from Studio Canal.

For the Bioscope itself things have been eventful. In January we thought a bit about changing the site radically, then thought better of this. There was our move to New Bioscope Towers in May, the addition of a Bioscope Vimeo channel for videos we embed from that excellent site, and the recent introduction of our daily news service courtesy of Scoop It! We kicked off the year with a post on the centenary of the ever-topical Siege of Sidney Street, an important event in newsreel history, and ended it with another major news event now largely forgotten, the Delhi Durbar. Anarchists win out over imperialists is the verdict of history.

Asta Nielsen in Hamlet

We were blessed with a number of great DVD and Blu-Ray releases, with multi-DVD and boxed sets being very much in favour. Among those that caught the eye and emptied the wallet were Edition Filmmuseum’s Max Davidson Comedies, the same company’s collection of early film and magic lantern slide sets Screening the Poor and the National Film Preservation Foundation’s five disc set Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938. Individual release of the year was Edition Filmmuseum’s Hamlet (Germany 1920), with Asta Nielsen and a fine new music score (Flicker Alley’s Norwegian surprise Laila just loses out because theatre organ scores cause us deep pain).

We recently produced a round-up of the best silent film publications of 2011, including such titles as Bryony Dixon’s 100 Silent Films, Andrew Shail’s Reading the Cinematograph: The Cinema in British Short Fiction 1896-1912 and John Bengston’s Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. But we should note also Susan Orlean’s cultural history Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, which has made quite an impact in the USA, though we’ve not read it ourselves as yet.

There were all the usual festivals, with Bologna championing Conrad Veidt, Boris Barnet and Alice Guy, and Pordenone giving us Soviets, Soviet Georgians, polar explorers and Michael Curtiz. We produced our traditional detailed diaries for each of the eight days of the festival. But it was particularly pleasing to see new ventures turning up, including the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema in Scotland, which launched in February and is due back in 2012. Babylon Kino in Berlin continued to make programming waves with its complete Chaplin retropective in July. Sadly, the hardy annual Slapsticon was cancelled this year – we hope it returns in a healthy state next year.

The Artist (yet again)

2011 was the year when the modern silent film hit the headlines, the The Artist enchanting all-comers at Cannes and now being touted for the Academy Award best picture. We have lost count of the number of articles written recently about a revival of interest in silent films, and their superiority in so many respects to the films of today. Jaded eyes are looking back to a (supposedly) gentler age, it seems. We’ve not seen it yet, so judgement is reserved for the time being. Here, we’ve long championed the modern silent, though our March post on Mr Bean was one of the least-read that we’ve penned in some while.

Among the year’s conferences on silent film themes there was the First International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema held in February; the Construction of News in Early Cinema in Girona in March, which we attended and from which we first experimented with live blogging; the opportunistically themed The Second Birth of Cinema: A Centenary Conference held in Newcastle, UK in July; and Importing Asta Nielsen: Cinema-Going and the Making of the Star System in the Early 1910s, held in Frankfurt in September.

In the blogging world, sadly we said goodbye to Christopher Snowden’s The Silent Movie Blog in February – a reminder that we bloggers are mostly doing this for love, but time and its many demands do sometimes call us away to do other things. However, we said hello to John Bengston’s very welcome Silent Locations, on the real locations behind the great silent comedies. Interesting new websites inclued Roland-François Lack’s visually stunning and intellectually intriguing The Cine-Tourist, and the Turconi Project, a collection of digitised frames for early silents collected by the Swiss priest Joseph Joye.

The Bioscope always has a keen eye for new online research resources, and this was a year when portals that bring together several databases started to dominate the landscape. The single institution is no longer in a position to pronounce itself to be the repository of all knowledge; in the digital age we are seeing supra-institutional models emerging. Those we commented on included the Canadiana Discovery Portal, the UK research services Connected Histories and JISC Media Hub, UK film’s archives’ Search Your Film Archives, and the directory of world archives ArchiveGrid. We made a special feature of the European Film Gateway, from whose launch event we blogged live and (hopefully) in lively fashion.

