Oliver Fahle Ehem. Senior Fellow

Oliver Fahle
April - September 2016


Oliver Fahle has been professor of Theory and Esthetics of Cinema at Ruhr-Universität Bochum since 2009. Having studied cinema and television studies, politics and philosophy in Bochum, Berlin and Paris, he worked as assistant and junior professor of History and Theory of Visual Media at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar from 1994 to 2009. Oliver Fahle received his Ph.D. in 1999 with a dissertation thesis on the aesthetics of french cinema of the 1920s. In 2005, Fahle held a position as visiting professor at Friedrich-Schiller Universität in Jena and from 2006 to 2007 he taught as visiting professor at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte (Brazil). His cooperation with Brazil includes the Probral-research project (DAAD) with the University of Belo Horizonte on „Bilder außerhalb. Medienwandel des Films der Gegenwart“, that started in 2010. Fahle also edits the book series „Serie moderner Filme“ (together with Lorenz Engell).

Dated from 2016

Fields of research

Aesthetics and theory of film and audio-visual media; modern film; contemporary film; Brazilian film; aesthetics and theory of television; image theory.

IKKM Research Project

Media Modernity and Epistemic Modernity

My research project during the IKKM-fellowhip at the Bauhaus-University Weimar focuses on contemporary film and its modernization. I would like to argue that in cinema moments of modernization always occure when it is confronted with other media and other techniques. When we try to name the most important phases of moderniziation in cinema we can sum it up by saying briefly: the 1920s with the self- establishing of cinema by distancing itself from the traditional arts like theater, literature and painting; the 1950s and 1960s as a deep ontological crisis of cinema because of the emergence of television and the confrontation with photography and advertising; the 1980s’ postmodernism, bringing up involvements with new visual media like neotelevision, style-television, video or design; and finally, since the year 2000, we can observe the inclusion of the digital and of databases in cinematic esthetics. All these processes bring together the emergence of new media, extensive debates about the role of cinema in a transformed media field and new esthetical tendencies in filmmaking itself. In my opinion modernization in cinema has not only to do with self- reflexive forms and technical or social changes, but it is largely influenced by the impact of other media. In other words: modernization in cinema occurs when other media challenge cinema and force it to develop new esthetical concepts. In these moments cinema is inventing new philosophical positions made visible through filmic operations itself.

Based on this general assumption that I already described in various publications, at the IKKM I would like to explore the differences between the modernity of the 1960s/70s (modern film, cinéma des auteurs, New Hollywood) and the contemporary cinema in respect of the influences of other media on film. Therefore I would describe the modernity of the 1960s as media modernity (mediale Moderne) and the modernity of today (after the postmodern era) as epistemic modernity (epistemische Moderne). Since the 1960s, on a background of all-embracing media presence, modernization stands for a continual confrontation of cinema with a new media reality, putting new technical picture-regimes at the centre of image-production (television, video, advertising, design, new television, electronical, digital and database modulations) elaborating constantly different esthetical frameworks and concepts of cinema. Though media modernity and epistemic modernity share the same idea in recognizing the growing impact of other media on film, they create different esthetical effects, so that the shift between media and epistemic modernity should make visible two media realities of cinema. Whereas media modernity puts the focus on ontological aporias coming together with media society (Godard, Wenders, Fassbinder, Rocha, Antonioni among many others), epistemic modernity is caracterized by epistemical depiction of the world described, for instance, by the idea of Mind Game Movies (Elsaesser).

Whereas the ontological approach of media modernity focused on the impacts of other media like photography, television, advertising and literally analyzing their differences and intrusions into cinema (i.e. Blow up, Terra em Transe, Pierrot le fou among many others), the epistemic modernity of contemporary cinema is already affected by invisible and almost imperceptible passages between different media. This produces an esthetical logic of fluent, transition and affective connections between cinema and other media. In Caché, Enter the void, Spring Breakers, Her (to give just a few examples) cinema is only one part of a an extensive media-ensemble. I would affirm that in media modernity the crisis of perception and truth in an ubiquitous media reality is at stake whereas epistemic modernity comes up with issues of knowledge (who or what is perceiving, narrating, knowing, constructing that reality?) and paradox realities, when film itself slipping away any perceptual bottom. If the logic of difference and the processes of making differences formed the center of media modernity, in epistemic modernity it is the logic of combination and de- referentialization that dominates. In other words and including the concepts of the IKKM: whereas in media modernity the logic of opening and closing (and their concomitant procedures of champ/hors-champ, difference of image and sound - anual IKKM topic 2014/15) are dominant in showing the opening of film itself to other media, in epistemic modernity the logics of connecting and detaching (anual topic 2016/17), of condensing and dispersing, of „impure“ transitions between subject and object and the dissolution of layers of knowledge are crucial.

Therefore, my research at the IKKM will be threefold: First, to think about the differences of cinematic esthetics in respect to the influences of other media and the possibility of thinking that difference between the 1960s and the 2000s in terms of media and epistemic modernity. Second, to find out, if the ‚IKKM differences’ between opening/closure and connecting/detaching mark different steps in ontological operations, which consequently would be cinematic and filmic operations. Third, to think these differences beyond cinema as epistemic operations, where cinema is linked to operations in other districts of cultural and philosophical thinking.
The contact with other fellows and with the staff of IKKM researchers will be essential to intensify this reflection.



Bilder der zweiten Moderne. Weimar: VDG 2005.
Jenseits des Bildes. Poetik des französischen Films der zwanziger Jahre. Mainz: Bender 2000.

Edited Books

with Silke von Berswordt-Wallrabe: Die Erzeugung von Sichtbarkeit. Die Filme Abbas Kiarostamis. Marburg: Schüren 2014.
with Gudrun Sommer and Vinzenz Hediger: Orte filmischen Wissens. Filmkultur und Filmvermittlung im Zeitalter digitaler Netzwerke. Marburg: Schüren 2011.
with Michael Hanke and Andreas Ziemann: Technobilder und Kommunikologie. Die Medientheorie Vilèm Flussers. Berlin: Parerga 2009.
with Lorenz Engell: Philosophie des Fernsehens. München: Fink 2006.
Störzeichen. Das Bild angesichts des Realen. Weimar: VDG 2003.
with Lorenz Engell, Britta Neitzel, Claus Pias and Joseph Vogl: Kursbuch Medienkultur. Die maßgeblichen Theorien von Brecht bis Baudrillard. Stuttgart: DVA 1999/2001.


“Das Außen”. In: Lorenz Engell, Oliver Fahle, Vinzenz Hediger, Christiane Voss: Essays zur Filmphilosophie. Paderborn: Fink 2015, pp. 117-168.
“Das dokumentarische Nicht-Wissen. Zu Philip Scheffners Filmen”. In: Historisch- Kulturwissenschaftliches Forschungszentrum Trier (HKFZ) (ed.): Trierer Beiträge zu den historischen Kulturwissenschaften 13. Wiesbaden: Reichert 2014, pp. 155-168.
“La différence entre l’image et le visible”. In: Mauro Carbone (ed.): L’empreinte visuel. Merleau-Ponty et les images aujourd’hui. Genf: Metis Presses 2012, pp. 15-26.
“Ein anthropologisches Road Movie: Zabriskie Point”. In: Jörn Glasenapp (ed.): Michelangelo Antonioni. Wege in die filmische Moderne. München: Fink 2012, pp. 257-271.
“Das Bild und das Sichtbare und das Serielle. Eine Bildtheorie des Fernsehens angesichts des Digitalen”. In: Nadja Elia-Borer, Samuel Sieber, Georg Christoph Tholen (eds.): Blickregime und Dispositive audiovisueller Medien. Bielefeld 2011, pp. 111-133.
“Televisualidade segundo Glauber”. In: Peter W. Schulze/Peter B. Schumann (eds.): Glauber Rocha e as culturas na Ámerica Latina. Frankfurt/M 2011, pp. 137-148.
“Estética da televisao. Passos rumo a uma teoria da imagem da televisao”. In: César Guimareas, Bruno Souza Leal, Carlos Camargos Mendoza (eds.): Comunicacao e Experencia estética. Belo Horizonte 2006, pp.190-208.