Paul Willemen’s “Epstein and Photogénie”

September’s Reading: “Epstein and Photogénie” by Paul Willemen
Thursday September 29 2011
VIVO Media Arts (1965 Main Street), Vancouver BC
7pm Salon Free
Facilitated by Alex Muir

No Reading returns in September with materials on early French avant-garde film. Paul Willemen’s article “Photogénie and Epstein,” surveys the texts of Jean Epstein and his contemporaries (Louis Delluc, Riciotto Canudo). Willemen characterizes their efforts as some of the earliest attempts to theorize film. As a result, or in addition, Willemen relates their development of the term, Photogénie, to the concept of cinephilia. The discussion of medium and theory–and particularly Willemen’s distinction between how Epstein situates himself with respect to his concepts as opposed to how Bréton and the surrealists do–is of interest; however the bare concept of Photogénie is also resonant for us, in and of itself. Hot on the heels of two different video projects shot/presented in town by French artists Nicolas Boone and Neil Beloufa, which take in the interrelation of civic space and photogenic vision, we will supplement this salon with a sampling of Epstein’s own writings, and film works.

Please note that the date of this event is different than that which is posted in our seasonal pamphlet.

Paul Willemen is a British film critic and cultural theorist, who has written extensively on cinephilia, the concept of third cinema and national form in film journals such as Afterimage and Framework. The text we are looking at was republished in his book Looks and Frictions. Jean Epstein was a Polish emigré, who was a key member of the Parisian film avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. Working alongside the likes of Germaine Dulac, Man Ray, Fernand Léger and Abel Gance, Epstein wrote extensively on film, and shot more than 30 works from the 1920s thru to the end of the 1940s.

No Reading After the Internet is a monthly opportunity to gather and read a text aloud in hopes that it might provoke theoretical illumination on particular art works, or the broader scape within which such work exists. This program departs from Cineworks’ Thought on Film series, conceived by Cheyanne Turions. Whilst still very interested in cinema, the focus of this incarnation is softened to accommodate the more broad (and ever expanding) scope of media art.

The idea of a reading group isn’t new. No Reading nonetheless poses itself as an experimental learning and discussion space. Simply put, we are suspicious of our own reading abilities, and the extent to which our readings are conversant with one another. No Reading means to offer a slow space within which to retrace oursteps in the hopes of discovering individual and collective ways through the realms of language and interpretation. The strategieswe have at our disposal are twofold: through the yoking of our discussion to a text; and inducing conversation, where possible, between text and specific, local, contemporaneous art discussions and happenings.

Participation in No Reading After the Internet is free and open to everyone, regardless of his or her familiarity with a text or its author. Texts will be handed out at the gathering. No pre-reading or research is required. Those who wish to access the text in advance can contact


Anton Vidokle’s “New York Conversations”


Anton Vidokle’s film New York Conversations 
(2010, 64 minutes, 16mm-to-video)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011
The Camera Bar (1028 Queen Street West)
7 PM

Facilitated by Melanie O’Brian and cheyanne turions

As a special presentation of No Reading After the Internet, September will feature Anton Vidokle’s film New York Conversations. Following the screening, the audience is invited to stay and discuss topics raised in the film over drinks at the Camera Bar. This conversation will be facilitated by Melanie O’Brian, Curator & Head of Programs at the Power Plant.

New York Conversations is a text film. Shot in a Chinatown storefront converted for this occasion into an improvised kitchen/restaurant, the film documents three days of public conversations between artists, critics, curators and a free floating public. The talks, lunches and dinners were organized by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Nico Dockx and Anton Vidokle in response to an invitation by Brussels-based art journal A Prior to be the subject of their new issue. Instead of commissioning essays or producing artwork to be printed in the journal, the artists decided to rethink the structure by which an art publication is produced and to attempt to do this discursively in a public setting.

The film is a subjective record of these conversations, which explored various topics ranging from questions concerning precarious and immaterial labor in the field of art, possibilities for non-alienated life and working conditions, the feasibility of artistic freedom, and possible means of reclaiming dignity in the work of art criticism, to more immediate questions concerning whether what was actually taking place throughout the course of the event was in fact an artwork. In the tradition of underground cinema, essay films and experimental language-based films from the conceptual era, New York Conversations insists upon a certain degree of participation from the audience—by way of critical reading—over passive spectatorship.

With: Francisca Benitez, Nico Dockx, Daniel Faust, Media Farzin, Liam Gillick, Egon Hanfstingl, Jörg Heiser, Steven Kaplan, Shama Khana, Anders Kreuger, Miwon Kwon, Valerie Mannaerts, Sis Matthé, Hadley Nunes, Saul Ostrow, Marti Peran, Simon Rees, Els Roelandt, Dieter Roelstraete, Martha Rosler, Joe Scanlan, Maxwel Stephen, Monika Szewczyk, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Jan Verwoert, Anton Vidokle, Lawrence Weiner, Andrea Wiarda, Louwrien Wijers and others.

Melanie O’Brian is currently the Curator & Head of Programs at Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. From 2004-2010 she was the Director and Curator at Artspeak, an artist-run centre in Vancouver. She has also previously worked for the Vancouver Art Gallery as Assistant Curator and has taught at Emily Carr University. O’Brian received her MA in Art History at the University of Chicago, and her BA in Art History from Portland Oregon’s Reed College.

Anton Vidokle is currently based in New York and Berlin. His work has been exhibited in shows such as the Venice Biennale, Lyon Biennial, Dakar Biennale, Lodz Biennale, and at Tate Modern, London. As founder of e-flux, he has produced projects such as Next Documenta Should Be Curated By An Artist, Do it, Utopia Station poster project, and organized An Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life, Martha Rosler Library and e-flux video rental (with Julieta Aranda). Vidokle initiated research into education as site for artistic practice as co-curator for Manifesta 6, which was canceled. In response to the cancellation, Vidokle and others set up an independent project in Berlin called Unitednationsplaza—a twelve-month “exhibition-as-school” involving more than a hundred artists, writers, philosophers and diverse audiences.