Tom Gunning Ehem. Senior Fellow

Tom Gunning
April - September 2010


Tom Gunning schloss 1970 sein B.A.-Studium am Washington Square College der New York University ab und erhielt seinen M.A.-Grad 1974 sowie seinen Doktortitel 1986 von der New York University. 1993 wurde ihm der Award for Excellence in Teaching verliehen, nachdem er von 1986 bis 1993 an der State University of New York in Purchase gelehrt hatte, um dann der Fakultät an der Niederlassung Northwestern beizutreten. Er war Gastprofessor in Harvard, an der Universität Stockholm und an der University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Stand: 2010


Das frühe internationale Kino und der Stummfilm; das amerikanische Avant-Garde-Kino; die Filmgenres Hollywoods; Film und narrative Theorie; klassische Filmtheorie; Film und Stillfotografie; das japanische Kino; das frühe Kino und die Erfahrung der Moderne; die Stile der Regisseure (besonders Lang, Griffith, Von Sternberg, Hitchcock, Godard, Bresson, Borzage); Historiographie des Films; Filmvorführung und Zuschauerschaft; das modernistische Kino der Zwanzigerjahre (Sowjetunion, Frankreich und Deutschland).

IKKM Forschungsprojekt

In an era of media innovation and transformation, more than our image of the future transforms; history, our sense of the continuities and fissures with past practices, also rearrange themselves. The rise of new digital media and new means of delivery of even traditional films has led some historians and theorists to proclaim the end or the death of cinema. One could just as easily proclaim cinema’s longevity within a transformed field of possibilities and therefore the need to rethink the subject of film history, questioning, for instance, its identification with photography or classical means of exhibition. Recent art works in new media has been exploring the nexus between new media and traditional cinema by incorporating film material into works in new media and by moving beyond the reference to television inevitable in the use of the monitor and exploring the spatial and spectatorial possibilities of projection (See the recent anthology The Art of Projection eds. Stan Douglas and Christopher Eamon and the exhibit “Beyond Cinema: The Art of Projection at the hamburger Banhof in Berlin in 2005).

In other words, rather than the replacement of cinema by so-called new media, I want to explore new media as a transformation of the moving image and its self-conscious attempt to rethink its historical roots. By focusing especially on projection, I want to de-emphasize the photographic as the essence of cinema (Kracauer, Bazin, Cavell) and deal more with the projection of light through space. Thus not only will I extend cinema’s contemporary history but also raise the archeology of the projected image beyond the nineteenth century back to the explorations of magic lantern and catoptric mirrors. The unique material (or non-material?) nature of the light-borne image, its unique sense of passage through space and of its relation to a variety of screens demonstrates the way cinema’s relation to new media need not be limited to a Darwinesque teleology, a process of utopian or nostalgic mourning. nor an exclusive focus on future possibilities, but rather initiate a new awareness of a broad historical tradition consisting of a new constellation of optical practices through the centuries.

Thus I want to research the centuries-old history of what is often (rather narrowly) referred to as the pre-history of cinema (or better, what Siegfried Zielinski calls the deep time or archeology of visual media and Musser terms screen practices), but also to think about this long tradition in terms of modern avant-garde practices (clearly, installations based in new media, especially those using projection, but also the experiments of the historical avant-garde from the early twentieth century – Duchamp, the Futurists, Thomas Wilfred—and the sixties – Fluxus, expanded cinema—and the cinematic avant grade cinema from Richter to McCall) as well as ways that even classical cinema and animation have evoked, portrayed and worked with the processes of projection (from Griffith to Minnelli to Hitchcock and Powell).

I see my project as involving, and indeed intertwining, a variety of approaches. Historical research into discourses and practices forms an important component of my work. But theoretical consideration of the ways this broader sense of the moving image revises traditional film and media theory, especially the attempts to define specific essences for each medium, will also make use of this research and consider it in a broader context. Most centrally, aesthetic analysis of individual works in cinema and new media will form a basis for exploring the phenomenological nature of experiences offered and solicited by these works their relation to vision space and the viewer.

This work is part of larger project for which I have received a Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award and which I will also begin in Fall of 2009 by research at the Getty Institute in Los Angeles (focused especially on their pre-cinema collections and within the context of their year-long focus on “Display”). I especially welcome the access to European and German archives the stay at the Bauhaus will offer, as well as the intellectual discourse it will make available to me. Although it will not form the main focus of my research, the relation of the historical Bauhaus in the twenties in articulating some of these issues is important to me.


»The Desire and Pursuit of the Hole: Cinema's Obscure Object of Desire«, Erotikon. Shadi Baretech/Thomas Bartescherer (eds.), Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 2005, 261-277.
»Poetry in Motion«, Foreword in: Abigail Child: This is Called Moving: A Critical Poetics of Film, Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 2005, 11-25.
»Phantasmagoria and the Manufacturing of Illusions and Wonder: Towards a Cultural Optics of the Cinematic Apparatus«, in: André Gaudreault/Catherine Russell/Pierre Veronneau (ed.), The Cinema, A New Technology for the 20th Century, Lausanne: éditions Payot 2004, 31-44.
»Systematizing the Electric Message« in: Charlie Keil/Shelly Stamp (ed.), American Cinema's Transitional Era: Audiences, Institutions, Practices, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004, 15- 50.
»Flickers: On Cinema's Power for Evil« in: Murray Pomerance (ed.), Bad: Infamy, Darkness, Evil and Slime on the Screen, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2004, 21-37.
»Never Seen This Picture Before; Muybridge in Multiplicity« in: Phillip Prodger (ed.): Time Stands Still, Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 222-272.
»Ghosts, Photography and the Modern Body«, in: Alison Ferris (ed.): The Disembodied Spirit Catalogue, Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2003, 8-19.
»Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of -the-Century«, in: David Thorburn/Henry Jenkins (ed.), Rethinking Media Change The Aesthetics of Transition, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2003, 39-59.
The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity, London: British Film Institute, 2000. (Winner CINEMA & Cie award, 2003.)
Andre Gaudreault (in collaboration with Tom Gunning and Alain Lacasse) (ed.): Pathé 1900: Fragments d'une Filmographie Analytique du Cinema des Premiers Temps Paris/Sainte Foy: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, les Presses de l'Université Laval, 1993.
with Roland Cosandey/Andre Gaudreault (ed.): Une Invention du diable? Cinéma des premiers temps et religion, Sainte Foy/Lausanne: Les Presses de L'Université Laval/Editions Payot, 1992.
D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film: The Early Years at Biograph, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. (Winner of 1992 Theater Library Association Award).

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