It was at University College Cork, Ireland, that Alphaville: the Journal of Film and Media Studies, held its 2nd international conference from September 4-6. Under the theme of “Deviation,” this conference featured talks by scholars from several international universities, including two delegates from Concordia University. Indeed, Ph.D. candidate Julien Lapointe and myself, MA student Philippe Bédard, each contributed to the lively exchange of ideas.
When the call for paper was distributed last April, I was thrilled to see how open and thought provoking it was. A call for paper, whether it’s for a conference or a journal, tends to focus around a certain defined theme. Of course, it is always somewhat vague, which allows for different approaches, but it is nonetheless targeted at a specific area of research. “Deviate,” on the other hand, is a theme that seems purpose-built for the way we are asked to think about our research subjects. In order to make ourselves a place in our field, we are often asked to find an original subject or a new way of thinking about existing material. Whatever our interest, we are asked to approach it in a way that falls outside of pre-existing scholarship on the subject. It is standard that we deviate from the norm. Because of this particular quality of the conference’s theme, I strongly encouraged everyone to apply.
Although there are many ways in which such a broad theme could have led to failure, this conference proved to be as enthralling as it was entertaining. The organizing committee was able to select papers which might have appeared incongruous in any other context and to create panels which were captivating, to say the least. Indeed, one could attend panels that ranged from subjects as diverse as dance, paranoia or contemporary Hungarian cinema, to name a few. For instance, Julien’s presentation was put under the theme of “Narratives/Narration” while my paper fit quite nicely in the panel called “Techno-Cultural Divergences.” Julien’s paper, entitled “Orson Welles, the Hollywood Baroque and Constructional Systems: Representation and Understanding as Theorized by Carnap, Goodman and David Bordwell” was presented to the biggest audience of the entire conference, with the exception of the two keynotes by Prof. Maria Pramaggiore and Prof. Laura Mulvey. Although his title might appear complicated at first, Julien’s clear and calm presentation style made it easy to grasp the core of his subject.
Presenting alongside Julien were Rebecca Johnson (University of Manchester) and Katri Lassila (Aalto University), whose papers respectively entitled “Aesthetic Shock: Multivalence and Affectivity as Resistance to Narrative Hegemony” and “Time, Stillness and Horizon–Images of Landscape as a Deviation of Time in Cinematic Narrative,” were both equally thought provoking. While Rebecca doesn’t come from film studies, but rather from the field of translation studies, her subject fit perfectly in this conference and brought to the panel a fresh new perspective on the idea of narratives and narration. Katri, for her part, dealt with questions that are fundamental to our field; the ontological difference between photography and cinema. Both have since become friends of mine and I hope to be able to work with them again in the near future.
For my part, my paper “Disembodied Perspectives: A Techno-Aesthetic Analysis of GoPro Videos” was part of the panel called “Techno-Cultural Divergences.” Presenting in an international film studies conference is a stressful affair to begin with, but it is doubly so when your computer gets damaged the week of the presentation. Yes it’s true, my computer got damaged by some water not four days before the conference. What’s more, I hadn’t backed up any of my work in weeks, which meant I had to rewrite everything. In a sense, I believe this helped me get to the core of my paper and to re-write only what was essential. Since my presentation is based on my budding research on GoPro cameras and their perception of the world, I took the opportunity given by this conference to present in a more relaxed, experimental manner. After all, I am glad I did this—instead of simply reading a paper I had already written—because the candid feedback given to me on these very early thoughts will help me mould the future of this research.
What’s next, then? For one, the organizing committee has invited all presenters to submit articles based on their papers to be considered for publication in a forthcoming special issue of Alphaville. As for many other delegates I’m sure, I will try to submit my paper, hoping that it might garner more visibility for this growing subject. More importantly though, I hope that the conversations that were started in the halls of University College Cork will linger in the minds of those that took part in them. This being my first international film studies conference, I’m also eager to continue building those relationships that formed during the event, as I see a strong potential in them.
Finally, I’d like to recommend the conference experience to all my fellow MA and Ph.D. students, especially to those who might wish to road test their research. If you haven’t had the chance to attend one already then you are in luck as the 2015 Annual Conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies will be taking place in our very own Montreal this next March. While the deadline for submissions has already passed, I still encourage you to attend the event and take advantage of this unique opportunity.