‘Cinema and Boredom: Wasting Time with Andy Warhol’
Andy Warhol’s movies – a significant corpus of work made between 1963 and 1968 – have often been criticised as boring. These accusations have been levelled against his experiments with endurance, such as the 25 hour long **** (Four Stars) of 1967, as much as shorter works that experiment with stillness and stasis, or that test the boundaries of generic form to exhaustion. However, the complex form of this boredom – as a deliberate aesthetic strategy employed by Warhol, as a marked feature of some of the films’ content, and as an affective response experienced by viewers – remains largely critically neglected. Claiming that a cultural text is ‘boring’, in other words, most often operates as a dismissal, shutting down discourse rather than opening it up. Using Warhol’s movies as a focus, this paper will explore the political force and valence of boredom as it has been employed by a range of filmmakers. Connections will be made to other artists and directors experimenting with experiences of time in the 1960s and ‘70s (Akerman, Antonioni, Tarkovsky), as well as to some of those associated with the recent ‘slow cinema’ movement (Apichatpong, Costa, Tarr), a number of whom have explicitly identified Warhol as an influence on their films. Walter Benjamin’s suggestion, in The Arcades Project, that ‘boredom is the threshold of great deeds’, will be used to examine the ways in which this embodied and affective experience can be inflected positively. The experience of boredom, I will suggest, especially as it relates to the moving image, should not be merely abandoned as ‘wasted time’, but recalibrated as a potentially powerful corrective to normative conceptions of speed, chronology and time.
Glyn Davis is Chancellor's Fellow and Reader in Screen Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he is exploring the relationships between cinema and boredom. He is the co-editor of 'Queer TV: Theories, Histories, Politics' (Routledge, 2009) and 'Warhol in Ten Takes' (BFI, 2013), and the author of monographs on 'Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story' (Columbia UP, 2008) and 'Far from Heaven' (Edinburgh UP, 2011).
“Homo Ludens, Meet Homo Faber”: Hope, Power, and Resources in the African Post-Colony.
In my ethnographic fieldwork in São Tomé and Príncipe (STP), a small African Atlantic island state and former Portuguese colony, I frequently encountered the notion that “Santomeans do not work.” This assertion had particular weight in the light of impending offshore oil production. Excessive expectations and so-called rent seeking, taking the place of productive labour, were feared to be the inappropriate responses to future wealth. The hope for “unearned” wealth and prosperity, more generally, has come to be seen as a problem in many post-colonial settings shaped by resource extraction, but this problem has remained remarkably unquestioned. This paper does two things. First, it examines the widespread efforts by international agencies to manage expectations and channel hope in STP, for example, through public awareness campaigns and civil society building. I argue that the politics of anticipation implemented, here, seeks to effect a particular kind of temporal disposition toward oil decidedly different from the “hopeful” practices of ordinary and not-so-ordinary Santomeans. Second, I show that in order to fully comprehend the problem of hope in STP, and specifically of hope as practical engagement between people, resources and the non-human world, we need to trace its historical antecedents. I suggest that the methodological response to the Santomean problem of hope should be not psychology, sociology, or economics but ontological critique. Freed slaves refusing plantation labour and citizens destroying crops intended to support the population of a newly independent state seem to express forms of agency (through rejection or spoilage) and temporal affects (hope but also dejection) specific to different extractive environments. My analysis draws on critical temporalities and anthropology to tease out the emergent orientations in time – time experienced not neutrally but always suffused by power – across these colonial and postcolonial moments.
Gisa Weszkalnys is lecturer in anthropology at the London School of Economics. She has conducted research on natural resource development, interdisciplinary research practices, and the cultural politics of urban planning. Her books include Berlin, Alexanderplatz: Transforming Place in a Unified Germany (2010) and Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World (2013, coedited with Simone Abram). Her current work examines the temporality and materiality of oil exploitation in the Gulf of Guinea.
