This is a visual platform for my PhD dissertation project entitled Persistence of Things: Material Affect in Post-Socialist East-Central European Films I work on in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University.
In this interdisciplinary dissertation, I invite to re-member things in post-communist cinema and video art in the period between the late 1980s and early 2000s. This invitation has at least a triple meaning in this project. First, I literally ask to remember "kino-things"—that have been forgotten in film analysis for more than 40 years—and so to refocus the contemporary film studies' attention on filmic representations of the material world. (see the visual essay below)
Second, linking early and classical film theory (J. Epstein, D. Vertov, B. Balázs, S. Kracauer, A. Bazin) to contemporary “Thing Theory” (B. Brown, T. Ingolt), "Relational Object Oriented Ontology" (J. Bennet, S. Shaviro) and “Eco-Materialism” (S. Alaimo, T. Morton, K. Barad), I acknowledge the agential capacities of non-human matter. And yet, given that materially in post-socialist countries is intertwined with the recent past, I analyze representations of assemblages of and relations between humans and non-humans as specific in their cultural and political context. The scholar of things and material culture Bill Brown states, when one asks “what things are for a given society”, the inquiry should include attention to the artistic texts (Brown, 9-10). Therefore, third, I invite to trace film manifestations of the persistence of socialist things in post-communist times in East-Central European countries.
What images of socialist things and infrastructures post-socialist films portray? How they represent the changing role of materiality in regard to different collective temporalities that emerge in post-socialist countries? And for what purposes—aesthetically and eco-critically—these films do it? As well as what affects they instigate? These are the questions I raise in my dissertation and attempt to visualize on this website. In the three separate chapters (each containing a few visual essays as a counterpoint to my written work) I focus on cinematic manifestations of three types of material remnants of the socialist infrastructures: (1) ruins of everyday things and industrial sites, (2) statues and monuments, and (3) pre-fabricated tower buildings.
All in all, I call to consider how would the transition from socialism to post-socialism look like if we paid attention to cinematic images of material infrastructures and discuss their roles. In doing this, beyond structural and post-structural readings of films (that conceive films as systems of significations), I rediscover images of things as sources for material affect and suggest that they can reveal alternative layers of the past and different visions of the present of the East-Central European region.