Mediating subjectivity through materiality in documentary practice

Brylla, Catalin ORCID: (2017) Mediating subjectivity through materiality in documentary practice. In: Conditions of Mediation: Phenomenological Perspectives on Media. Peter Lang, Oxford, UK, pp. 223-236. ISBN 9781433137297

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This chapter discusses my documentary film practice, which explores the filmic mediation of subjectivity through materiality on two levels: the pro-filmic event and the film form. The concept of “materiality” offers a good starting point for identifying and capturing physical manifestations of subjectivity in line with Searle’s theory of externalized subjectivity (1992: 97). ‘Materiality refers to the fleshy, corporeal and physical, as opposed to spiritual, ideal and value-laden aspects of human existence’ (Tilley, 2006: 3).

Chateau posits that the filmic mediation of subjectivity constitutes in the employment of specific signs of subjectivity, depending ‘both on the subjectivity taken as a reference point … and on the material and formal choices made to the purpose of subjectivity’ (2011: 12). This distinction between referred or pro-filmic subjectivity (observed by the filmmaker during the encounter with the subject), and depicted subjectivity (the film formal treatment of pro-filmic subjectivity that aims to elicit an equivalent experience in the viewer), is key to the process of mediation. I argue that these two levels of subjective experience require different, though interrelated methodologies, which requires their distinction from each other. But, this distinction should not be seen as a structuralist-semiotic separation. It is rather a cross-disciplinary interpretation of Searle’s anti-representationalist approach to subjective perception. ‘There is no distinction between the observation and the thing observed, between the perception and the object perceived’ (Searle, 1992: 97).

For the first level that relates to the pro-filmic encounter I will propose two anthropological methods that facilitate the identification and filming of subjective experiences manifested through objects and spaces: the “biographical object” (Morin in Hoskins, 1998) and the concept of “objectification” (Miller, 2010; Tilley, 2006). For the second level that relates to film form and its impact on the audience, I will suggest methods based on film spectatorship theories, especially cognitive film theory (Currie, 2004; Smith, 1994).

I demonstrate the proposed methodology by reference to a particular scene from my current documentary film, “Material Experiences”, which is work-in-progress and explores the filmic mediation of subjectivity with regards to the representation of blind people.

Item Type: Book Section
Identifier: 10.3726/978-1-4539-1904-0
Keywords: documentary phenomenology mediation disability
Subjects: Film and television
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Catalin Brylla
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2016 19:41
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:19

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