The Centre for Screen Cultures is dedicated to exploring the many screens that are part of our world: television, computers, tablets and smartphones, videogames, and VR—in the present day and across history. These media shape our social, cultural, artistic and political understanding through both collaborations and confrontations. The work they do is not limited to the audiovisual depictions onscreen. A study of screen cultures also attends to what happens offscreen from idea to audience– the spaces of production, distribution, and exhibition. It’s what happens in between those spaces and with the audiences after the encounter. The Centre invites interdisciplinary exploration and participation from everyone: academics, practitioners, and the public.
For the next three years, the theme is Sound:
Under the co-directorship of Drs Lucy Fife Donaldson and Philippa Lovatt, the Centre will be focusing on sound and the moving image, from 2020-2023. Although sound has typically played a supporting role to the emphasis on the image in Screen Studies, sound has always been a vibrant area of creativity and innovation, both within and without the mainstream. Scholarship on sound and the moving image has emerged as a substantial area of study, with an exciting range of expertise that intersect with varied disciplines, such as performance, music, geography, physics. This makes it a more exciting time than ever to embark on an extended exploration of sound and moving image cultures.
During this period, the Centre’s events will explore a range of routes into thinking through sound’s relationship to moving image, bringing together scholars, artists and practitioners in order to engage in the variety of sound work in film and other media. We aim to keep our focus diverse and global, encouraging sound communities who are less often heard to come to the fore, and to put different kinds of practices in dialogue.
Year 1: Mediating Voice
From Michel Chion’s The Voice in Cinema to more recent work by scholars such as Rey Chow, Pooja Rangan, and Jennifer O’Meara, film and media studies have been heavily invested in understanding and theorising the voice through their analyses of what Chion terms cinema’s “vococentrism.” In 2020-21, the Centre for Screen Cultures will host two events that are connected by their shared attention to the mediated voice. We invite participants to respond to two recent documentaries: in Semester 1, Yours in Sisterhood (Irene Lusztig, 2018) and in Semester 2, Expedition Content (Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, 2020). These works draw on sonic and epistolary archives, and both ask us to consider what’s at stake in the acts of voicing, listening, and silencing that are at times implied, and at other times made explicit, in these works.
Year 2: Space and Environment
Following Emily Thompson’s assertion that “a soundscape is simultaneously a physical environment and a way of perceiving that environment,” (2004, p. 1) the focus of 2021-2022 on “Sound and Environment” will explore connections between sound design in audio-visual media and approaches to acoustic ecology from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives including sonic arts, anthropology, aural history, and geography. Films that use field recordings can create an immersive experience for the spectator through long takes and a sound design that produces a dense auditory field. We will consider what happens when the “character” of the film is the location itself. For example, how might cinematic representations of the environment allow for a shift in the traditional anthropocentrism of cinema meaning that “agency” can be applied to the non-human subject? Drawing from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives offered by practitioners and sound scholars, we will also consider how acoustic ecology can help to deepen understanding of the global environmental crisis that we now face.
Year 3: Sounding Bodies
The final year of the Centre’s focus on sound will attend to the sounding body. Bodies are crucial to the production of sound, and to its experience – we hear through our bodies, which act as sounding boards, absorbing and refracting sound waves. By centralising the body, we wish to spend time thinking about the production and design of sound as a material process, the range of embodied experiences involved in recording, editing and also archiving sound, and how these shape sound practices through moving image production. We want to take the opportunity to think about sound as it relates to the listening body and the contexts which shape that physical engagement, to recognise that these are not neutral but dynamic and subjective, as well as cultural. In particular, we will highlight particular intersections of the body and sound, by focusing on issues of race and disability.
Co-Directors: Lucy Fife Donaldson and Philippa Lovatt
Developed in the early stages of lockdown, the CSC Playlist Initiative sought to navigate the abundance of media materials, especially with digital archives, proliferating streaming platforms, and film festivals migrating online. In the process, it became an opportunity to give visibility to multiple perspectives and voices as media scholars, programmers, and makers provided their suggestions. An archive of the now, this initiative offers a resource for teaching and research and a disruption of the often totalising and exclusionary tendencies of so many lists.
Curator: Leshu Torchin