Project 5: Tracking the Moving Image

Article

The Tracking the Moving Image project has set out to ask where the screen is now that technology has developed in such a way that screens are not confined to the movie theatre or the living room.

We test and challenge the predominant tendency of scholars who reflect on the digitisation of film and television with theoretical speculations based on the properties of the technology. Our answer to the question “What is a screen in the age of the digital” is to ask the question, “Where is the screen?”

Our starting point was the belief that the uptake of the new technologies for fixed moving image screens in public spaces not only leads to new materials on the screen, but also leads to a transformation of the public spaces in which they are installed, and, that this will vary according to the different uses of the space and the cultural contexts.

We, therefore, developed an empirical comparative study that looks at three different kinds of spaces in three very different megalopolises:

  • Cairo
  • London
  • Shanghai

We chose these three cities because they are (arguably) the largest on their continents and have very different historical and cultural contexts, potentially maximising difference. The three types of spaces that we worked with were retail spaces; transportation hubs; and cultural institutions, such as museums and galleries.

Our research shows that in all three cities, the installation of moving image technologies in public spaces is driven by neo-liberal cultures of aspiration, in which the individual is held ever more responsible for whatever happens to them and expected to fulfil themselves through material acquisition. However, the forms that these cultures take varies from space to space and from culture to culture. These forms are also disturbed by historical traces of very different aspirations, producing a rich and complex public screen culture that far exceeds the technology itself or any attempt to boil it down to a simple formula.

This is seen most clearly in the seizure of large screens in Cairo after the revolution and their redeployment from advertising directed at the very rich to the broadcast of the former dictator’s trial. But it is also there in the subtle shift from a pedagogical culture to a culture of embodied engagement in museums, where visitors are not staring at auratic objects so much as participating in screen-mediated experiences that teach them a different and more active way of being required in contemporary culture.

On the basis of various presentations of our work, we have won considerable interest, including three book contracts. We believe that our work will help to make urban planners, citizens, and designers all more aware of the differences and potentials of media in everyday public spaces, which is usually ignored or wrongly dismissed as “all the same” and “just more ads.”

Timeline archive

2013

Rachel Moore, 3-D Yesterday and Today:  Technologies of Immersion from the Panorama to 3-D, Birkbeck, 14 June 2013

Chris Berry, Shanghai's Public Screen Culture: Dancing Under the Screenlight at Pentagon Plaza.” Media and Asian Globalization: China and India, 1977 – Present. New York University, 30 March 2013.

2012

Chris Berry (with Janet Harbord and Rachel Moore) “Public Screens, Public Spaces.” Media/City: New Spaces, New Aesthetics. Triennale di Milano, 7 June 2012.

Chris Berry, "Dancing Under the Screenlight: Researching Public Screens and Consumption in Shanghai." University of Sussex, School of Media, Film and Music. 9 May 2012, and University of Oslo 31 May 2012.

Chris Berry, "Public Screens." Visual Cultures Now forum, Goldsmiths, University of London, 8 March 2012.

October 2010, Research Reports

Further research on specific site was conducted. The material about the observation of Screens in St. Pancras International station and Edgware Road can be found in the research reports.

Related Project

Hong Kong artist Anson Mak and her colleagues have developed an
interactive map-based "online sanctuary" to keep audio and visual traces
of the Kwun Tung neighbourhood before it is developed: http://www.kwuntongculture.hk/en/home.php

Research Trip to Shanghai, March 2010

Chris Berry just got back from Shanghai, which was busy with preparations
for the Shanghai World Expo. Check his research
diaries
 for more than 20 days of
walks, including the Shanghai South Railway Station
and quiet residential neighbourhoods.

New Research Associate 10 March 2010

Amal Khalaf has joined the Screen Project to work on Cairo. Amal is
originally from Bahrain. She holds an MA in Visual Cultures from
Goldsmiths, and has been working as an art curator. She has previously
been associated with the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, and most recently has
been working for the Serpentine Gallery here in London.

Research Trip to Cairo, March 2010

Chris Berry and Amal Khalaf have just returned from a research trip to
Cairo. They arrived on 26 February. Chris returned on 3 March, and Amal on
8 March. During the trip, the three primary research sites were decided as
the Turgoman bus station (previously walked by Kay Dickinson); the 6
October Panorama; and the City Stars Mall. Chris Berry's diaries will be
posted shortly, and new maps, walks, and other details will follow.

Research Group showcase, 1 March 2010

The Public Screens Research Group aims to showcase departmental postgraduate research projects in related areas. This is the first in what we hope will be a regular series.
1. Zlatan Krajina: How to Tame the Sun: Visual Indulgences at a Screen-Place as Strategies of Appropriation
2. Kenzie Burchill  Sharing Context in an Era of Convergence: The Mediation of Presence and Privacy  
3. Gabriel Menotti Gonring:  Public Screens, Loci of Activity 
Venue: Small Hall, a.k.a. Cinema, RHB Time: 5 - 7 p.m.

