A blog for students funded by a cross institutional scheme through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to train a new generation of skilled researchers. Offering postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of the AHRC’s disciplines. All views are those of students and are not necessarily those of the NWCDTP.
My PhD focuses on creating film structures, which I call Affective Signs, that combine unpredictable moments in reality, nuances of performance and elements of cinematic style, in order to dislocate narrative and give rise to what I refer to as ‘affective significance’. Affective significance is an audio-visual meaning that is located outside of language, knowledge and communication – a meaning that is felt before it can be thought. Affective significance is produced by the Affective Sign in a constant, overtonal (discordant) resonance between Affect and Sign in the moving-still structure of film. For film can be thought of as being simultaneously moving and still: film is a still structure (a series of static frames), permanent and re-playable, opening up to reading and interpretation as text, yet has the ability to capture echoes of the movement of the real, through its indexical, mechanical, non-human access to reality. This capturing of the echoes of the real movement gives rise to affects: impersonal sensibilities located in the film itself, non-representational ‘flashes’ of the real.
2. The journey in film that led you to take the PhD?
In the process of struggling, repeatedly – like most filmmakers – to tell a story, I became gradually frustrated by how hard it is to construct a good story and how subjective it is to judge whether it’s good or not. I subsequently became frustrated by the very idea that film should be so concerned with storytelling, and that my prime efforts as a filmmaker should be to labour on a lean linguistic construct that, far from being a free-flowing novelistic expression, is instead constrained by a tightly-knit script-writing ideology – an authoritative, imaginary source of movie-business wisdom on what engages and satisfies the audience. In parallel to that, I became engaged ever more deeply with film philosophy, and began to realise that film’s inherent, formal uniqueness is denied or suppressed by the focus on telling a story, and that instead film’s artistic potential lies in its direct link to the movement of the real, which gives rise to a specific, distinctive kind of affect in the moving image. This coincided with my realisation that I cherish cinema the most for the production of such affective moments, and that’s when the idea of the Affective Sign has started to emerge.
3. What do you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about, art wise?
I worry about the fragility of democracy, about injustice, about the human potential for violence and selfish behaviour, about the ungraspable fact of death. I worry about my child’s wellbeing. There is nothing to worry about in art.
4. What makes your heart leap with joy art-wise?
Intelligence, inspiration, effort and craft that combine to transcend what any human being can claim to be their sole achievement.
5. Any advice to others just starting on the PhD?