Keywords: politics of anticipation, hope, materiality, natural resources, temporal affects
The theoretical literature on immaterial labour suggests that work in post-industrial economies has become based principally around the creation and manipulation of ideas, symbols, selves, emotions and relationships, inhabiting as a result the full range of human capacities and activities occupying life itself. As such, for those employed in these forms of production, the boundary between time engaged in immaterial labour and time away from paid employment becomes increasingly indistinct, as the activities of work take on the characteristics of those of leisure and of everyday life, and those of leisure and everyday life assume the characteristics of work. Immaterial labour can thus be seen to transcend the formal confines of the working day to invest the whole of life with its value-producing processes. This paper details a research project exploring how work time is structured in the digital industries in the UK, drawing upon a case study a Bristol web enterprise situated in the ‘Silicon Gorge’ high-tech hub incorporating ethnography, interviews, observation and time diaries. The long and non-standard working hours found in the ICT industry are well-documented, with a veneer of fun-loving flexibility sustained upon an undertow of eighty hour weeks, unpaid overtime and the destruction of the boundary between home life and work. This work pattern is deeply integrated with the production of subjectivities. The culture of flexibility that abounds in the creative digital industries harnesses the subjectivities and selves of individual employees to a cycle of ‘project time’ centred around specific tasks and deadlines, completely divorced from recognition of one’s contribution based upon traditional temporal measures. Thus, an ‘objective work schedule’ is replaced by a ‘subjective demand for commitment’. Thus, greater flexibility and variability of the working day actually erodes worker control over their own time, subordinated to the ebb and flow of the project cycle.
Frederick H. Pitts is a PhD student at the University of Bath, UK. His research concerns work and work-time in post-industrial occupations, informed by the Marxian critique of political economy.
Key words: labour, work, time, value, immaterial labour, creative/cultural/digital industries
My fieldsite Hoyerswerda, Germany’s fastest shrinking city, is known as a city with “no hope” and “no future”. However, what at first looks like the failed transition of a former socialist model city hit by a neo-liberally orchestrated globalization soon provides the context for an unexpected variety of experiences of – and relations to – many different pasts and futures. Indeed, multiple temporal connotations structure local conflicts and their passionate social negotiation. This presentation tracks how some local groups successfully challenge the local government’s “enforced presentism”. Most importantly, in their strive for reclaiming the future, these groups do not replace this neo-liberal “enforced presentism” with some form of “enforced futurism”. Rather, they conceptually open up a space beyond shrinkage and its widely felt and feared social, economic and political repercussions. With the help of my ethnographic material, I show how citizens of Hoyerswerda in their everyday socio-cultural practices thus overcome both, the temporal regime of the post-socialist transformation and the temporal order of neo-liberalism. I posit several examples of their multiple and conflicting temporal practices as indicative of a surprising flexibility in the way my informants through their knowledge practices exist – and reach out – in time. Whilst developing the category of “creative presentism”, I provide a thoroughly anthropological view on time. Through the lens of the currently emerging anthropology of the future, I conceptualise time as a theoretical, analytical and methodological issue of knowledge, which in turn is understood less as culture and more as situated and locally relevant practice. I particularly attend what currency hope and the future, rather than the past, have in local concerns and in human life more generally. As my approach tries to account for the variety of human temporal relations, it will also critically engage with the sometimes misleading term of temporality.
I have recently gained my PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, for which I undertook 16 months of fieldwork in the East German city of Hoyerswerda, Germany's fastest shrinking city. As a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Vienna, I continue to work on the issues of knowledge and time. My primary research focus is on how people envision the future once it has been rendered problematic in times of dramatic demographic and socio-economic change. I will soon commence research on the relation between the notion of sustainability and urban regeneration of post-industrial cities in Europe.
The interiors of Versailles have long been subjected to a regime that aims to restore them to their state on the eve of the French Revolution; but in 2011, an exhibition disrupted their temporal singularity. Imagining that Versailles was still the seat of state, the apartments were furnished with contemporary pieces from the Mobilier National (the descendant of the original Garde Meuble du Roi). The exhibition was greeted as if a blasphemy had been committed against rooms whose history had, supposedly, ended once their royal occupants had left them. Visit any museum of design, and you will come across ‘period rooms’. Interiors variously ripped from medieval castles or modern flats are furnished with objects from the same era and presented as monuments to the spirit of their respective ages. It is a paradox, for if real rooms were like period interiors, nothing would survive from the past to exhibit today. More usually, rooms occupy buildings and are filled with furnishings which are older – or newer - than they are. This paper will argue that interiors are constructed conversations between the present and the past in which, like the memory palaces discussed by Frances Yates, objects carefully arranged remind their occupants what rhetorical stance to adopt. This paper will also argue that the ars memoriae is in itself in flux: the same antiques and rooms are used and arranged differently today, for example, than they were a century ago, and encode differing notions of memory. The 2011 refurnishing of Versailles formed an assault on conventional modes of history, conducted in cushions and curtains. This paper will argue that we all engage in such exercises all the time, and explore the encoding of time in the domestic interiors of which the palace of Versailles is merely a rhetorical amplification.