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Chris Berry talks at Oxford University, 4 February 2010

Chris Berry will give a talk entitled "Wuijiaochang/Pentagon
Plaza: Public Screens and Everyday Enchantment in Contemporary Shanghai"
as part of the Contemporary China Studies Programme Seminars at the
Institute for Chinese Studies, University of Oxford.

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Pilot Project: "Walking the city", December 2009

The projects team has completed its "Screenwalks" in London, Cairo and Shanghai. For more information follow their trail here

Research Diary, October 2009

Chris Berry has been keeping a research diary as he visits Shanghaifor the project.

Kay Dickinson

Kay Dickinson has recently returned from a research trip to Egypt where she carried out detailed observations of sites for the project: the Cairo Museum and the Turgoman Bus Station and Mall.

Dr. Pasi Valiaho 'On Cinematic Gestures', 27 April 2009, Goldsmiths

Working through the trick films of early cinema, we can see how the then-new medium of moving images started as a particular type of corporeal modulation. Sudden dislocations, metamorphoses, corporeal decompositions, tics and jerks in the style of Georges Méliès bear witness to how the cinema captured the dynamics of our gestures - gestures which organize the world into meaningful patterns and establish psychic consistency. This talk addresses the effective, technological and political forces that the cinema thus implemented, and still continues to mobilize, in its aesthetics.

Public Screens Research Group

The Public Screens Research Group exists to host outside speakers and provide a forum for faculty and research students to present work on public screens, screen and film studies, and related areas of interest.

The Public Screens Research Group responds to a convergence of media forms and platforms of delivery. As the interface for the extensive exercise of choice, the computer occupies an iconic position. Yet the computer is but one mode of distribution and access to media, which apparently enable increasing opportunities to personalise the relationship to culture. As individualised modes of screen culture have grown, screens have proliferated in public space; from the back of aeroplane seats to the ubiquity of electronic screens in city centres.

We see three key frames through which to examine the transformation of distinct cultural forms and practices. First, what are the new modes of dissemination of screen cultures, and how do they impact on and constitute our understanding of public and private space? Second, what is the effect of convergence on forms of screen culture itself? How is the narrative and auratic form of film, and the immediate and sequential axes of television, affected by new modes of dissemination; and what new hybrid cultures are produced? Third, what forms of engagement do we have with screen culture, and how does it transform our perception of what is real and what is fictional, of what is proximate and distant, of what is present and past?

Through our activities we hope to create a forum for the presentation of research on and debate about these questions.

Public Lecture: Dangerous Modulations: Grace Jones' Corporate Cannibal

Monday 16 March 2009, Goldsmiths
(Prof. Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University, Michigan)

Grace Jones has always been a transgressive figure, confounding boundaries between male and female, and between black and white. But in her recent song and video "Corporate Cannibal" -- which marks her return to the arena of popular culture for the first time in nearly twenty years -- she pushes the transformations of her persona to a new extreme, addressing both the radical potentialities of the new digital media, and the increasing depredations of neoliberal capitalism.

Steven Shaviro is the DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of “The Cinematic Body” (1993), “Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About Postmodernism” (1997), “Connected, Or, What It Means To Live In the Network Society” (2003), and “Without Criteria: Kant Whitehead, Deleuze and Aesthetics” (forthcoming, 2009), as well as numerous essays about film, video and new media, comics, science fiction, cultural theory, and contemporary American popular culture. He blogs at The Pinocchio Theory.

Screen Group member Chris Berry recently took part in the “Narrascape: Urban Environment as Narrative System in the UK and China” workshop at Cambridge University. The event was highly inter-disciplinary and, alongside talks, incorporated a wide range of screenings.

The Screen Group have been conducting weekly research walks -observing the various use of screen-throughout London as part of their pilot project.

So far, we have visited King's Cross-St. Pancras, Brent Cross shopping centre (where we were forbidden from taking photos pretty soon upon arrival), the Science Museum and Bromley-by-Bow (including Three Mills film and TV studio).

We have noticed a wide variety of screen usage: as advertising space; as sites for informational material (from Sky News footage, to interactive programming in museums); as commodities; and as part of surveillance technology systems utilized by both the public and the private sectors.

Gabriel Menotti has now arrived at Goldsmiths and started up his Leverhulme-funded PhD studentship with us.

Gabriel will be researching what he calls low impedance cinema, a particular kind of highly participative environment favoured by digital media and through which the authority and conventional film grammar lose their density.

