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Shadows, Specters, Shards

Making History in Avant-Garde Film

2005
Author:

Jeffrey Skoller

Shadows, Specters, Shards

Demonstrates how avant-garde films better reflect the complexity of history than conventional film

Shadows, Specters, Shards examines experimental films, including work by Eleanor Antin, Ernie Gehr, and Jean-Luc Godard, that take up events such as the Holocaust, Latin American independence struggles, and urban politics. In his discussion of avant-garde film of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Jeffrey Skoller reveals how a nuanced understanding of the past is linked to the artistry of image making and storytelling.

A passionate and close reading of a body of previously neglected avant-garde films, which in Jeffrey Skoller's hands are revealed to be at the cutting edge of some of the most significant social and intellectual debates of the last three decades. Shadows, Specters, Shards is a timely and provocative contribution to film culture and scholarship.

Yvonne Rainer, filmmaker, Journeys from Berlin/1971, Privilege, MURDER and murder

Avant-garde films are often dismissed as obscure or disconnected from the realities of social and political history. Jeffrey Skoller challenges this myth, arguing that avant-garde films more accurately display the complex interplay between past events and our experience of the present than conventional documentaries and historical films.

Shadows, Specters, Shards examines a group of experimental films, including work by Eleanor Antin, Ernie Gehr, and Jean-Luc Godard, that take up historical events such as the Holocaust, Latin American independence struggles, and urban politics. Identifying a cinema of evocation rather than representation, these films call attention to the unrepresentable aspects of history that profoundly impact the experience of everyday life. Making use of the critical theories of Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze, among others, Skoller analyzes various narrative strategies—allegory, sideshadowing, testimony, and multiple temporalities—that uncover competing perspectives and gaps in historical knowledge often ignored in conventional film. In his discussion of avant-garde film of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Skoller reveals how a nuanced understanding of the past is inextricably linked to the artistry of image making and storytelling.

Shadows, Specters, Shards

Jeffrey Skoller is a filmmaker and associate professor of film, video, and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Shadows, Specters, Shards

A passionate and close reading of a body of previously neglected avant-garde films, which in Jeffrey Skoller's hands are revealed to be at the cutting edge of some of the most significant social and intellectual debates of the last three decades. Shadows, Specters, Shards is a timely and provocative contribution to film culture and scholarship.

Yvonne Rainer, filmmaker, Journeys from Berlin/1971, Privilege, MURDER and murder

A singularly important work in the fields of film studies and visual historiography. Students and scholars of avant-garde film, history and representation, visual culture, and Jewish studies as well as progressive political activists will find this book especially useful.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, author of Electric Animal and Atomic Light (Shadow Optics)

Jeffrey Skoller addresses some of the richest, least acknowledged, avant-garde movies of the last three decades; in his scrupulous analysis these movies are revealed both as artifact and art work.

J. Hoberman, film critic, The Village Voice

Shadows, Specters, Shards makes a strong case for the enduring value of avant-garde cinema—in all its abstraction—as a vital resource for thinking complexities of contemporary aesthetics, politics, poetics, and the relationships of history to the present.

Octopus

The material of this book is in large measure illustration of this central point by considering how movies by leading and influential avant-garde filmmakers have dealt with historical issues and material even though this has not been widely recognized or accepted.

Midwest Book Review

This is a scholarly book—notes and bibliography are copious and thoroughgoing—but Skoller writes in a style that is precise, informative, and reasonably clear—even though he continually suggest meanings beyond what he is saying.

Choice

Fascinating book. The great variety of films analyzed guarantees a well-balanced survey of what is at stake in the hardly known field of avant-garde movies.

Leonardo

The book makes significant contributions to both historiography and avant-garde film studies.

Afterimage

Aguirre’s engagement with this timely topic makes his text all the more appealing for museum studies, literary studies, and imperial history.

Victorian Studies

Jeffrey Skiller’s Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film is a detailed, highly theorized examination of a range of avant-garde film practices from the 1970s to the present. This volume provides an excellent discussion of films that deserve to be more widely known within film theorization of film’s potential for engaging viewers in alternative ways of engaging viewers in alternative ways of encountering history.

Journal of Film and Video

Jeffrey Skoller’s Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film offers fascinating insights into both film studies and postmodernity . . . Skoller’s Shadows, Specters, Shards is a fascinating study of the importance of cinema.

Film Criticism

Shadows, Specters, Shards

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Shards: Allegory as Historical Procedure Eureka, Ernie Gehr Dal polo all'equatore, Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America, Craig Baldwin
2. Shadows: Historical Temporalities 1 The Man without a World, Eleanor Antin Urban Peasants, Ken Jacobs Cooperation of Parts, Daniel Eisenberg
3. Virtualities: Historical Temporalities 2 Allemagne annee 90 neufzero, Jean-Luc Godard Persistence, Daniel Eisenberg B/Side, Abigail Child Utopia, James Benning
4. Specters: The Limits of Representing History Signal—Germany on the Air, Ernie Gehr Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett The March, Abraham Ravett (In vivant qui passe, Claude Lanzmann
5. Obsessive Returns: Filmmaking as Mourning Work El dia que me quieras, Leandro Katz Chile, la memoria obstinada, Patricio Guzman Coda: Notes on History and the Postcinema ConditionRock Hudson's Home Movies, Mark Rappaport Dichotomy, Tony Sinden Beyond, Zoe Beloff

Notes
Bibliography
Filmography and Distributors
Permissions

Index