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War and the Screen Machine: Film Lecture by Patricia Pisters

Patricia Pisters will take us on an audio-visual ‘tour of duty’ across contemporary war cinema, demonstrating how ‘war’ and ‘cinema’ have a long and entangled history.  Military equipment nowadays includes cameras and other media devices, the battlefield has exploded on multiple screens, refracting many points of view, forming traumatic kernels in our screen culture.

In his book War and Cinema, Paul Virilio has shown how military technologies of enhancing perception and logistics of warfare have developed in pair with cinema and entertainment media. Ranging from colour film during the Second World War to video games and drone operations in more recent times, there is a tight link between war and media technologies.

In her lecture, Patricia Pisters will sketch an overview of the most recent developments in the tight bonds between war and media. She will discuss different media strategies to ‘cover’ the war, ranging from causing a massive shift in public opinion through television coverage during the Vietnam War, to an almost disappearance of the actual war in favour of television images (the emergence of CNN’s 24/7 coverage of the first Gulf War in 1990-1991), to warfare as a ‘battle of screens’ in our contemporary networked social media culture, where war diaries of soldiers on the battlefield, surveillance images, embedded journalist reports, documentaries, vlogs and other media strategies are part and parcel of the battlefield and the refraction of point of views that fight for attention.

The lecture will be illustrated with extended clips from various war films such as Brian De Palma’s Redacted, a film that is entirely told via different types of screens and shows many of the challenges and implications of modern mediated warfare. Besides the ways in which modern war tactics involve media, special attention will also be paid to the traumatic and post-traumatic effects of these (mediated) experiences, and the extents to which such films as The Hurt LockerStop-LossIn the Valley of Elah and Standing Operating Procedure address these after effects. While we see that the human eye (and entire body and mind) is placed at an increasing distance in the war machine, what will happen when ‘screen machines’ will start to think and act for themselves in AI weaponized future battles?

for 09 May 2019 19:15