Car Crashes, Representational Media and the Politics of Cinema
Published by Duke University Press in 2010, Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis, authored by Karen Beckman, has recently become available in Open Access at the Open Research Library, as part of the KU Select 2019: HSS Backlist Books collection.
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
Artists, writers, and filmmakers from Andy Warhol, an American pop artist, and J. G. Ballard, a British post-apocalyptic novelist, who also published the controversial fictional work Crash in 1973, which was made into an eponymous film by David Cronenberg in 1996, to Alejandro González Iñárritu, a contemporary Mexican film director, and Ousmane Sembène, a Senegalese film director and writer, have repeatedly used representations of immobilized and crashed cars, in order to wrestle with the conundrums of modernity. In Crash, Karen Beckman argues that representations of the crash parallel the encounter of film with other media. This work also delineates how these collisions between media offer useful ways to think about alterity, politics, and desire. Examining the significance of automobile collisions in film genres including the “cinema of attractions,” slapstick comedies, and industrial-safety movies, Beckman reveals how the theme, as well as visual representation, of the car crash gives visual form to fantasies and anxieties regarding speed and stasis, risk and safety, immunity and contamination, and impermeability and penetration.
Among other topics, in the introduction to this work Karen Beckman highlights that
“[t]he renewed interest in aesthetic autonomy and the medium within the field of art history has emerged at least partly in response to the growing presence of projected moving images both in the contemporary art museum and in urban public spaces. This presence (along with other factors) raises concerns about the transformation of the museum into a space of entertainment, the expansion of art in other media (such as painting) to a cinematic scale, the disappearance of monitors and feedback mechanisms in video-art practice, and the increasing prevalence of narrative as a defining feature of contemporary art in a variety of media closely related to film. Furthermore, mainstream industrial films now also commonly appear as crowd-pleasing, thematically related program supplements to museum shows, an approach to film programming that not only reductively posits cinema as “easy” and accessible, and art, in contrast, as difficult and elitist, but also displaces those more experimental films that are excluded from mainstream cinemas and have historically found a place only within museums’ film programming. Unless museums more effectively foreground the tension between multiple modes of moving-image production, art institutions will miss the opportunity of exploring the complex and increasingly intertwined relationships among commercial narrative cinema, art cinema, experimental film and video, and art across the course of the twentieth century and the twenty-first. At a moment of increasing anxiety about the prevalence of projected moving images in the museum, scholars addressing the relationship between the museum’s moving images and cinema may be better off confronting and engaging cinema with all its bastard traits than trying to purify it in order to make it good or pure enough—politically and aesthetically—for the discourse of art history” (Beckman, 2010, p. 2).
Edited by Pablo Markin
Beckman, Karen. Crash. Durham, North Carolina, USA: Duke University Press, 2010. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
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