Colloque, 28 avril 2016

The Unexpected Time of the Contemporary: Indian cinema in the contemporary digital archive

Ravi Vasudevan
Narrations contemporaines: écrans, médias et documents, événement organisé par Leverhulme International Network for Contemporary Studies et Chaire de recherche du Canada sur les arts et la littérature numériques ALN

There is an element of surprise, of not knowing what we are likely to see when we trawl the Internet. This paper takes the surfacing of the cinema in digital formats as a particular register of the contemporary. What happens to the time held in the celluloid image in such transfers?

Taking the case of the Indian contemporary, we will observe that such images may be left historically unmarked, their provenance uncertain. In other instances, the sounds and images of lost cinematic objects may arrive in bits and pieces, as video and audio files, analog and digital, uploaded by the commitment and obsession of lovers of film. This is apparently in contrast to the state itself, eager to convey and reinscribe cinema as a vehicle of heritage. And yet here too we have different curations and fragmentary uses of the newsreel and the official documentary.

This paper seeks to map this archive, ranging from the official and the inadvertent, to the passionate and the whimsical, the ways it subjects the cinematic to recombination, and how it reframes the question of historiography and historical time in the contemporary.

Ravi Vasudevan works in the area of film and media history at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and at Sarai, the Centre’s urban and media research programme which he co-founded with his colleague Ravi Sundaram and the RAQS Media Collective. His work on cinema explores issues in film, social history, politics, and contemporary media transformation. He is visiting faculty at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and has taught and given public lectures at the Universities of Chicago, Yale and at Oberlin College.

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