Images of Tacita Dean’s artwork ‘Film’ at Tate Modern

We also speculated here and there on the future of film archives in this digital age, particularly when we attended the Screening the Future event in Hilversum in March, and then the UK Screen Heritage Strategy, whose various outputs were announced in September. We mused upon media and history when we attended the Iamhist conference in Copenhagen (it’s been a jet-setting year), philosophizing on the role of historians in making history in another bout of live blogging (something we hope to pursue further in 2012). 2011 was the year when everyone wrote their obituaries for celluloid. The Bioscope sat on the fence when considering the issue in November, on the occasion of Tacita Dean’s installation ‘Film’ at Tate Modern – but its face was looking out towards digital.

Significant web video sources launched this year included the idiosyncractic YouTube channel of Huntley Film Archives, the Swedish Filmarkivet.se, the Thanhouser film company’s Vimeo channel, and George Eastman House’s online cinematheque; while we delighted in some of the ingenious one-second videos produced for a Montblanc watches competition in November.

It was a year when digitised film journals made a huge leap forward, from occasional sighting to major player in the online film research world, with the official launch of the Media History Digital Library. Its outputs led to Bioscope reports on film industry year books, seven years of Film Daily (1922-1929) and the MHDL itself. “This is the new research library” we said, and we think we’re right. Another important new online resource was the Swiss journal Kinema, for the period 1913-1919.

It has also been a year in which 3D encroached itself upon the silent film world. The aforementioned Hugo somewhat alarmingly gives us not only Méliès films in 3D, but those of the Lumière brothers, and film of First World War soldiers (colourised to boot). The clock-face sequence from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (also featured in Hugo) was converted to 3D and colourised, much to some people’s disgust; while news in November that Chaplin’s films were to be converted into 3D for a documentary alarmed and intrigued in equal measure.

The Soldier’s Courtship

Film discovery of the year? The one that grabbed all the headlines – though many of them were misleading ones – was The White Shadow (1923), three reels of which turned up in New Zealand. Normally an incomplete British silent directed by Graham Cutts wouldn’t set too many pulses running, but it was assistant director Alfred Hitchcock who attracted all the attention. Too many journalists and bloggers put the story ahead of the history, though one does understand why. But for us the year’s top discovery was Robert Paul’s The Soldier’s Courtship (1896), the first British fiction film made for projection, which was uncovered in Rome and unveiled in Pordenone. It may be just a minute long, but it is a perky delight, with a great history behind its production and restoration.

Another discovery was not of a lost film but rather a buried one. Philippine archivists found that an obscure mid-1930s American B-feature, Brides of Sulu, was in all probability made out of one, if not two, otherwise lost Philippines silents, Princess Tarhata and The Moro Pirate. No Philippine silent fiction film was known have survived before now, which makes this a particularly happy discovery, shown at Manila’s International Silent film Festival in August. The Bioscope post and its comments unravel the mystery.

Among the year’s film restorations, those that caught the eye were those that were most keenly promoted using online media. They included The First Born (UK 1928), Ernst Lubistch’s Das Weib des Pharao (Germany 1922) and the Pola Negri star vehicle Mania (Germany 1918).

Some interesting news items throughout the year included the discovery of unique (?) film of the Ballet Russes in the British Pathé archive in February; in April Google added a ‘1911’ button to YouTube to let users ‘age’ their videos by 100 years (a joke that backfired somewhat) then in the same month gave us a faux Chaplin film as its logo for the day; in May the much-hyped film discovery Zepped (a 1916 animation with some Chaplin outtakes) was put up for auction in hope of a six-figure sum, which to few people’s surprise it signally failed to achieve; and in July there was the discovery of a large collection of generic silent film scores in Birmingham Library.

Barbara Kent

And we said goodbye to some people. The main person we lost from the silent era itself was Barbara Kent, star of Flesh and the Devil and Lonesome, who made it to 103. Others whose parting we noted were the scholar Miriam Hansen; social critic and author of the novel Flicker Theodore Roszak; the founder of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart; and the essayist and cinéaste Gilbert Adair.

