OPEN CALL: [We Don't Know Yet] What a Cinema Can Do: A Night of Live Sound and Moving Image

computationally generated line drawing of black grid and
Closes March 1, 2024 | 23:59 | Public Works, 2141 W North Ave


On April 5th 2024, Onion City Film Festival and the Center for Concrete and Abstract Machines (CCAM) co-present a live performance program adjacent to the festival exploring “expanded cinema” in an attempt to put cinematic art to the tasks of resistance, rupture, and reconfiguration of mediatic experience. We ask: how can experimental modes of animating sound and moving image reconfigure the possibility of our relating to one another anew?

We invite submissions from a wide range of practitioners and theorists working in “the expanded cinema” broadly conceived through moving image and sound.

All submissions will be consider by the curatorial team. Participation is paid.



February 12Call for Proposals opens
February 12Onion City Film Festival special program announcement
March 1Call for Proposals closes
March 7Notification of acceptances
April 5Event


“Should one be nostalgic about ‘the good old days’ when things were as they were, regardless of their mode of representation? … New technologies foster efficiency and madness in the same flow. The growing power of software engineering does not necessarily lead to the power of Big Brother. In fact it is way more cracked than it seems. It can blow up like a windshield under the impact of molecular alternative practices.”

- Felix Guattari, “Towards a Post-Media Era” (1990)

“Expanded cinema” originates in the 1960s, but its motivations seem more relatable than ever. In a time when social life itself had begun to collapse into new mediated forms of spectacle, midcentury expanded cinema sought to invent new techniques of spectacular relation. Life itself had become hopelessly mediated and reduced to quantities of spectacle, an unavoidable result of capital’s endgame. The effects of cinema, the mass media spectacle par excellence, transformed in turn, becoming an organ of disciplinary power whose main objective was the production of what Foucault would call docile bodies.

Expanded cinema intervenes in this situation to put art to the tasks of resistance, rupture, and reconfiguration of mediatic experience. For Youngblood and other media thinkers, the “expanded cinema” wasn’t merely a technic augmentation of filmic expression by other expressive media, but a statement that the cinema as a site of social production had expanded into a broaden “intermedia environment”. Youngblood: “The cinema isn’t just something inside the environment; the intermedia network of cinema, television, radio, magazines, books, and newspapers is our environment, a service environment that carries the messages of the social organism”. This sentiment of media determinisms and environments has been echoed and rethought in media theory for the last 50 years.

As signaled by the introduction by Buckminster Fuller and a section entitled “Toward a Cosmic Consciousness”, Gene Youngblood’s 1970 book Expanded Cinema extrapolates these ambitions to a technoutopian scale typical of the day. Youngblood speaks of a “synaesthetic cinema” that places its flag in the ground at the ocularcentric era as a call to action for artist to experiment in response to the contemporary situations he describes. With that comes an absolute empowerment of individual expression typical at this time:

“Actually the most descriptive term for the new cinema is personal because it’s only an extension of the film-maker’s central nervous dystem. The reader should not interpret “synaesthetic” as an attempt to categorize or label a phenomenon that has no definition. There’s no single film that could be called typical of the new cinema because it is defined anew by each individual filmmaker.”

Of course, this was all very LA and very Californian. Of course, it still is: in places where the sun is always shining, ideologies, dreams and fantasies have a kind of sticky permanence. In so many ways, we’re all Californian these days. We might imagine an age of expanded cinema stretching on forever, an unbroken tradition of the cybernetic age. And in our being humbled at the feet of these giants of history, we might feel satisfied we are carrying on the legacies of expanded cinema making good trouble.

But to what extent does this very retro category of artistic work provide window dressing for persistently ahistorical forms of making? Which activate “retro” technologies in an attempt to ward off “techoprogress” all while indulging a nostalgia for simpler times and lost futures? what must be resisted today has certainly changed in fifty years.

Of course, history has had its way with media technologies. In 2024, we have no doubt that our mediatic situation rapidly changed. These days, Netflix documentaries, New Yorker thinkpieces, and the whole tragic chorus laments the devestation of social life at the hands of intermedia networks. The Mass media forms have been reborn and baptized “new media”; in many ways it is “new boss same as the old boss”, in many ways worse, in a few ways better. At least the web has sponsored the cultivation of new, minoritarian group subjectivities. At worst, corporate algorithms identify and categorize these collective energies and extract whatever attention they can from this emergent, fresh consciousness. We can’t seem to escape the trap of having to re-present those events, feelings, and revelations that seem most revolutionary, only to watch them degraded. The most communitarian action of sharing is inextricably entangled with the production of surplus value for the richest people in the world.

But we had high hopes for new media. Felix Guattari wrote in 1990 “we can hope for a transformation of mass-media power that will overcome contemporary subjectivity, and for the beginning of a post-media era of collective-individual reappropriation and an interactive use of machines of information, communication, intelligence, art and culture.” One hears echoes of Youngblood when more recently, film and cinema studies have reinserted the cinema into the frame of new media in discussions of “post-cimema”

Maybe it is time to admit we’re all getting a bit older, the iPhone honeymoon is over, the HTML is as retro as the CRT, and new media is just media. That’s to say: we need measured investment in media technologies as an aspect of liberation. It’s to say our media situation is in the same way that post-cinema doesn’t mean we’re past cinema (the movies are back!), post-modernism doesn’t mean you won’t have run-ins with modernists (looking at you, SAIC), post-structuralism doesn’t mean we’re done with structures (build back better!). In a post-media landscape, we find a heterogeneous landscape of media forms at our disposal, but we risk fading into the timeless California desert if we proceed with indifference to the political, ecological, subjective, and conceptual demands of our contemporary historical moment.

We return to an old question anew. French philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote that every philosopher has a “scream”: “the philosopher is not someone who sings, but someone who screams. Each time that you need to scream, I think that you are not far from a kind of call of philosophy. What would it mean for the concept to be a kind of scream or a kind of form of scream? That’s what it means to need a concept, to have something to scream!” Deleuze wrote that 16th-century ethicist Baruck Spinoza’s scream was that we don’t yet know what a body can do.

So, we scream: what can the (post-, expanded) cinema do? How can experimental modes of animating sound and moving image reconfigure the possibility of our relating to one another anew? How can artists disrupt patterns of “engagement” and “impression” that govern corporate media algorithms, and by extension our entire sphere of sociality? How do cinematic modes of expression grant us fresh purchase on contemporary political affects (anxiety, nostalgia, dread, paranoia)? How do recent artistic techniques grapple with the mediatic tendency to filter out, to hear and see what we want to hear? How does moving image and sound disrupt the political illusion that we know what we want, and how can it care for profound depths of disillusionment that comes from an encounter with the real?

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