Introductory Talk ‘The senses have therefore become directly theoreticians in their practice’: The Intensive Materialism of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub.

Jean-Marie Straub & Daniéle Huillet Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub © Heiner Roß

Mon, 04.03.2019

18:15

BFI Southbank

Introductory Talk by Kodwo Eshun

‘The senses have therefore become directly theoreticians in their practice’: The Intensive Materialism of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub.

In Cinema 2: The Time Image, published in 1989, Gilles Deleuze argued that Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub are ‘probably the greatest political filmmakers in the West, in modern cinema’. How can Deleuze’s assertion be understood today?


As Mark Fisher argued in 2010, Deleuze situated the collaboration between Huillet and Straub, from their first film Machorka Muff in 1963 onwards, within the historical moment of a postwar generation of anti-imperialist cinemarxism that emerged after the repudiation of Stalinism but before capitalism had became the only game in town. A moment that can be characterized by the conviction that political art had to be as experimental as the new social arrangements that it hoped to engineer. In a contemporary era of platform capitalism dominated by the rhythms of continuous partial attention, the cinematic landscapes of Huillet-Straub find themselves further than ever from the mainstream of digital cinema.

In his introductory lecture, Kodwo Eshun argues that it is this distance from today’s communicative capitalism that allows Huillet-Straub’s ‘intense materialism’, in the words of Jonathan Rosenbaum, to exert pressure on contemporary audiovisual perception. In an age in which Hollywood neurotically chases after fragmented audiences, Huillet-Straub’s films constitute an aesthetic reeducation of the senses that demands an undivided attention from viewers unused to such sensorial challenges. The intransigence of Huillet-Straub’s films, argues Eshun, emerges from a commitment to materialist intensification that confronts contemporary audiences even more than those who first encountered their films throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. In their imperious refusal to give any ground to capitalism’s avatars, argues Eshun, can be found the aesthetic politics of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub’s cinema.    

Presented as part of The Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet
 

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