Finally, there were those ruminative or informational Bioscope posts which we found it interesting to compile over the year. They include a survey of cricket and silent film; thoughts on colour and early cinema; a survey of digitised newspaper collections, an investigation into the little-known history of the cinema-novel, the simple but so inventive Phonotrope animations of Jim Le Fevre and others, thoughts on the not-so-new notion of 48 frames per second, the amateur productions of Dorothea Mitchell, the first aviation films, on silent films shown silently, and on videos of the brain activity of those who have been watching films.

As always, we continue to range widely in our themes and interests, seeing silent cinema not just for its own sake but as a means to look out upon the world in general. “A view of life or survey of life” is how the dictionary defines the word ‘bioscope’ in its original use. We aim to continue doing so in 2012.

Staging illusions

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sccs/activities/stagingillusion

Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy is a two-day conference taking place 8-9 December 2011 at the University of Sussex, whose themes, while not directly referencing silent cinema, are highly relevant to it. So here’s the conference blurb:

Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy,
December 8th and 9th, University of Sussex

Keynote speakers: Professor Vanessa Toulmin (Director of the National Fairground Archive), Dr Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths) and Professor Sally R Munt (Director of the Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies).

Plenary speakers: Dr Astrid Ensslin (Bangor), Dr Melanie Chan (Leeds Met), Professor Nicholas Till (Sussex), and Dr Jo Machon (Brunel).

Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies & the Centre for Material Digital Culture present:

From magicians and mediums to immersive media, and from the circus to cyborgs, the celebration and/or mistrust of illusion has been a central theme across a range of cultures. Notions of fakery and deception remind us that our identities that are performative. The figure of the ‘mark’ of the fairground scam remains culturally ubiquitous, perhaps more so than ever, in an era of (post) mechanical reproduction. Is new technology a flight from the real or merely a continuation of older cultural forms? Is it necessary, or even possible, to define reality in relation to the illusory? What realms of ‘otherness’ remain to be embraced? This international conference will discuss staged illusions across a spectrum of historical, geographical and cultural contexts, featuring original and exciting papers and performances.

Panels interrogate staging illusion from diverse perspectives, including: 3D cinema, the paranormal, the music hall, digital trickery, the fairground, magicians and illusionists, theatre, science, the museum, the magic of cinema, the gothic, digital gaming, social networking, the circus, advertising, illusory bodies and genders, theme parks and digital animation. Over two days the conference will also showcase illusory performance pieces, installations and magic.

Panel speakers so far confirmed: Jon Armstrong, Adam Bee, Victoria Byard, Diane Carr, Eleanor Dare, Cristina Miranda de Almeida with Matteo Ciastellardi, Lane DeNicola, Yael Friedman, Aristea Fotopoulou, Kate Genevieve, Jonathan Gilhooly, Dr Rachael Grew, Birgitta Hosea, Jacqueline Hylkema, Jane Insley, Lewis Johnson, Laura Ellen Joyce, Frances A. Kamm, Ewan Kirkland, Chara Lewis with Kristin Mojsiewicz & Anneke Pettican, Liang-Wen Lin, Joe Marshall, John Carter McKnight, Jenny Munro, Constantino Oliva, Professor Deborah Philips, Burcu Yasemin Şeyben, Jayne Sheridan, Peter Sillett, Frances Smith, Marian St. Laurent, Nozomi Uematsu, Owen Weetch, John Wills.

No programme as yet, but registration is now open, with the cost £190 (£85 for students). There’s a downloadable booking form on the conference site, and you can follow developments on the conference blog or via its Twitter feed.

