Theses Doctoral

Movement in Vision: Cinema, Aesthetics, and Modern German Culture, 1918-1933

Williams, Alena

This study addresses the intersection of the avant-garde and mass culture through a close reading of three singular works from the Weimar Republic in Germany. Bauhaus founding director Walter Gropius (1883-1969) designed a "Total Theater" (1927, unbuilt) whose multiple screens encircled an interior structure for the presentation of twelve simultaneous film projections. In 1930, Hungarian-born Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) completed a rotating, metallic sculpture for the projection of light effects, which has assumed a number of different configurations within theater, film, and the museum since its inception in 1922. In the 1910s and 20s, Swedish-born Viking Eggeling (1880-1925) experimented with the properties of line by transferring static, two-dimensional collages from the animation table to the cinematic screen. In addition to undoing experimental film's logic as a genre, this study addresses the epistemological questions each of these works introduce--namely, the production of artistic and scientific knowledge in the early twentieth century, the evidentiary status of reproducible media, and the institutional framing of works of art. Rather than establish a genealogy between early twentieth-century kinetic and light experiments and the "expanded cinema" practices of the 1960s and 70s, this dissertation approaches these objects as "adjacencies" to the cinematic dispositif, within which their relationship to art and politics, technological determinism, the ontology of the work of art, and the compartmentalization of media are examined.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Crary, Jonathan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014