Dr Oksana Chefranova
Film & Media Studies, Yale University
On Genealogy of Translucent Screen and Rehabilitation of the Ephemeral
Contemporary theoretical reflection and artistic practice have turned surface phenomena into conceptual figures such as fold, skin, membrane, veil. This paper explores one facet of this pervasive fascination with surface imaginaries - the idea of translucency through a particular surface, the translucent screen. By contextualizing the study of translucency within a rich history of the screen from the Diorama to contemporary visual arts, I explore the ways the translucent screen reshapes vision and decenters the subject to argue that a closer look at translucency can challenge and expand our notion of the screen and dispel the screen’s dichotomy between the optical and the environmental while allowing to rethink the notion of medium and the medial condition of inbetweenness. Being translucent, no longer is the screen a mere surface for projection, a window, or divide, but it transpires as a complex and living milieu evocative of the atmospheric medium of cloud. Translucency also means that the image never unfolds on a single level of the surface, but always refers to something else that is behind or between the layers. Flickering on the edges of the categorical divides such as surface and depth, immaterial and materiality, reality and virtuality, translucency invokes the protean capacity for connection, layering, and liminality and helps to think beyond the binary logic. First, the paper deals with the superposition effect created in environment by the translucent screen in contemporary installations (Bill Viola’s Veiling, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Dilbar, and Stan Douglas’s Helen Lawrence,). Obscuring the boundaries between the screen surface and space, the translucent screen fosters the simultaneous perception of different spatial locations and exposes not isolated things but connections between objects that are in different material and phenomenal spaces and reveals the assemblage nature of the screen. Second, the article reevaluates Daguerre’s Diorama as the atmospheric screen by creating a genealogy of visual, material and metaphorical associations between operations of translucency and atmospheric media. The third part centers on the series of installations Metakimospheres, in which the translucent textile acts simultaneously as a screen for images of bodily movement and breathing, an extension of the outer surface of the body, and visualization of environment as a kinetic atmospheric scenography in-between the net and the cloud. The cinematic technique of superimposition, László Moholy-Nagy’s exploration of transparency, Mariano Fortuny’s experiments with semitransparent theatrical designs, the use of translucent textile in modern dance, and contemporary theories of the screen, environment, and atmosphere (Francesco Casetti, Jane Bennett, Gernot Böhme) serve as the background for my exploration of the translucent screen.
Dr Oksana Chefranova holds a PhD in Cinema Studies from New York University, and she is a Lecturer in Film & Media Studies Program, Yale University. Her research interests bridge film, media, and built environments such as gardens, greenhouses, fairgrounds, exhibition pavilions, film settings, theater stages, and ruins. She is currently working on her first book, From Garden to Kino. Evgenii Bauer, Russian Visual Culture, and Provenance of Cinema Circa 1900, that explores aesthetic, historical, and cultural intersections among cinema, amusement garden, and theatrical stage in artistic modernity circa 1900. Her article, “Breathing Faces, Twinkling Eyes: On Cinematic Visage in Russian Films of the 1910s,” is forthcoming in the volume Corporeality in Early Cinema: Viscera, Skin, and Physical Form from Indiana University Press. Oksana’s other projects focus on history and theory of camera movement, archaeology of the screen, experimental film and art practice, early film theory, and women filmmakers.