Poverty on screen 1880-1914

Comment les pauvres mangent à Paris / How the Poor Dine in Paris (Pathé 1910), from the Screening the Poor DVD

Recently we reviewed the the double-DVD release from Edition Filmmuseum, Screening the Poor 1888-1914, which innovatively brings together early films and magic lantern sets on the theme of poverty. Now the DVD release and the Screen1900 Project at the University of Trier which encouraged it have led to a conference taking place 1-3 December at the German Historical Institute in London. The title of the conference is ‘Screen Culture and the Social Question: Poverty on Screen 1880-1914′, and the convenors are Professor Dr. Andreas Gestrich (GHIL) and Dr Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (University of Trier). Here are the descriptive blurb and preliminary programme:

This conference will bring together different international research approaches looking at how the optical lantern (‘art of projection’) and cinematography were used in the context of the Social Question around 1900. The media history relevance of the Social Question to the establishment of these new visual media has hardly so far been examined. Nor have these media been critically investigated as social history sources. The conference aims to make a fundamental contribution towards establishing an innovative field of research in the area where social history and media history overlap.

The rapid success of ‘cinematography’ at the beginning of the twentieth century owed much to what was known as the ‘art of projection’. The screen became firmly established as a part of international cultural life in the second half of the nineteenth century by the ‘art of projection’. The enormous creative potential of these new visual media in public performances was used not only for commercial purposes, but also for events in areas such as education, religion, and social policy.

The interdisciplinary comparison will discuss the state of research on the motifs, production, dissemination, and reception of the projection media in the field of poor relief and social policy. Different methodological concepts will be introduced for researching the performative potential of existing scripts and artefacts (glass slides, films, projectors). In addition, projects editing sources will be presented, and new processes for digitally reproducing and documenting historical sources and artefacts will be discussed.

Preliminary Conference Programme

Thursday, 1 December 2011:

13:00
Registration

14:00
Welcome and Introduction
Andreas Gestrich (German Historical Institute London) and Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (University of Trier)

14:30 – 17:00
Panel 1: Screen Culture and the Public Sphere – Historic Context and Social Impact 1880 – 1914
Chair: Ian Christie (London)
Martin Loiperdinger (Trier): The Social Impact of Screen Culture 1880 – 1914.
Stephen Bottomore (Bangkok): The Lantern and Early Film for Social and Political Uses.

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:00 Comment and Discussion Panel 1
Comment by Andreas Gestrich (London)

17:15 – 19:00
Road Show: Approaches to the Hidden History of Screen Culture
Frank Gray (Brighton): The Lucerna Network for the History of Projection.
Ine van Dooren (Brighton): Archiving and preserving lantern slides and related resources.
Richard Crangle (Exeter): Digitizing the History of Screen Culture: The Lucerna Database.

Friday, 2 December 2011:

09:30 – 12:30
Panel 2: Raising Public Awareness for the Living Conditions in Slums and Tenements
Chair: Clemens Zimmermann (Saarbrücken)
Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (Trier): Slum Life and Living Conditions of the Poor in Fictional and Documentary Lantern Slide Sets.
Joss Marsh (Bloomington) / David Francis (Bloomington): “Poetry of Poverty” – The Magic Lantern and the Ballads of George R. Sims.
Bonnie Yochelson (New York): Jacob Riis, His Photographs, and Poverty in New York, 1888-1914.

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 12:30
Comment and Discussion Panel 2
Comment by tbc

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch Break

14:00 – 17:00
Panel 3 – Education and Entertainment for the Poor – the Use of Lantern Shows and Early Films by Charity Organisations
Chair: Ine van Dooren (Brighton)
Karen Eifler (Trier): Free Meals and Lantern Shows: Charitable Events in Great Britain and Germany.
Judith Thissen (Utrecht): Educating Moyshe: Jewish Socialists, Gentile Entertainments, and the Future of the Jewish Immigrant Masses in America.
Caroline Henkes (Trier): Early Christmas Films in the Tradition of the Magic Lantern.

