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F22 Politics & Poetics of Archival Filmmaking (Online)


Course Information

Politics & Poetics of Archival Filmmaking

A new course for artists, filmmakers and scholars who are interested in how we engage with archives, cultural memory, and history through film, and in the creative strategies that can be used to produce ethical reworkings of materials associated with our troubled pasts.

Course Code


Course Leader

Miranda Pennell
Course Description

The practice of making new films from recycled fragments opens exciting opportunities for exploring past events. And, crucially, it allows audiences to also reflect critically on the histories of image-making from which those fragments emerge. 


This course will look at how we engage with archives, cultural memory, and history, through film. We will consider films and videos whose source materials are drawn from state archives, from amateur, family, or ‘counter-archives’, that harvest material from the internet, or that steal from the history of fiction cinema production, as well as artists’ works that transform discarded junk into meaningful social documents. 


The topics we will address include the ethical questions that confront makers and audiences alike when image and sound recordings are ripped from their original context and re-appropriated to new ends. We will consider the dehumanising or exclusionary gaze in the archive, as well as some of the creative strategies artists and filmmakers have used to produce ethical reworkings of materials associated with our troubled pasts.


All sessions will be online and will combine lectures, screenings, and group discussions. Optional readings will be shared at the end of each session.


  1. Archive, counter-archive, film as archive.
    What counts as an archive? We will discuss how questions of power, knowledge and authority play out when we engage with official archives, and how artists and filmmakers have navigated the challenges, paradoxes and opportunities that archives present. 


  1. Towards an ethics of appropriation

We consider the radically shifting meanings of the recycled image fragment, from internet meme to archival film. What sort of ethical frameworks do we use when it comes to evaluating the creative use and misuse of film fragments? 


  1. The perpetrator’s gaze: film as repair and resistance
    What creative strategies have filmmakers and artists used to disrupt or reverse the cinematic gaze when working with materials that dehumanise and erase certain groups, while elevating and sanitising others? 


  1. Listening to images 

Unlike written documents, image and sound recordings tend to contain unfiltered, uncensored information or ‘noise’ which exceeds the intention of the original filmmaker, and which resists full comprehension or interpretation. How have artists used the ambiguous or disruptive qualities of recordings to enrich perceptions of historical meaning? 


  1. Fiction’s unconscious 

Some artists and filmmakers have raided the history of fiction cinema, transforming fragments of fiction film into documents that speak to us of the social relations embedded in the experience of cinema. How does this work complicate our understanding of documentary and fiction? 


  1. Questions of practice
    The first part of the session addresses practical issues, including legality and rights when using third party materials. In the second part, we will discuss student experiences of looking through archives and/or viewing archive-based film.


This online course takes place across 6 Tuesday evenings (7pm to 9pm) from 15th November to 20th December.

If you have any enquiries regarding this course please contact [email protected]

StartEndCourse Fee 
15/11/202220/12/2022£150.00[Read More]

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