Walter Benjamin and Archival Film Practices

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 57 illustrations Published: March 2018

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

In Archiveology Catherine Russell uses the work of Walter Benjamin to explore how the practice of archiveology—the reuse, recycling, appropriation, and borrowing of archival sounds and images by filmmakers—provides ways to imagine the past and the future. Noting how the film archive does not function simply as a place where moving images are preserved, Russell examines a range of films alongside Benjamin's conceptions of memory, document, excavation, and historiography. She shows how city films such as Nicole Védrès's Paris 1900 (1947) and Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) reconstruct notions of urban life and uses Christian Marclay's The Clock (2010) to draw parallels between critical cinephilia and Benjamin's theory of the phantasmagoria. Russell also discusses practices of collecting in archiveological film and rereads films by Joseph Cornell and Rania Stephan to explore an archival practice that dislocates and relocates the female image in film. In so doing, she not only shows how Benjamin's work is as relevant to film theory as ever; she shows how archiveology can awaken artists and audiences to critical forms of history and memory.


"Archiveology opens up yet more rich and very pertinent questions relating to film-making as an archival practice in which themes of time, memory and imagination are fluidly interwoven and fleshed out as new cinematic experiences." — Davina Quinlivan, Times Higher Education

"Archiveology is a refreshing for film archivists looking to expand their horizons and better understand potential users. . . . Catherine Russell’s masterful explanations ensure that the book remains accessible to readers from all disciplines." — Kristen E. Muenz, Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies

"Archiveology offers insightful analyses enlightened by Benjamin's legacy. . . . Catherine Russell adds authority to a new model of cultural intelligibility that we can use to rescue voices relegated to oblivion." — Cesar Ustarroz, Found Footage

"Archiveology is. . . one of the few books of film theory and criticism that takes Benjamin seriously in all of his complexity, and, more importantly and innovatively, shows us the mechanics of what one can do with the concepts in an era of disturbingly unstable media." — Joshua Wiebe, Film and History

"This book advances a new archival language, with which to renew the history of twentieth-century representation. Archiveology, indeed, enables thinking about the constantly evolving nature of images, by informing not only the way they work but also the way we look at the present time." — Catherine Russell, Frames Cinema Journal

"Moving through a careful, rigorous, and nuanced reading of Walter Benjamin's work, Catherine Russell's new book explores the remarkable range of 'archiveology' as a creative engagement with technologies of storing and accessing. About the formation and critique of collective memories and histories at the intersection of the avant-garde and documentaries, this superb study is, more importantly perhaps, about the present and future of contemporary media culture." — Timothy Corrigan, author of The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker

"Showing how Benjamin's insights remain especially timely and relevant for early twenty-first-century archival film practices, Archiveology makes an important contribution to critical and feminist film theory while offering a compelling approach to contemporary moving image art in ways that traverse experimental, documentary, and new media platforms." — Patrice Petro, author of Aftershocks of the New: Feminism and Film History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Catherine Russell is Professor of Cinema at Concordia University and the author of The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity and Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video, both also published by Duke University Press, as well as Classical Japanese Cinema Revisited.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Prologue  1
1. Introduction to Archiveology  11
2. Walter Benjamin and the Language of the Moving Image Archive  35
3. The Cityscape in Pieces  55
4. Collecting Images  97
5. Phantasmagoria and Critical Cinephilia  141
6. Awakening from the Gendered Archive  184
Epilogue  218
Notes  225
Selected Filmography  245
Bibliography  247
Index  261
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Honorable Mention, 2019 Michael Nelson Prize, presented by The International Association for Media and History (IAMHIST)

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