Steffen Hven

The Cinematic Narrative as »Anthropomedial Relation«

Eine Metrostation in goldenes Licht getaucht

Moving images are increasingly grasped in their ability to transform, move, act, and produce rather than merely depict or represent (Bergson, 1991; Boehm, 2007; Deleuze, 2005; Mitchell, 1986). Although one might expect this to have had immense complications for how we understand and perceive the nature of cinematic narration, the term »representation« remains one of the few methodological constants of narratology (Rudrum, 2005). In this paper, I maintain that instead of being perceived as »representations« cinematic narratives could profitably be theorized as »anthropomedial relations« [»anthropomediale Relationen«], i.e. as autopoietic entities that emerge out of the dynamic interlinking of the embodied human mind-body with the cinematic apparatus (Voss & Engell, 2015).

I present the outlines of a film-philosophical theory of cinematic narration that is compatible with the »embodied« position in the philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, and the neurosciences. According to this stance, cognition is deeply embedded into our techno-mediated environment (e.g. Clark, 2010; Gallagher, 2005; Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1992). In extension of this claim, I argue that cinematic narratives – and our cognitive, emotional, and affective engagement with these – cannot be understood by resorting to categories such as the (neurobiological or cognitive hardware of the) spectator or the film as self-contained entities. In order to illustrate the modus operandi of such an embodied and film-philosophical narratology, I draw upon examples taken from Walther Ruttmann’s experimental documentary Berlin – »Die Sinfonie der Großstadt« (1927); a film that rather than telling about life in the metropolis conveys a multisensory and embodied experience hereof.

Steffen Hven received his doctoral degree from the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in 2015. His dissertation, »Cinema and Narrative Complexity: Embodying« the Fabula, is due to appear in the series »Film Culture in Transition« published by Amsterdam University Press. He received his MA in dramaturgy, film and television studies from Aarhus University in 2010, which also included a research stay at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi in Istanbul. He has presented his research at several internationally renowned film and media conferences, amongst others at the 2015 annual conferences of the SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies) in Montreal and the SCSMI (Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image) in London.

He is currently working on a new research project provisionally entitled »Cinema and Narration: Towards an Embodied and Media-Philosophical Approach«. The aim of this project is the formulation of a new theory of cinematic narration based conjointly on the idea of »embodiment« – as it is chiefly associated with the philosophy of mind, cognitive sciences and affective neurosciences – and the concept of »anthropomedial relations«; a neologism originating from, and studied at, the Kompetenzzentrum Medienanthropologie (KOMA) at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.