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The Cinematographic, the Ethnographic and the Essayistic

May 22 2018 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm



The Cinematographic, the Ethnographic and the Essayistic

Cathy Greenhalgh

Tuesday 22 May at 6.30 pm

In this talk I will show clips from my films Undercurrent (2001), Aftermath (2006), Switch (2013), Drone (2013) and Cottonopolis (2019 forthcoming). I employ documentary techniques, reflexive essay and meditation, sensory and material culture ethnography, oral historiography and experimental visual immersion in my work. I will describe the film production contexts and my approach in terms of the overlapping concerns of cinematographic, ethnographic and essayistic modes, noting how these are amplified by certain practices and techniques. I will consider the idea of time, space, colour and texture; corporeality and agency in filmmaking, and authorship and dialogue with partcipants. This analysis is underpinned by a practice point-of-view and I will hint briefly at conversations with Indian film colleagues and theories of essay, ethnographic and documentary film, eco-criticism and world cinema / diaspora aesthetics.

My feature film Cottonopolis combines memories of “Manchesters” – historical mega-textile cities Manchester, Ahmedabad (India) and Lodz (Poland) with observations of contemporary handloom and powerloom cotton manufacture. I am inspired by Amrit Gangar’s concept of ‘Cinema of Prayõga’, experimentation in Indian cinema that understands time as cyclical and a ‘cinematographic idiom that is deeply located in the polyphony of Indian philosophy and cultural imagination’. He suggests this practice ‘emphasises the excessive possibility of any form of contemplation – ritualistic, poetic, mystic, aesthetic, magical, mythical, physical or ‘alchemical’ (2006). To combine the cinematographic, ethnographic and essayistic is to cross disciplinary boundaries in a form of what Mieke Bal has termed ‘migratory aesthetics’ (2008). This is helpful for thinking through diasporic, political and transnational subject matter. The term suggests movement and migration characterise not only the paradigm for our world, but much contemporary art and media, as well as the interdisciplinary nature of visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking.

Publicity stills – Cathy shooting in cotton fields and ginning mill, Gujarat. Cottonopolis title panel.

Cathy Greenhalgh is a film-maker (director/cinematographer), lecturer, media anthropologist and writer. She has thirty years teaching expertise, most recently as Principal Lecturer in film and Television at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Cathy spent fifteen years as a professional cinematographer in the film and commercials industries, and has conducted long term ethnographic research with feature film cinematographers (1995-2018 ongoing), and more recently, documentary camera people. She directs and shoots ethnographic essay documentaries and art film shorts for cinema, gallery and museum spaces (collaborations with choreographers, animators and sonic artists). Research interests and publications centre on sensory ethnography and material culture of light, landscape and textiles; the anthropology of media and visual anthropology; collaborative and interdisciplinary creativity, filmmaking practices and communities of practice, cinematographic phenomena and aesthetics.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://greenhalgh.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom


May 22 2018
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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