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A characteristically dazzling, intellectually inventive, almost preternaturally informed tour d’horizon and analysis of the interplay between spaces of exhibition and recent (and not so recent) developments in video, film, medial manifestations of all sorts.
— Michael Fried, author of Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before

Garrett Stewart, well known for his theoretically-nuanced work on transmedial relations, takes the reader on a “tour” of a placeless global museum whose galleries display time-based images. Structured by punning, dichotomous intertexts that serve as guideposts for the reader’s experience, Stewart takes us on a dizzying trip through what he calls the “cinesthetic mode”. Brilliant, always witty, Stewart examines works such as William Kentridge’s animated books, Tacita Dean’s conceptual art, pieces from the Whitney’s “Immersive Cinema and Art” show, and Virtual Reality “events”. With McLuhan, he often finds that the content of a new medium is the form of the old one. The reader’s experience is enhanced by a visually-pleasing, innovative e-book layout.
— Brigitte Peucker, Yale University, author of Aesthetic Spaces: The Place of Art in Film

Cinesthesia: Museum Cinema and the Curated Screen

Garrett Stewart (James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa)

The shelves of film history boast rich commentary on avant-garde cinema from surrealism through experimental flicker films and beyond. There are, as well, various wide-ranging volumes on video aesthetics from banked b+w TV installations through electronic glitch art. Inevitably, each traced development of screen display, whether analogue or digital, encounters the fact—and exhibition facets—of such work’s museum inclusion. More pointedly, the critical record has given us searching genealogies of dated celluloid film entering international galleries on its own way out of commercial dominance in the escalating digital era. This latter work elicits primarily what the museum does in bracketing a fading optical hegemony, less to stockpile than to anatomize it in its medial determinations. From a complementary perspective, Cinesthesia focuses rather on what moving images do, in effect, to reframe the very idea of gallery display—and the divergent materiality of its forms. Just as the privileged canvas or paper rectangle of painting or drawing, within the established precincts of “plastic art,” cedes ground to the wall screen or video monitor, so, more recently, has the 3D emplacement of sculptural forms evolved into the occupied image space of interactive virtual reality.

In its unique approach to the question of time-based mediation—and the insistent questions this raises in a museum context—Cinesthesia exerts sustained interpretive leverage within this whole reassessed spectrum of a moving-image aesthetic. Taking up dozens of screen artifacts over the last six decades, from 16mm loops to CCTV montage, it investigates in exemplary depth an array of landmark innovations from the 1960s down through the latest conceptualist exhibitions. Probing and comparative at once, it is the first study to place individual works under close formal and cultural analysis, and in steady dialogue with each other, not just as intrinsic experimental ventures but as medial challenges: challenges both to their parent forms and genres (theatrical film, broadcast TV) and to the contemplative aesthetic of museum looking. The kinetics of watching are found in this way, repeatedly and often ironically, to reroute or even derange—and ultimately to reform—the apprehending gaze.

Like Seeing from Scratch in the Kino-Agora series, Cinesthesia is being published in a pandemic-era electronic edition only. It features several dozen colour photographs of museum installations and contemporary artworks. The dazzling design and innovative layout, eliminating scrolling on standard monitors, complement the style and unique format of the author’s text to create a stunning volume perfectly suited to its topic.

How is it—by what aesthetic criteria—that we, in ticketed public space, go to see film without going to the movies? What happens, that is, when screening times are replaced by the intermittent and elective time of transient viewing in sectored zones of a gallery layout? What new (audio-) visual parameters, in other words, are set in place when moving-image work finds itself welcomed into the environs of the proverbial ‘fine’ (or plastic) arts?
— Garrett Stewart

340 pp., 44 colour illustrations. Library PDF, ISBN 978-1-927852-31-6. Kindle, $10.

Garrett Stewart is the James O. Freedman Professor of Letters at the University of Iowa and a member, since 2010, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Along with many books on cinema as well as prose fiction, he has published extensively on art history, most recently Transmedium: Conceptualism 2.0 and the New Object Art (University of Chicago Press, 2018), a study that converges with Cinemachines: An Essay on Media and Method (Chicago, 2020) in prompting his current treatment of moving images in museum culture.