4th Spiral Film and Philosophy Conference

It’s Alive!

Film / Form / Life

Toronto, Canada, May 17-18, 2019

On the walls of the Chauvet cave in France, drawings of animals dating back to 30,000 years are represented with additional sets of legs. Recently, it was suggested that far from being naïve mistakes, these additional limbs were meant to represent life forms in movement. Thousands of years later, Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotography attempted to capture animated life by decomposing its movement in discrete images. In 2013, National Geographic published a short video of a sprinting cheetah recorded with a Phantom camera filming at 1200 frames per second. The engine for cinema’s genesis, it appears, is closely intertwined with the challenge of giving form to animated life.

It is no coincidence that the recent mutations reshaping both how movies are being made and experienced are taking place right at the moment when a geological age radically transformed by human activities for thousands of years is finally being granted its own name: the anthropocene. The relentless recreation of the world has for long been the concern of artistic expression, from animation in the paleolithic age, to attempts by early cinema at decomposing life’s movement, to the most recent feats by ground breaking digital technologies redefining the realm of vision. Ongoing mutations in the ways in which we experience a world itself perpetually changing demand that we constantly come up with new forms of expression. From this perspective, life itself seems currently suspended in the tension between what Georges Bataille once called the “formless” and the desire (if not the need) to give a sensible and intelligible form to our lives. Life forms, far from being fixed, increasingly appear to be in flux, transitioning from one state to another, through genetic cloning and digital simulation.

This year’s Spiral Film and Philosophy conference wants to examine how cinema has been and may very well still be teetering on the threshold of that which is yet without a recognizable form — the unsayable, but also the untamed: what exists beyond regimes of traditional representation — and the reproduction of recognizable forms of life.