Edward Hollis studied Architecture at Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities. For the subsequent six years he practiced as an Architect. He worked first in Sri Lanka, in the practice of Geoffrey Bawa, at that time the ‘grand old man’ of Sri Lankan Architecture, famous for his garden of follies and ruins at Lunuganga; and then in the practice of Richard Murphy, well known for his radical alterations to ancient and historic buildings in and around Edinburgh.
In 1999, Edward Hollis began lecturing in Interior Architecture at Napier University, Edinburgh, working with students both in the design studio, and in more theoretical disciplines. In 2004, he moved to Edinburgh College of Art, where he is now deputy director of research.
Working with follies and ruins in Sri Lanka, with modern interventions to historic buildings in Scotland, and in the slippery discipline of Interiors, has focussed Edward’s theoretical thinking on the notion of time, story, and building.
He is involved with current plans to revive the ruins of Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s seminary at Cardross. His first book, ‘The Secret Lives of Buildings’: a collection folk tales stories about mythical buildings was published in 2009; and he is currently writing ‘The Memory Palace’ a book of lost Interiors, due for publication in 2013.
Keywords: architecture, interiors, historiography, narrative
In my lightning talk I would like to flesh out some central concerns of my PhD project. My research deals with time and temporality in contemporary literary post-apocalyptic fiction. This genre is always intertwined with discourses on time. After all, according to the Christian view – which still founds the western conception of apocalypse, no matter how secular this might have become – apocalypse equals the end of history and of time. The general argument of my thesis is, thus, that the apocalyptic imagination is temporal in its very essence and that conjuring up post-apocalyptic worlds always entails a change in the way time is conceived of. In particular, in my talk I would like to focus on how the novels I analyse often experiment with counter-narratives to the Western paradigms of linear time, history and progress. Cyclical temporalities and plots abound, and so does the phenomenon I term “temporal inversion”, namely representing the post-apocalyptic future as a return to a past state in man’s evolution. These alternative temporalities, critical of the Western classic conceptions of time, are obviously aimed at communicating a sense of apocalyptic change to the readers. However, when coupled with utopian depictions of the post-apocalyptic future, they may also contribute to foster social change. In the last part of my talk I will briefly focus on Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse (2007) as an example of how, by imagining a different temporality than the linear and progressive one, these authors afford a revelatory dimension which touches upon the contemporary world and its issues - from climate change, to excessive technologization, from inequalities to wars.
I graduated in Philosophy (MPhil) from the University of Milan, Italy, in 2010, with a dissertation on contemporary non-mimetic theories of representation. I am now a second-year PhD student in American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham. My research deals with time and temporality in contemporary literary post-apocalyptic fiction. It looks at texts written from the nineties onwards by authors coming from different national backgrounds – American, Canadian, British and French. The general argument of my thesis is that the apocalyptic imagination is essentially temporal and that conjuring up post-apocalyptic worlds always entails a change in the way time is conceived of. I have attended an Erasmus year at the department of Philosophy, Université Paris-Sorbonne, and an intensive programme in Critical Theory at Utrecht University. I have presented papers at BAAS (British Association for American Studies) annual conference and at the American Literature Symposium, University of Cambridge.
