Affective Cin-Aereality: Women and Aviation in Silent Cinema

by Paula Amad (University of Iowa)

Abstract: A curious line appears in an essay titled A Propos du Cinéma from 1931 written by the painter Fernand Léger; it reads “Cinema and aviation go arm in arm in life, they were born the same day”. This paper seeks to explore Léger’s and other French critics’ cryptic alignment of aviation and cinema as the twin progenitors of modernity through the perspective of a sisterly, rather than fraternal, kinship. I argue that in order to fully understand the aviation-cinema nexus we must dislodge it from its masculinist heritage within modernist myths dominated by Marinetti and Le Corbusier’s respective futurism and architectural manifestoes. Key to this dislodging is the reinsertion of the gendered associations of the body, affect, and the senses into the modernist myth of aerial vision as a weightless, abstracted, regime of the eye.

Paula Amad is an Associate Professor of Film Studies and Chair of the Department of Cinematic Arts, University of Iowa. She is the author of Counter-Archive: Film, the Everyday and Albert Kahn's Archives de la Planète (Columbia University Press, 2010) and numerous articles in, amongst other journals, Representations, Camera Obscura, History of Photography, Cinema Journal, Film History, and Framework. She is currently completing a book focused on an alternative history of modern aerial vision across photography and film from which another article is forthcoming in the journal Modernism/Modernity titled ‘The World’s Heavy Gaze’: Recovering Cin-aereality in the Post-War Avant-Gardes.