In my research and teaching, I specialize in the history of French visual culture, art and film; the history and theory of modernism, the avant-garde, and experimental film; cinema and the other arts; feminist and political form; and historical film experience and aesthetic reception. By using a historical, archival approach to explore theoretical, formal, and conceptual questions, I demonstrate how the study of films, art, technology and culture is a dynamic process, one that often demands a multi-disciplinary inquiry into a range of formal, economic, literary, and popular traditions. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I have a commitment to developing new historiographic approaches to visual, cultural, and perceptual phenomena, often emphasizing the interaction between material and conceptual forms of knowledge especially as they are generated in film, art, and the so-called “aesthetic experience.”
My training in cinema studies initially fostered my interest in pre- and early American and French cinematic practices (the nickelodeon; the illustrated song slide; magic lantern shows; the phantasmagoria) and historical film exhibition and cinemagoing. In my work, I have brought this knowledge to bear upon my secondary training in modern and contemporary art history, and my specialization in the European historical avant-garde with an emphasis on Dada and Surrealism. My commitment to the history of feminist, political, and avant-garde film and art practices is an outgrowth of my training in experimental cinema that began during my undergraduate studies with Stan Brakhage at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I honed my archival research skills, my French language and cultural knowledge in Paris where I lived for six years as I completed my doctoral work and taught cinema studies at L’Université de Paris III La Sorbonne Nouvelle and Le Centre Parisien d’Etudes Critiques. My research has received the support of a Fulbright Fellowship; the Harmon Chadbourn Rorison Fellowship, Institut Français de Washington; the Society for French-American Cultural Services Fellowship; and a Franke Institute for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship. I have participated in the curation of numerous museum and gallery exhibitions including Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism (PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York, 2006-2007) and La Ville: Fernand Léger and the Modern City (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013).
My first book, The Parisian Avant-Garde in the Age of Cinema, 1900-1923 (The University of California Press, 2015), was short-listed for the Kraszna-Krausz Best Moving Image Book Award (2016), and was awarded Honorary Mention for the Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies (2014-15). Here, I take the point of view of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, and Tristan Tzara in order to examine the formal and experiential components of historical cinemagoing in Paris before 1923. Understanding the early cinema as a historical form of technological and aesthetic experience, I frame the cinema as a modernist space, form, and set of related phenomena (projection, film exhibition, distribution, and stardom) which I broadly conceive as addresses of horizontality—or what Nick James in Sight and Sound rightly called “anti-patriarchal and anti-canonical.” In so doing, I substantiate how the early cinema experience, rather than films alone, was a central component of the advent of Cubism, the development of abstract machine forms, and Dada’s radical manner of reimagining art and its experience for the masses. I argue that early cinema experience and its related fan and commodity culture supplied a dynamic alternative to traditional modes of aesthetic experience especially to modern artists: I show how their cinema and cinema-related experiences helped them reframe mass culture as a modern aesthetic category that especially fueled the Dadaists’ development of shock, celebrity tactics, and their ambition to “distribute” Dada’s artistic program across the globe, not unlike how Chapin’s films were distributed around the world during World War I. In this dual-focus history, avant-gardism and early cinema in Paris emerge as adjacent iterations of early twentieth-century modernism, and as mutually inclusive structures for radical spectatorship, reception, and modernist form.
I am currently completing my second book manuscript titled Radical Recognition: Photography, Film, and History in the Image. In this project, I reconsider the political, ethical, and artistic stakes of the film and photographic image at various moments in the history of French and Belgian politics and the avant-garde between 1871-1999. I ask how political actors, activists, and radical artists used the image to challenge official historical narratives, social history, and the capacity of the film and photographic image to transform social reality by making previously suppressed or marginalized histories visible. In the coming months, I will also be working on a catalog essay for an exhbition on the early Cubist works of Georges Braque at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf.
The Parisian Avant-Garde in the Age of Cinema, 1900-1923 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015).
- Reviews: Sight and Sound (September, 2016); Film Quarterly Vol. 69 No. 4 (Summer 2016); 1895 no. 78 (2016); Modernism/Modernity, Volume 25, Number 2 (April 2018); H-France Review Vol. 19, No. 58 (April 2019); H-France Review Vol. 19, No. 59 (April 2019).
“Under the Figure of the Palm Tree,” (on the installation art of Marcel Broodthaers and Jean-Luc Godard), Avant-Gardes in Crisis: Art and Politics in the Long 1970s, ed. Jean-Thomas Tremblay and Drew Strombeck (New York: SUNY Press), forthcoming, 2020/21.
“The Place and Desire of Avant-Garde and Experimental Forms,” Chapter 12, FORMS 1920-1950 inThe French Cinema Book, second edition, Michael Temple and Michael Witt, eds. (London: British Film Institute/Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).
"The Chaplin Files, 1952,” October 160 (Spring/Summer 2017), p. 51-78.
"Toward a Concrete Aesthetics: Against Avant-Garde Film c. 1930," special issue, French Cinema at the Margins: Forgotten Sites, Practices, and Discourses, 1920-1960, ed. Eric Smoodin, Framework: Journal of Cinema and Media, Volume 58, Numbers 1 & 2, Spring & Fall 2017, pp. 67-78
“The Length of a Wide Highway: On the Archive, the (Electronic) Marketplace, and the End of a Collection,” Cinémas: Revue d’études cinématographiques/Journal of Film Studies, vol. 24, no. 2-3, special issue L'attrait de l'archive (Summer 2014): 165-187.
“The Automatic Chance of the Modern Tramp: Chaplin and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” Early Popular Visual Culture, Volume 8 Issue 3 (2010): 263-283.
"Monument in the Garden: On the Facelessness of Avant-Garde Classicism," Classicisms, ed. Larry F. Norman and Anne Leonard, Smart Museum of Art (Chicago, IL: Smart Museum of Art, 2016), p. 95-109.
“What Léger Saw: The Cinematic Spectacle and the Meteor of the Machine-Age,” La Ville: Fernand Léger and the Modern City (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013): 145-151.
“Francis Picabia, Stacia Napierkowska, and the Cinema: The Circuits of Perception,” in Elza Adomowicz, Eric Robertson eds., Dada and Beyond (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012): 57-76.
“Distance is (Im)material: Epstein Versus Etna,” in eds. Keller, Sarah and Jason Paul, Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and Translations (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2012): 115-142.
“Modern Painting: Instruments in the History of Film Theory,” in Dall'inizio, alla fine. Teorie del cinema in prospettiva/In the Very Beginning, at the Very End. Film Theories in Perspective, eds. Francesco Casetti, Jane Gaines, Valentina Re (Udine, Italy: Forum, 2009): 539-546.
“The Cinematographic Geographies of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque,” catalog essay, Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism (New York: PaceWildenstein Editions, 2007): 148-167.
“An Artist’s Hands: Stella Simon, Modernist Synthesis, and Narrative Resistance,” Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, Vol. 46, no. 1 (March 2005): 93-105.
“Sur le déclin d’un dispositif culturel, la chanson illustrée,” 1895 no. 47 (December 2005): 9-37.
Recent courses in RLL
- FREN 23404/33404 French Cinema of the 20s & 30s (Autumn 2018)
- FREN 33410 The Form of Politics/The Politics of Form (Spring 2017)
- FREN 40009 The Archive: Materiality, Visual Culture, Methodology (Winter 2021)
- FREN 43501 Guillotine/Barricade: Figures of History Across Media (Spring 2018)
- FREN 43713 Neo-Avant-Wave: Post-War Film Experiment in France and Belgium (Autumn 2018)