Examples include the practices of scratch-video, anime fansubbers and live audiovisual performances. In order to carry out these investigations, Gabriel will be exploring the circuits of audiovisual production, distribution and exhibition as expanded apparatuses and interfaces between moving images and different spaces and audiences, all of which inevitably mutate their meaning and value.

For a sense of the kind of screen-generated work that Gabriel was curating in Sao Paulo before coming to the UK.

Team Outputs

Output updates

Chris Berry, (co-edited with Janet Harbord and Rachel Moore), Public Space, Media Space (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Chris Berry with Janet Harbord, "Tracking the Screen in Public Spaces: Everyday Dis/Enchantment," in A Sense of Wonder: Technovisuality and Cultural Re-enchantment, ed. Helen Grace (forthcoming).

Chris Berry "Shanghai's Public Screen Culture: Local and Coeval," in Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel Moore (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 110-134.

Chris Berry "Shanghai's Public Screen Culture: Local and Coeval," Communications and Society 21 (Hong Kong, in Chinese, 2012): 25-50.

Rachel Moore “Film in our Midst:  City as Cinematic Archive” in Urban Cinematics, Intellect, 2011.

Summer 2011 

  • Rachel Moore and Janet Harbord, "Film in our midst: City as cinematic archive," in Urban Cinematics: Understanding Urban Phenomena through the Moving Image, edited by François Penz and Andong Lu (London: Intellect, 2011).

Research Data

  •  Team members have been keeping research diaries as they visit different cities for the project. Read their entries here.

Public Presentations

  • June 2009: Rachel Moore and Janet Harbord participated in a Summer School organized by the University of Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle's Institute of Research on the Cinema and Audiovisual, an annual forum for Scholars and Post-Graduate Students. On a day at The National Institute of Art History,Paris, devoted to "From the Screen format to the Exhibition Form" Rachel Moore and Janet Harbord gave a paper:"Watching People Watch: Paying Attention to Screens in London's Science Museum".
  • March 2009: The projects team attended the international film studies conference "In the Very Beginning, At the Very End" in Udine, Italy where they co-delivered a plenary panel paper entitled "Archive, Surveillance, Attention: Tracking the Screen in Public Spaces"
  • Nov. 2008: Chris Berry & Janet Harbord presented the pilot study work and our initial attempts to develop a theoretical framework for the project at the "Technovisuality and Cultural Reenchantment" conference. The title of their paper was "Archive, Attention, Surveillance: Tracking the Screen in Public Spaces." The conference was held in Hong Kong from 20-22 November 2008, and co-organized by Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

Publications

  • Chris Berry, “Screening Tiananmen,” The China Beat (August 2011)
  • Chris Berry, “Walking Words: The Local Specificity of Shanghai’s Public Screen Culture.” Mediatising Public Space: Leverhulme Goldsmiths Media Research Centre Annual Symposium, Goldsmiths, University of London, 27 November 2010.
  • Chris Berry, “Public Screens in Shanghai: Secular Enchantment and Walking Words.” 8th Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference. Lingnan University, Hong Kong, 20 June 2010.
  • Chris Berry, Kay Dickinson, Janet Harbord, and Rachel Moore, “Archive, Surveillance, Attention: Tracking the Screen in Public Spaces,” in At the Very Beginning, at the Very End: Film Theories in Perspective, ed. Francesco Casetti, Jane Gaines, and Valentina Re (Udine: Forum, 2010), pp.373-380.Tracking%20the%20screen%20introduction

Links

London

London Science Museum:
http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/ 

St Pancras International Station:
http://www.stpancras.com/ 

Serpentine Gallery Edgware Road Project:
http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2009/06/edgware_road.html 

Shanghai

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
http://www.sstm.org.cn/structure/english/index 
http://www.sstm.org.cn/structure/index1 

Shanghai South Railway Station
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_South_Railway_Station 
http://www.nzdq.org/DesktopModules/HT/chinese/home/index.aspx

Pentagon Plaza/Wujiaochang
http://www.wjc.gov.cn/ 


Cairo

Egypt's Military Museums, including the 6 October War Panorama
http://www.sis.gov.eg/VR/october/english/5.htm 

City Stars Mall, Cairo
http://www.citystars.com.eg/citystars/index.asp 


Related Projects

  • Hong Kong Cinemagic are mapping the locations where famous scenes from Hong Kong films were shot

  • The Vague Terrain Journal 13: CITYSCENE
    http://vagueterrain.net/journal13
     

  • Urban Cinematics: Film, City & Narrative
    Two-day international symposium at the University of Cambridge (Dec 2009).
    www.narrascape.org

 

  • Hong Kong artist Anson Mak and her colleagues have developed an
    interactive map based "online sanctuary" to keep audio and visual traces
    of the Kwun Tung neighborhood before it is developed:
    http://www.kwuntongculture.hk/en/home.php