*In Defense of the Poor Image *

*Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference*

*Toronto, March 14 - 18, 2018*

            In 2009, Hito Steyerl published an article "In Defense of the
Poor Image
(eflux). It could arguably be located in a lineage stretching back to Julio
García Espinosa's seminal essay "For an Imperfect Cinema
(1966, cine cubano), which, together with Glauber Rocha's "Aesthetic of
Hunger" (1965), Jorge Sanjinés' "Problems of Form and Content in
Revolutionary Cinema" (1976) and Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino's
"Toward a Third Cinema" (1969) established Third Cinema.

            Espinosa's essay made a case for cinema that did not espouse
goals of "perfection" and did away with aiming to gain approval by "the
elite," as Espinosa put it. "Imperfect cinema is no longer interested in
quality or technique." Instead, "it aimed instead to create cinema that
constituted "an act of social justice—the possibility for everyone to make
films." That is, the division of labor of cinema is undercut. "Imperfect
Cinema," Espinosa continued, "rejects exhibitionism in both (literal)
senses of the word, the narcissistic and the commercial (getting shown in
established theaters and circuits)." Instead, it asked: "What are you doing
in order to overcome the barrier of the "cultured" elite audience which up
to now has conditioned the form of your work?" In these ways, Espinosa
combined a rejection of commercial and perfect cinema, with a call for and
imperfect cinema.

            Steyerl's argument picks up this thread in 2009. Needless to
say, countless technological innovations make "the poor image" possible
half a century later. "The poor image," Steyerl tells us, "is a copy in
motion. Its quality is bad, its resolution substandard. It is a ghost of an
image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image
distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections,
compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, [...] copied and pasted into other
channels of distribution." It is the "contemporary Wretched of the Screen,"
Steyerl writes.

            According to Kodwo Eshun, whom Steyerl quotes, "poor images,
circulate partly by the void left by state cinema organizations who find it
too difficult to operate a 16/35 mm archive or to maintain any kind of
distribution infrastructure in the contemporary era." In other words, in
his estimation, poor images also bespeak the shift from state support to

            This proposed panel focuses on the poor image, inquiring into
its lineage and current status. Does it, currently, result from being a
marginalized image? Does it bespeak displacement? How can poor images be
deployed by amateurs, activists and filmmakers to intervene in global
crises? And, does the circulation of the poor image create alternative
networks of meaning making, exchange, and affirmative practices of

Possible paper topics might include but are not limited to the following:

            - low resolutions

            - blurred AVI files

            - clandestine cell phone videos

            - dispersed or marginalized images

            - resistant and non-conformist visual matter

            - alternative archives and collections

            - bootlegs, torrents

            Please submit a 250-word abstract, 5 bibliographic sources
(articles or books); and a brief bio (2-3 sentences) to Christina Gerhardt
at [log in to unmask] Deadline: Sat. Aug. 19, 2017.


Christina Gerhardt, Associate Professor,
of Hawai'i at Mānoa
Visiting Scholar, 2018-2019 - Harvard University, Center for European

Visiting Scholar, 2017-2018 - UC-Berkeley
Institute of European Studies
207 Moses Hall #2316
Berkeley, CA  94720

Recent guest-edited special issue, forthcoming authored book and co-edited

*1968 and West German Cinema*
Special issue of *The Sixties* 10.1 (2017). Guest editor.

*Screening the Red Army Faction: Historical and Cultural Memory*.
Bloomsbury, 2018.

*1968 and Global Cinema.* Co-edited with Sara Saljoughi. Wayne State
University Press, 2018.

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Sean Franzel
Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: