Call For Papers: Action!: Performance, Sport, and Moving Bodies in Film and Visual Media

See below for call for papers!

Action!: Performance, Sport, and Moving Bodies in Film and Visual Media

University of Pittsburgh, September 29th-30th, 2017
Hosted by the Film Studies Graduate Student Organization (FSGSO)
Call for Papers | Deadline: July 10th, 2017

From the locomotion studies of Muybridge and Marey, through the tracking shot of a sprinting Antoine Doinel at the end of The 400 Blows, to the balletic stunt choreography in John Wick, visual media has consistently been obsessed with capturing movement and action. Whether in television, gaming, or film, how we watch and are moved by the straining or virtuosic bodies on screen has compelled a range of critical reactions. Discussions of bodily spectatorship, affect, virtual “force” and embodiment in Deleuze, Sobchack, and Massumi, as well as investigations into motion technology and athletic labor, model how we might assess performance, action, and endurance on screen. In what ways are displays of bodily violence and/or pleasure informed by questions of liveness, live-action, and dynamism? And, conversely, how do experiences of exhaustion, stasis, and paralysis confound or frustrate our desire for constant activity? Our conference revisits the “calisthenics” of performance, labor, and the training of the body on and off screen. We affirm the need to address the energies, locomotion, and exertion of “action” in front of and behind the camera, whether in its namesake genre, the playing field, or a method actor’s training.

Thinking through “action” in visual texts calls for the reassessment of historical, textual, and critical approaches to a variety of modes, platforms, and media. How do action and performance—whether live, documentary, or narrative—reflect on and provoke discussions about the body, race, class, gender, and ability? How can we theorize sports programming such as ESPN’s 30 for 30American Crime Story, and live television events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl in a new light? Furthermore, how do VR technology and the rise of video gaming (and eSports) model or reframe traditional notions of sporting events or action spectatorship in cinema and television? How does a phenomenological focus such as Sobchack’s “in-between” space of “intertwining bodies” take on new resonance with our increased engagement with interactive media and kinetic spectacle? What have emergent camera systems and labor practices shown us about the active and embodied creation of media? In what ways are questions of style in action cinemas (intensified continuity) informed by shifts in below-the-line auteurism (stunt coordinators-as-directors)? If, according to Gadamer, the work of art itself is “that [which] plays, in that it draws the player into itself and thus itself becomes the actual subjectum of playing,” then our current field of visual media begs us to reconsider our role as producers, consumers, and participants in moving-image action.

We are particularly interested in submissions that engage Film, TV, Communication, New Media, Gaming, Feminist and Queer Studies, Critical Theory, and Historiography. Other possible topics might include:

– Violence in sports, games, and action media

– Action cinema, directors, actors, and style (Michael “Bayhem,” John Woo, Bruckheimer)

– “Athletic” camera systems: Steadicam, Movi, underwater cinematography, dollies

– Theories of the body; ability, disability

– Performativity, embodiment, and communication (e.g. Butler, Sedgwick, Foucault)

– Hyperkinetic cinema, music videos, dance media, musicals, etc.

– Slow cinema, endurance, “exertion,” and deliberately “difficult” media

– Phenomenology and affect theories (e.g. Barker, Sobchack, Massumi, Deleuze)

– eSports and video gaming, i.e. the sensory athletics of gaming/streaming (“Twitch,” MLG)

– VR technology and interactivity

– Acting methodologies and performance (method, etc.)

– Craft style: continuity editing, sound design, cinematography, special effects, stunt work, choreography

– Production labor (including below-the-line grip and electric labor)

– Live-action events coverage and live-directing (sports, news, television)

– History of sports

– Sports films

– Play and the arts (e.g. Gadamer, Wittgenstein)

– Accelerationism (e.g. Noys, Shaviro)

– Animated bodies (rotoscoping, motion capture, puppetry)

– Performance studies

Interested graduate students may submit abstracts (maximum 300 words)—along with institutional/departmental affiliations and current email—to by July 10th, 2017. We also invite creative submissions (film, video, installation) responding to our theme in forms other than the traditional conference paper. If you go this route, please submit a description (maximum 300 words) that includes spatial, temporal, and technological requirements. For more information, please contact the FSGSO by email at the above address.


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