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"Cinema and the City": Pittsburgh-Birkbeck Research Workshop

Birkbeck and the University of Pittsburgh are holding a research workshop on the broad theme of "Cinema and the City", Birkbeck Cinema, 6-8 May 2015.

Five faculty and three research students from the University of Pittsburgh will be joining colleagues and students from Birkbeck for a three-day workshop comprising screenings and discussion, research presentations, and an urban media tour. We will also be joined by friends and colleagues of BIMI, including filmmakers, curators, and fellow researchers.

The workshop grows out of the already close relationship between the Film Studies Program in the Department of English at Pittsburgh and the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image. The aim of this new initiative is to take this existing relationship to the next level with a view to formulating long-term collaborative research projects and preparing bids for significant research funds.

We hope that the chosen format of the research workshop will encourage the creative exchange of ideas and the forging of personal contacts.

The event is free, and although there is no need to register, you can contact us at <>  if you wish let us know that you are coming.

Here is the programme:


AFTERNOON 1:00-2:30

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: Lucy Fischer, Distinguished Professor, English and Film Studies, will present aspects of her current research project on "Art Nouveau and the Cinema". She is interested in exchanging ideas and approaches with colleagues working on the history of design, architecture, and the city. Like much of her previous work, this new project is also concerned with questions of gender, especially from a feminist perspective. Lucy Fischer is the author of Designing Women: Cinema, Art Deco and the Female Form, among many other publications (see: <> ).

Discussants: Tag Gronberg, Laura Mulvey

BREAK 2:30-2:45

AFTERNOON 2:45-4:15

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: Benjamin Ogrodnik, doctoral candidate in History of Art and Film  Studies, wants to explore the representation of urban life and environment in experimental cinema and art practice. His proposal, "City Slivers: Visions of the Postindustrial City in Cinema and Art", would seek to bring together the experimental moving image traditions in Pittsburgh and London in the form of a collaborative art exhibition and film programme, featuring the work of Stephanie Beroes, Stan Brakhage, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Patrick Keiller, and others.

Discussants: Joe Brooker, Joel McKim, Benjamin Cook & Maria Palacios Cruz (LUX)

BREAK 4:15-4:30

AFTERNOON 4:30-5:30

Screening: John Smith, London-based filmmaker, will introduce and discuss his film Blight (1994-1996, 14 minutes, SD video from 16mm, colour, sound)

"Blight was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of the motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people." ( <> )

EVENING 5:45-7:30

"Media Tour" with Joel McKim, whose research focuses on questions of digital culture and especially architecture and urban space - he is notably one of the directors of Birkbeck's "Architecture, Space and Society" research centre. Starting at Gordon Square, the walk will head first towards Fitzrovia, before heading south towards Soho, historically a key area of London for the film and media industries. The aim of the tour is to show the importance of various forms of media as an integral and yet often invisible part of the urban environment, rather than as purely a source of representations of the city. The walk will finish in a pub in Soho, around 7:30.



MORNING 9:30-11:00

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: Adam Lowenstein, Director of Film Studies Program (see: <> ), would like to pursue a collaborative project on the work of British filmmaker Ben Wheatley, whose films confront viewers by rerouting genre formulas (horror, comedy, gangster film, road movie, historical drama, psychedelia) across unexpected uses of space (country, city, suburb). As Wheatley is currently in post-production on High-Rise, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard's science fiction novel about social disintegration, Lowenstein would like to engage with Birkbeck researchers working on Ballard and contemporary science-fiction.

Discussants: Roger Luckhurst, Joel McKim, Toby Litt


Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: Laura Stamm, doctoral candidate in English and Film Studies, would like to discuss with Birkbeck colleagues her project "Retroviral Spaces", which seeks to understand cinematic representations of cities marked by the AIDS crisis as a form of tertiary memory, memory that conjures both a history and its immediate consciousness: what does it mean to construct a filmic world of a city saturated with history? More specifically, what does it mean to represent a city haunted by memories of traumatic loss and crisis? She would like to develop a research collaboration comparing studies of cities such as London and San Francisco, among others.

Discussants: Silke Arnold-de-Simine, Janet McCabe, Matthew Weait, Dominic Janes

LUNCH 1:00-2:30

AFTERNOON 2:30-4:00

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: Natalie Ryabchikova, doctoral candidate in Slavic Language and Literatures, is seeking potential collaborators for a project centered on the connections between Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein and British, in particular London film culture of the 1920s and later. Eisenstein came to England twice in November-December 1930, spending about a month in total there, and he delivered a series of lectures on the art of film at the London Film Society. He was present at the belated British premiere of Battleship Potemkin, with a live orchestra conducted by the film's composer Edmund Meisel, and he acted a small part as the British "bobby" for Hans Richter's experimental film Every Day (1929) made with his students at the Film Society course. The project could also lead to a documentary film about Eisenstein in England/London.

Discussants: Henry K. Miller, Raisa Sidenova, Alex Graham

BREAK 4:15-4:30

AFTERNOON 4:30-5:30

Roland François Lack (UCL and author of The Cine-Tourist web-site: <> ): presentation of research on London film pioneer Robert Paul and on how film studios relate to their surroundings.



MORNING 10:30-12:00

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: Kevin Flanagan, doctoral candidate in English and Film Studies, is seeking potential Birkbeck collaborators for a proposal entitled "The Hosted Architectural Documentary on British Television". This collaborative project will seek to situate these programs in relation to other modes of filmmaking on space and place (specifically, on films of different genres as hosted in the London Screen Archives Collection); define the different rhetorical and stylistic registers that these television documentary programs rely upon to make architecture intelligible to audiences; contextualize the television work of host-pundits next to their writings and their cultivated public personae; and evaluate these documentaries in relation to wider social currents in British life.

Discussants: Leslie Topp, Matthew Harle, John Wyver (film and TV producer)

LUNCH 12:00-1:30

AFTERNOON 1:30-3:00

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Speaker: David Pettersen, Associate Director of Film Studies Program (see <> ), would like to share his ongoing research into the intersections of films styles and genres with cinematic representations of France's impoverished and marginalized urban spaces (banlieues). In his proposal, "Politics of Production and Style in City Films about the French Suburbs", he notes that a number of first-time banlieue filmmakers in recent years have chosen to work completely off the film industry's grid, even though France offers significant state support for low-budget, first-time auteurist filmmaking. Instead they turn to alternate funding, production, and distribution models, and their work partakes of the improvised, DIY aesthetics of underground hip-hop and rap.

Discussants: Michael Temple, Will Higbee (tbc)

EVENING 6:00-8:30

Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Screening & discussion: Thinking Like a Ruin: the Baroque Becomings of Hashima Island, with Silke Arnold-de-Simine, Carl Lavery, and Lee Hassall. Further information: <>

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