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:00 Comment and Discussion Panel 3
Comment by Frank Gray (Brighton)

19:00 tbc

Evening Programme at The Foundling Museum:
“TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY
A festive and true-made Victorian Magic Lantern Show for the deserving poor of London”
by Mervyn Heard with Juliette Harcourt (recitation and song) and Stephen Horne (piano)

Saturday, 3 December 2011:

09:00 – 12:00
Panel 4 – Social Prevention with the Aid of the Screen and Exhibitions
Chair: Richard Crangle (Exeter)
Annemarie McAllister (Preston): The Promotion of Temperance by means of the Magic Lantern.
Marina Dahlquist (Göteborg): Health Entrepreneurs: American Screen Practices in the 1910s.
Michelle Lamuniere (Harvard University): From Jacob Riis’s Lantern Slide Presentations to Harvard University’s Social Museum.

10:30 – 11:00 Coffee Break

11:00 – 12:00 Comment and Discussion Panel 4
Comment by Scott Curtis (Evanston)
12:00 – 13:00
Closing Remarks and General Discussion
Chair: Andreas Gestrich
Closing Remarks by Ian Christie (London) and Clemens Zimmermann (Saarbrücken)

Spaces are limited (with all those speakers they can’t have much space left) and those interested to register should contact the organisers via this link.

Importing Asta

Asta Nilesen, from http://deutsches-filminstitut.de

Over 27 to 29 September 2011 the Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt, and Media Studies, University of Trier are organising an international conference dedicated to arguably the leading European film star of the early cinema period, Importing Asta Nielsen: Cinema-Going and the Making of the Star System in the Early 1910s. The conference is curated by leading German early film scholar Martin Loiperdinger, and here’s the descriptive blurb:

Asta Nielsen has been the first renowned female star of world cinema. Her name is inextricably connected with the advent of the long feature film and the introduction of the star system. Her films played a crucial role in the transition from short films to the long feature film as the main attraction of the programme which took place in various countries, in the years before the First World War.

Asta Nielsen’s international film career started in Germany with the ‘invention’ of the Monopolfilm, the monopoly rental system, in late 1910. Her films were distributed within this exclusive system and received tremendous box-office records. The screen personality of the Danish actress appealed to audiences of all sorts. Branded as ‘the Eleonora Duse of Film Art’ she uncontestedly was the most popular film actress with German film audiences in 1913.

But was this also the case with the many countries which imported Asta Nielsen films before the First World War?

How was the distribution of her films organized in those countries?

Did the Danish actress indeed attract audiences in those countries as she was able to do in Germany? And did her films also play a crucial role in establishing the long feature film format as they did in Germany?

What about the reception of her films in so many countries with different cultures and customs? How did censorship react to the provoking characters which Asta Nielsen played on screen? How did trade periodicals and daily newspapers respond to her screen personality?

And, last but not least, in which ways was Asta Nielsen on screen appropriated and received by the varied audiences of so many countries, varying not only in gender and class, but also in education, religion, and life style? Is it possible to map different patterns of audience response to Asta Nielsen films in different countries?

The conference will discuss various modes of distribution, exhibition, appropriation, and reception of Asta Nielsen within countries of all continents.

The conference takes place in Frankfurt (at the Deutsche Filminstitut Filmmuseum), and is scheduled to take place just before the Pordenone silent film festival (which starts 1 October). The conference organisers point out that participants will be able to travel easily from Frankfurt airport to Venice Marco Polo airport, or by Ryanair from Hahn airport (1 hour bus ride from Frankfurt) to Treviso airport (30 minute train ride to Pordenone). The conference fee will be 30 Euro for three days, 15 Euros for one day; the fee for students will be 15 Euro and 7.50 Euro respectively, which all sounds very reasonable indeed. Participants are requested to register up to 15 September 2011 via email at nielsen@deutsches-filminstitut.de.

