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Media blackout: the political aesthetics of structural/materialist film and the terms of a contemporary political moving image practice

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posted on 2023-08-30, 19:45 authored by Fatma D. Johns
This practice-based PhD project formulates a new inquiry into the political aesthetics of Structural/materialist film in order to establish the terms and issues that are relevant to contemporary political moving image practices. The project does this through revisiting Structural/materialist film theory, examining selected films in their historical context, and thinking through making. The project has two components: practice work and theoretical work. The practice work is comprised of three digital videos and an expanded cinema piece: Media Blackout I (2016), Media Blackout II (2017), Media Blackout III (2018) and A+ (2018-20). All of these are concerned with the question of how to politicise aesthetics. They are an attempt to develop a critical experimental practice, without negating the political image/content as in Structural/materialist films and theory. The thesis investigates Peter Gidal’s Structural/materialist film theory and its nexus with Marxist political and aesthetic theory in light of the question of what constitutes a contemporary political practice. The critique is mapped out in the context of Marxist political and aesthetic discourse, drawing on key texts by Louis Althusser, Theodor Adorno and Fredric Jameson. The thesis offers critical analysis of several key films by Peter Gidal, William Raban and Lis Rhodes, from the 1970s to more recent work; as well as a critical examination of aesthetic strategies of Forensic Architecture, and how their work functions in the context of contemporary art. The works produced through the course of this research also are concerned with the problems that are discussed in the critiques of these key examples. A substantial portion of the thesis is a critical evaluation and contextualization of the creative outputs of the research: Media Blackout Series and A+.



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