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A New Mindset for (Archival) Film in Transition: a Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2021

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Summary

Before moving to a concluding note, I will briefly sketch some of the steps that have brought us here.

My investigation of the changes occurring in film technology and practice and their influence on film archives has highlighted that archives are undergoing radical changes in their practices. This is due to the many technological, social and cultural transformations related to the transition to digital and, since such changes are ongoing and it is not clear yet where they will lead, archives have a unique chance to rethink their role and tasks in medias res.

The analysis of the interplay between film archival practice and film and (new) media theory has led me to identify a number of theoretical frameworks and concepts as relevant tools for both archivists and scholars to rethink their roles and to reshape the practice on a theoretical basis. Central to the theoretical discourse is the ontological question around film. For the purposes of defining those debates most relevant for the film archival practice, I have chosen to approach the existing lines of thought in film and new media theory by highlighting a tension between an indexical approach to photographic reproduction (the realistic approach) and an approach that places film's nature in movement or performance (the mind/film approach). Similarly, the discourse within the film archival field seems to move within the tension between the film as a material artifact and film as a conceptual artifact. In an oversimplification of these tensions, one could say that realism and material artifact are at one extreme and mind/film and conceptual artifact at the other, and that the latter does not recognize an ontological change from analog to digital while the former does. In fact, these extremes create an opposition that is only worthy of noticing because they actually frame a middle ground for reflection and dialogue. This middle ground is the conceptual basis and a starting point for the theorization of archival practice I propose. Within this discursive framing I have defined four relevant theoretical frameworks, i.e. “film as original,” “film as art,” “film as dispositif,” and “film as state of the art,” which function as the grid upon which a theorization of archival practice can be built.

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From Grain to Pixel
The Archival Life of Film in Transition, Third Revised Edition
, pp. 325 - 330
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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