And here’s the conference programme:

27 September

09:00 – 10:00 Registration

10:00 – 10:15 Opening of the Conference

10:15 – 12:30
Panel 1: Asta Nielsen and the Emergence of the Star System in Germany

Martin Loiperdinger (Trier):
The German Model – Asta Nielsen Monopolfilm Series

Andrea Haller (Frankfurt):
Asta Nielsen, the Introduction of the Long Feature Film and Female Audiences – the Case of Mannheim

Pierre Stotzky (Metz):
The Exhibition of Asta Nielsen Films in Metz

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:30
Panel 2: Asta Nielsen in Austria-Hungary and Poland

Patric Blaser (Vienna):
Asta Nielsen in Austria-Hungary

Jakub Klíma (Brno):
Asta Nielsen in Brno

Andrzej Debski (Wrocław):
Asta Nielsen in Poland

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30
Panel 3: Asta Nielsen in Small Countries – Northern Europe

Anne Bachmann (Stockholm):
Public Response to Asta Nielsen’s Clash with the Censorship Board in Sweden

Outi Hupaniittu (Turku):
“Three times at the censorial office and nothing to remark, for you with a special price” – Afgrunden’s lucky escape and the new ways of promotion in Finland

Gunnar Iversen (Trondheim):
Asta Nielsen in Norway

18:00 Dinner

20:30 – 22:30
Cinema Lecture
Karola Gramann, Heide Schlüpmann, (Frankfurt):
Asta Nielsen – A Cinematic Phenomenon (followed by film screenings)

28 September

09:00 – 10:30
Panel 4. The First Filmstar – Asta Nielsen in Italy and Russia

Giovanni Lasi (Bologna):
Italy’s First Film Star – Asta Nielsen, ‘Polaris’

Lauri Piispa (Turku):
Marketing Russia’s First Film Star – Asta Nielsen in the Russian Trade Press

10:30 – 11: 00 Coffee Break

11:00 – 13:00
Panel 5: Asta Nielsen in Great Britain and the US

Jon Burrows (Coventry):
‘”The Great Asta Nielsen”, “The Shady Exclusive” and the birth of film censorship in Britain, 1911-1914′

Richard Abel (Ann Arbor):
The Flickering Career of Asta Nielsen in the US, 1912–1913

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00
Panel 6: The Emergence of the Long Feature Film in Denmark

Caspar Tybjerg (Copenhagen):
Hjamlar Davidson, His Kosmorama Cinema, and Afgrunden

Isak Thorsen (Copenhagen):
The Mülleneisen Case: Asta Nielsen and Nordisk Films Compagni

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17:00
Panel 7: Film Stars and Marketing Policies in the Early 1910s

Caroline Henkes (Trier):
Asta Nielsen and Her Poor Female Characters of 1911

Ian Christie (London):
From Screen Personalities to Divas – Early Film Stars in Europe

19:00 Dinner

29 September

09:00 – 11:00
Panel 8: Strange Encounters – Asta Nielsen in Arabia and the Far East

Ouissal Mejri (Bologne):
Asta Nielsen in Egypt and Tunisia

Sawako Ogawa / Hiroshi Komatsu (Tokyo):
Asta Nielsen in Japan

Stephen Bottomore (Bangkok): Asta Nielsen in Australasia

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:30
Panel 9: Asta Nielsen in Small Countries – Western and Central Europe

Ansje van Beusekom (Utrecht):
Distributing, programming and recycling Asta Nielsen films in the Netherlands

Paul Lesch (Luxembourg):
“Earning the audience’s unbridled applause” – Asta Nielsen in Luxembourg

Mattia Lento (Zurich) / Pierre-Emmanuel Jaques (Lausanne):
Asta Nielsen in Switzerland

13:30 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00
Panel 10: Digital Tools for Comparative Research in the Emergence of the Star System

Karel Dibbets (Amsterdam):
The Cinema in Context Database

Joseph Garncarz (Cologne):
The Siegen Database

N.N. (Brno):
The Local Cinema History Database on Brno

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17.30
Comments and Closing Discussion

Truly a gathering of notable scholars from around the world in celebration of a world star. It looks like an excellent event all round, and fingers crossed that a publication comes out of it as well.

More information should eventually be available from this link: http://importing-asta-nielsen-conference.uni-trier.de, but until it’s ready try this one (in English) or this one (in German) instead.

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