RENEW 2013

The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology

Riga / October 8 – 11, 2013

"Archaelogy" Participants

Artemis WILLIS

Unfreezing Movement: Whaler out of New Bedford, the Purrington-Russell Panorama and the Media-Archaeological Imagination

Session:Media Archeology

Panel:Panel A


Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, room 311

This paper proposes a media-archaeological consideration of two interrelated works: the moving panorama, Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World (Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington, US, 1848) and the film, Whaler out of New Bedford (Adam Giffard and Francis Thompson, US, 1962). A century after Whaling Voyage tours the US, filmmakers Giffard and Thompson identify its cinematic potential. As they put it, “The painters of the panorama froze action – we will unfreeze it into movement.” The resulting film is a fascinating hybrid of animation and experimental documentary, which draws on wide array of audiovisual techniques (including pans, tilts, zooms, rapid cross-cutting and a polyphonic soundtrack) to unleash Whaling Voyage’s formal promise for modern audiences. Thus Whaler out of New Bedford does not merely reproduce the panorama’s painted canvas on celluloid; it reanimates (and thus renews) it through an imaginative combination of historiographical, archival and cinematic means. Moreover, it demonstrates a media-archaeological strategy, in which its makers mine and exploit the seams and gaps across past and present, amid canvas and celluloid, and between stillness and movement. Whaler out of New Bedford therefore exemplifies what I am calling the “media-archaeological imagination”: a creative paradigm that utilizes a range of scholarly resources and mediating practices to transform earlier media forms. The media-archaeological imagination, I argue, does not produce nostalgic reenactments or simulative experiments; rather, it engages in active past-present dialogues with older media in order to generate new works that explore and extend earlier modes and discourses into the future.

Artemis Willis (Ph.D. Student, University of Chicago) is a media arts
curator, documentary filmmaker and scholar of the magic lantern. She
has organized projected performances and related events with such
institutions as the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern
Art and the Smithsonian Institution. Her films have screened at the
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford,
Anthology Film Archives, New York and the Brooklyn Museum. She has
presented papers internationally at the London School of Economics,
Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, and the Animator Festival in Poznan,
Poland. She is presently enrolled as a doctoral student in the
Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago,
where she works on the magic lantern and continues to curate a wide
range of audio-visual presentations.

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