Key words: post-apocalyptic literature, temporality, critique of teleology, critique of the ideology of progress
This presentation will critically engage with the role time plays in shaping the neo-liberal knowledge economy. I will pay particular attention to how the temporality of ‘innovation’, which is central to the dynamic of late (anglo-american) capitalism, propels cultural logics premised on ever increasing levels of speed. Such intensity and the need for generative, creative models, is further underpinned by an imagined ‘need’ for continuous improvement. While such a culture has been a motivating force in product development – and it is worth mentioning here that product design is equally structured by the temporal logic of inbuilt obsolescence too - these discourses and practices have also become influential in shaping the knowledge economy too, leading to a not so subtle restructuring of higher education in the UK, its aims, marketing rhetoric, recruitment strategies and pedagogical practices. This paper then will aim to reside within the temporal logic of innovation, focusing on the role technology plays in shaping it. Drawing on the work of Bernard Steigler, I will suggest that one way to counter the no future orientated drive of technological ‘progress’ is to create alternative pedagogical projects that nurtures a different relationship to technology, time, the idea and practice of ‘innovation.’ Suggesting that the knowledge economy needs not to forget other forms of technological ‘innovation’ that have served it well in the past, such as paper, pencils, books and face to face discussions, I want to imagine a time for innovation that is slowed down, not-for-profit and has low ecological impact.
Deborah Withers is a writer, researcher, curator and publisher who lives in Bristol. She is the founder of HammerOn Press, which has published a creative re-interpretation of her PhD thesis called Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory. Her academic research has been published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies, Women: A Cultural Review and the European Journal of Women's Studies. Most recently she contributed a chapter to the book Women Make Noise, based on her research from the online Women's Liberation Music Archive, and its subsequent touring exhibition Music & Liberation. Deborah also works part time at the University of the West of England, and plays drums in the punk post-pop band, bellies!
Living and Dying with the Virus: Necessary Interruptions and Possible Futures.
Viruses in the past, present and future emphasise the ecological embeddedness and entanglement of the human in more-than-human worlds. In my work I use a queer ecological approach that builds on feminist technoscience, ecofeminism, ecological and environmental studies, and queer temporalities. Ecological thinking depends upon complex conceptions of time: vertical generational time and horizontal relational time intersect and are entangled up in multispecies living-with and becoming-with. In fact, living and becoming depend upon these knots of multispecies time in order to flourish. There can be, however, an uninterrogated binary opposition here between life and death, life and non-life, and living and dying. There is also the danger of overemphasising becoming, flourishing and living – which perhaps comes at the expense of unbecoming, failing and dying. With this in mind I will be exploring the virus, both as a material agent and as a figure. I will argue that the virus is interruptive. Viruses interrupt at a cellular level as well as in genomic and evolutionary narratives; interrupt dichotomous understandings of life and death; interrupt health and the ability to live well; and interrupt horizontal generational inheritance and community formation. Thinking through multispecies community and responsibility with the virus involves an alternative relation to time as well as to becoming and unbecoming, flourishing and failing, living and dying. Specifically, the virus illustrates the importance, necessity, but also danger of interrupting temporalities. Thinking with the virus from a queer ecological perspective suggests the necessity of interrupting certain narratives of health, identity and community, as well as demanding that we attempt to imagine and bring about futures with and without the virus. Both living and dying are at stake in our entanglement in more-than-human worlds.
David Andrew Griffiths is a PhD student, currently putting the finishing touches to a multidisciplinary research project within the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University and the Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (a research group based at Cardiff and Lancaster University funded as part of the ESRC Genomics Network). The project focuses on the relation between the biological and the social, using resources from feminism, queer theory and evolutionary science. His research interests include gender and sexuality studies; evolutionary science, including non-Darwinian theories of evolution; quantum mechanics and diffraction as a theoretical approach; companion species, symbiogenesis and sociality; and living with parasites and viruses.
