Film and Media (Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies) Graduate Theses

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    watth chhum baav kas - Experimentations at the Threshold of Image: Understanding Representation of Documentary Subjects from the Kashmir Conflict.
    (2024-07-08) Mehvish; Film and Media (Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies); Naaman, Dorit
    This research-creation PhD project is a combination of critique of existing documentary work in and about Kashmir, as well as an exploration of alternative and experimental modes for responsible documentary representation of people in conflict zones. The cornerstone of this research is understanding, learning, and finding ways to represent documentary subjects of this long-term conflict zone without victimizing them. Documentary cinema tends to either portray Kashmiris as terrorists/fighters or as victims. I argue that either stereotype is damaging. My PhD research is an experiment in understanding and showcasing conflict without the images of conflict that are traditionally associated with political movements and revolutions. The creative components of this dissertation portfolio attempt to side-step the fetishization and desensitization of, and through, images of conflict. The underlying aim is to experiment with representations of conflict that do not isolate the subjects within the conflict and trauma of political turmoil, but rather emphasize the fullness of cultural and communal life, despite, and because of, the protracted conflict. The research is presented as a portfolio, with three elements complimenting each other: 1. theoretical study focused on the fields of post-coloniality, audience studies, representational politics, conflict-based humour, documentary and ethnographic cinemas, and surveillance studies. 2. creation-based experimentation with documentary form in Kashmir through one feature-length documentary using humour strategically in an autoethnographic film; and a curated exhibition in the form an 8-channel installation, focused on silencing in neo-colonized spaces through surveillance infrastructure. 3. pedagogical dissemination of alternative forms of documentary filmmaking instruction, through workshops in Kashmir for young filmmakers – as part of the fieldwork.
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    An Artist's Almanac to Research, Organization, Education, and Bookings
    (2024-05-17) Lochhead, Neven; Film and Media (Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies); Kibbins, Gary
    Fusing together current discourses on contemporary artistic research, contemporary art theory, curatorial practice, organizational studies, sound studies, and educational theory, An Artist’s Almanac to Research, Organization, Education, and Bookings is a theoretically diverse dissertation-portfolio that interweaves methodological analysis with applied experimentation. Across four chapters, it examines the epistemological possibilities of art’s status as a form of knowledge, proposes a new theory of curatorial practice through the lens of organizational science, develops an educational philosophy driven by sonic phenomena, and launches a speculative academic discipline called Booking Studies. In its blending of disciplinary forms, which involves academic and conceptual writing, immersive exhibitions, performances, workshop designs, audio works, and films, a set of distinct methodological systems are built, each offering in their own way new perspectives on the possibilities of art-as-research. The author and artist invents, engineers, and implements a range of conceptual tools and vocabularies that help to comprehend and intervene on forces shaping the present regimes of artistic research, namely 'financialization,' 'professionalization,' and 'homogenization.' A consistent intervention upon these impasses throughout is the text’s emphasis on the role of the habitat or ‘scene’ in the trajectories of artistic knowledge, which is conceptualized by the author as an adaptive contextual medium that is always amenable to recalibration, capable of constantly proposing new frames of reference for the aims of practice-led inquiry. This contention is defended both theoretically, in the academic writing, and concretely, in a series of applied projects interwoven throughout the chapters. The nested documentation of these projects both amplifies and dramatizes the dissertation, through a formally varied body of work that reflects the author’s own embedded roles as an artist, curator, and educator. Lochhead's practice-led thinking unfolds as an always responsive process to a range of institutional sites, from which a multifaceted ecology of activity emerges, involving the coordination of artistic research teams and distributed learning environments. In its form and content, this work seeks to expand and reorient the thresholds of art's ‘doctorateness,’ working across platforms and modes of address to persistently evolve its voice into something else.
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    The Mothership: Multiplanetary Becomings and Reproducing Worlds
    (2024-03-28) Okabe, Naomi; Film and Media (Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies); Norton, Jenn; Na, Ali
    On November 16th, 2022, NASA launched Artemis I, the first of multiple missions propelling humanity toward a multiplanetary future in which we will build new worlds, terraforming environments both physically and ideologically. These “moon to mars” missions mark a new era of deep space exploration, the first in fifty years since the Apollo missions in the 1970s. This time, NewSpace venture capitalists are playing a prominent role, particularly since the Obama administration quietly shifted funding toward private corporations in 2011 (Valentine). Space, as a critical territory, simultaneously presents us with an opportunity to consider our future celestial societies, as well as our terrestrial existence here on earth (Boucher). This moment in history encapsulates the hopes and dreams of the “Artemis Generation” and requires ethico-political discourse to avoid “terraforming as enforced terranormativity” (Oman-Reagan), or approaching space settlement with normative or colonial systems of knowledge. Utilizing an interdisciplinary research-creation approach, I engage in speculation as practice, putting science fiction texts and methods in conversation with critical theory. This project centres four space feminist “missions” or chapters that include a cultural geography of NASA’s current Artemis program, the history of women in the space agency, and the political, ethical, and technological entanglements of putting bodies in space. I also explore what I refer to as the “Space M/other” film genre and the social and ethical implications of reproducing in space. Finally, I consider the power of science fiction as a medium that attends to the ineffable in social discourse and contextualize my own audio-based research-creation experiment—a “speculative soundscape essay.” This project is an attempt to triangulate themes of space exploration, motherhood, and science fiction in order to consider a mode of cosmic futurity that is more gestative, symbiotic, and germinal.
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    Aesthetic Divination: Surrealist Film As Dream Projection
    Zawacki, Sierrah D.; Film and Media (Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies); MacKenzie, Scott
    This project was created using research-creation methods and features a series of four short films that have been exhibited in The Isabel Bader Centre’s Art and Media Lab. In conjunction with the research and writing, the production experience and hands-on participation in the making of surrealist cinema contributed to a more in-depth understanding of the lines drawn between consciousness and unconsciousness in art creation and viewing. This research paper explores ideas on the relationship between the unconscious experienced in dreams and the unconscious production of art, conversing with theories from philosophers, writers, and artists alike such as Sigmund Freud and André Breton.
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    Nelvana Animation: Shifting Labour Conditions, Digital Tools and Their Influence on the Design of 2D Children’s Animated Series
    Kelly, Lauren B.; Film and Media (Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies); Pelstring, Emily; MacKenzie , Scott
    This research-creation project is supported by a theoretical paper overviewing the history of Nelvana Limited, the studio's economic growth and how the introduction of digital tools has impacted the aesthetic narrative of children’s animation. Applying the observations of cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han, the aesthetics of commercial 2D animation embrace smoothness as the positions of animators are reformed by neoliberal policy. The short film Bob and Anice Go To Corpo Hell compliments this research as an exercise in animation labour and an expression of the alienation of being a self-entrepreneur. Together, the works argue the value of human creativity within commercial animation production by linking the creative content of children's animated series to animators' working conditions and well-being in our digital age. Disrupting smooth aesthetics in animated works is one front on which animators can advocate for their labour: it requires changes to individuals’ workflow and level of creative input.