keywords: queer, feminism, biology, evolution, science studies, animal studies
Cottonopolis Chronotope – Lessons from a Cinesonic Loom
Deleuze posits in The Fold (1988), that history, arriving through rupture rather than continuity, is like a loom, with its warp and weft and sudden break of threads by ‘an accumulation of forces and timings’. Shamji Vishram, Kutch master weaver, says ‘the powerloom has only one song, it tires the mind...but in handloom if you stop, you might be playing for a while and the mind freshens…sometimes the design and count change the sound and this is a voice for the handloom’ (interview, 2012). The loom is a powerful symbol of craft and village as much as work, city, and imperialism, with a specific temporal choreography defined by factory or workshop locale. The feature documentary Cottonopolis (Greenhalgh, 2012), considers power, time and agency in the manufacture of powerloom and handloom cotton in contemporary India, through the reflections and consciousness of people from “Manchesters”. Expressing this complex film fabric required texturing a cinesonic chronotope and an aesthetic mirroring affective relations with cotton processes. In this sensory ethnographic historiography, time exists within the stories of individuals: cyclical, progressive, sacred, ancestral, historical, traumatic, meditative, memory, machinic, digital, crafted, spontaneous, creative, political, economic…time. Naficy (2001) suggests filmed chronotopes are ‘organizing centres’, involving the ‘human sensorium and memory…temporality often structures feeling’. “Cottonopolis” (Manchester’s old nickname) is still there as a “state of mind”, for impressions of the “great industry that once was” mingle feelings of pride and loss for textile city inhabitants and descendents. Whilst Manchester’s decline and rising mill heritage took several decades, re-industrializing cotton cities, such as Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and Lodz (Poland) discard and recycle, reinvent and rebrand, displace migrants and outsource skills at alarming speed. For this short talk, a film sequence and description of filming weavers and looms will encapsulate different temporalities and suggest ways we might rethink the importance of allowing a “variety of time” in life experience.
Cathy is Principal Lecturer; Film, Sound and Television Programme, Media Faculty, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Originally working as a cinematographer in the film industry, Cathy has produced a long term ethnography with feature film cinematographers and directs and shoots films with elements of choreography, animation, ethnography and documentary for cinema, gallery and museum spaces. Her interests and publications centre on collaborative and interdisciplinary creativity, filmmaking practices and communities of practice, cinematographic phenomena and aesthetics, textiles and colour, performativity and narrative.
Time, Affect and Suicidal Microbes.
According to Jacques Derrida, in the tradition of Western philosophy nonhuman animals don’t have ‘time’. Temporality, which Martin Heidegger associates with auto-affection – giving oneself a presence, would be an exclusive human characteristic. Without access to knowledge and an experience of death as such, animals don’t die; they merely perish, according to Heidegger. Given these assumptions it may not be surprising that until recently marine microbes such as unicellular phytoplankton have been considered immortal unless eaten by predators. Concerns about global climate change however have spurred new research into the lives and ecologies of marine microbes and especially into their potentially beneficial role as carbon dioxide consumers. Assumptions about their atemporal existence are currently in the process of revision. Marine biologists in fact suggest that under specific conditions phytoplankton actively kill themselves. Drawing on new empirical research into programmed cell death in microbes, I explore how an affirmation of phytoplankton’s mortality may reconstruct the relationship between life and death, biological individuality and assumptions about a “natural” teleology. In multicellular animal bodies cell death is associated with a purpose; some individual cells must die in order to keep the organism alive. As long as individual cells are considered parts of a larger system, the organism, their deaths seems to make sense in evolutionary terms. But why would unicellular phytoplankton actively kill themselves? Assuming that microbial populations are composed of competing, selfish individuals, these research findings cease to make sense. Reading this research together with the Derridean move from autoaffection, which forms the basis of selfhood in humans and cells towards heteroaffection that recognizes that death is always internal to life and the ‘other’ always already part of the ‘self’, I explore how the deconstruction of individuality from within biology may suggests alternatives to our anthropocentric notion of time and affectivity in scientific knowledge production.
Astrid Schrader is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Anthropology and STS at York University in Toronto, Canada. She received her PhD in History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, upon completing her dissertation “Dino & Demons: The Politics of Temporality and Responsibility in Science”. Since then, Astrid spent a year as postdoctoral fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University and has been teaching in the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Sarah Lawrence College for the last three years. Astrid’s recent research in Feminist Science Studies has focused on the scientific investigation of toxic marine microorganisms and the environmental problems these ‘harmful algae’ are said to cause. With the help of toxic dinoflagellates, feminist philosopher Karen Barad’s theoretical framework of agential realism and the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, Astrid has been exploring questions of responsibility and agency in scientific knowledge production, new ontologies, the relationship between anthropocentrism and conceptions of time, and environmental justice. Her research has been published in the journals of Social Studies of Science, Environmental Philosophy, and differences (forthcoming). In addition, Astrid has just completed co-editing (with Sophia Roosth) a special issue of the journal differences titled “Feminist Theory out of Science” (to appear in this Fall) that seeks to highlight how close attention to the materialities of scientific practices may inform feminist theories.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013