Spring 2021 - CA 235 E100

Experimental Film and Video (3)

Class Number: 8252

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 5:30 PM – 8:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    One of CA (or FPA) 117 (or 167), 118 (or 168), 135, 136 or 137 or 30 units.



A survey of the key works and ideas that have informed contemporary moving image art practice nationally and internationally. Beginning with antecedents in painting and photography, the course will move forward from the early European avant-garde to the lyrical and structural works of the seventies, the issue-based work of the eighties, and finally the gallery-based practices of the present day. Intended for all students with an interest in the moving image as an art form. Students with credit for FPA 235 may not take this course for further credit.


From its inception film has been an experimental medium. Filmmakers, artists, scientists, and performers have used film to expand notions of art making and investigate the nature of representation itself. These experiments have produced works that test the boundaries of cinema and force us to reflect on the nature of the medium. In doing so, experimental film has been a laboratory for filmmakers of all types. Like scientists doing pure research that engineers can apply in often-unforeseen ways, experimental film asks and answers questions about cinema that can inform the work of narrative and documentary filmmakers.   This course will take a conceptual and methodological approach to experimentation rather than focusing on genres and movements. Instead of chronologically, the course is organized around theoretical points of experimentation in order to show how experimental filmmakers test and expand the language of cinema. Each week we’ll look at films from the earliest pre-cinematic experiments to contemporary works in digital video to see how filmmakers have experimented and continue to with film form in order to expand our understanding of the medium. The primary goal is to see how artists have used film to ask questions about the nature of representation and the cinematic image and to encourage you to ask those same questions.


Students will
• understand key elements of experimental film form and technique
• analyze the ontological properties of film and video
• identify and analyze aspects of film form in relation to content
• understand the history of experimental film and video in a global context
• use visual analysis to explain the relationship between film form, content, history, and theory
• practice writing clear and persuasive arguments


  • Film Journal 20%
  • Short essay 20%
  • Midterm (take-home) 20%
  • Final project 30%
  • Participation 10%


Remote Course Format
This course is designed for flexible remote learning. Students will have the option of engaging synchronously, via Zoom, during our regularly scheduled class meeting time (Thursdays 5:30-8:30pm) and/or asynchronously through recorded lectures, screenings, film journals and assignments. I will not take attendance during our regular class meetings, but there are several required individual student meetings throughout the semester where I will post a sign-up sheet to schedule appointments.
Our Thursday class meetings will take place on Zoom (sfu.zoom.us). Look for the link on Canvas. You should come to these Zoom meetings having completed the weekly readings and ready to discuss them in relation to the lectures and screenings. During our Zoom meetings I will give short lectures (that will be recorded and posted to Canvas), we will watch the weekly screenings together (sometimes with synchronous text chat), and discuss the films and readings in small groups and/or as a class (for privacy reasons discussions will not be recorded). There will be at least 15 minutes at the end of each class for students to complete their film journals. The best way to keep up with the material and engage with your peers will be through these Zoom class meetings.
If you cannot attend one or more of the Zoom meetings for any reason, you will be able to find recordings of my lectures on Canvas along with the readings and screenings for each week.

Film Journal
Students will submit weekly journal entries based on the screening (and readings) for that week. These journal entries are an opportunity to reflect on and react to the films we watch. Journal entries should be between 100 and 200 words, but can take any form – feel free to be creative and to include images, videos, or other non-traditional materials. Weekly journals will be graded complete/incomplete (10%) and the lowest 2 grades will be dropped at the end of the semester (so if you miss a week for any reason you do not need to make them up). Students will choose 2 entries to submit/revise for formal evaluation (10% each) – one on February 12 and one on April 16.

Essays and Take-Home Exam
You’ll receive detailed prompts for the essay assignment and the take-home exam in class – these prompts will also be posted to Canvas. All assignments should be submitted on the day they are due. Under exceptional circumstances extensions will be granted when requested in advance. Unless an extension has been granted, late assignments will be graded down each day (i.e. B+ becomes a B, etc). Students must complete all exams and assignments in order to pass the course.

Final Project
For your final projects in this course, you will choose a filmmaker (experimental or otherwise) and show how their work has been influenced by the cinematic experiments we have looked at in this course. You will have the option of writing a traditional essay or creating a video essay. Those who choose a traditional essay will present a report on their filmmaker in class on April 8 (10%) and submit a full essay on April 22 (20%). Those who choose to create a video essay will screen their films on April 8 (20%) and submit a short (500 word) artist statement on April 22 (10%).

Content Warnings
We are watching some challenging films in this class. I hope and expect that you will challenge yourselves to watch the material to see how filmmakers address difficult subjects. I will provide some specific content warnings during my zoom lectures when we are watching material that I anticipate may be difficult for some of you. With that said take care of yourselves. If you have specific concerns about the content of the films we are watching or wish to discuss these issues further please reach out to me to discuss how we can handle your situation.

Office Hours and Correspondence
Students are encouraged to contact me via email jec10@sfu.ca

Academic integrity and dishonesty
Students are responsible for understanding and following SFU’s standards of academic integrity. You are strongly encouraged to complete the plagiarism tutorial on Canvas in the first week of the semester.

Students are encouraged to consult the following websites for more information and for links to the policies that govern academic integrity at SFU:

Writing assistance
It is difficult to provide all the support necessary for learning to write well in this course. I will offer some writing tips before I hand out the first assignment and feel free to see me during office hours to discuss your papers. I don't however have time to edit your papers or provide help with serious problems with writing, grammar or usage. All students can benefit from seeking assistance at the Learning Commons in the library. You can make an appointment to discuss your papers there. Visit http://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc for more information.

Additional resources – especially useful for those who speak/write English as an additional language – can be found at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

January 14
Class introduction, survey and meetings

January 21
Experiments in Motion
Reading: Germaine Dulac, "The Aesthetics. The Obstacles. Integral Cinegraphie"
Reading: Germaine Dulac, “The Essence of Cinema, the Visual Idea,” in The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism, ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1978), pp. 36-48
• Thom Andersen, Eadwaerd Muybridge Zoopraxographer (1975)
• Germaine Dulac, The Seashell and the Clergyman, (1926)
• Ken Jacobs, New York Trolleys 1900 (1996)

January 28
Experiments in Light and Vision
Reading: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, “Memoire on the Heliograph”
Reading: Stan Brakhage, “Metaphors in Vision” in Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures, 62-69
• Man Ray, Emak Bakia (1926)
• Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof, Light Magic (2001)
• Stan Brakhage, Mothlight (1963); Dog Star Man (1961)

February 4
Experiments in Time
Reading: Maya Deren, "Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality," in The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism, ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1978), pp. 60-73
Reading: Hollis Frampton, “For a Metahistory of Film” in Circles of Confusion, pp 107-118.
• Maya Deren, Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946)
• Peter Kubelka, Arnulf Rainer (1960)
• Tony Conrad, The Flicker (1966)
• Hollis Frampton, Lemon (1969)
• Joyce Weiland, 1933 (1967)
• Gregory Coyes / Slow Media Community, selected shorts (2013-2019)

February 11
Experiments in Materiality
Reading: Laura Marks, "A Noisy Brush with the Infinite: Noise in Enfolding-Unfolding Aesthetics" in The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media Edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson, 101-114.
Reading: A Candid Talk with Scratch Film Master Steven Woloshen
• Norman McLaren, Blinkety Blank (1955)
• Steven Woloshen, 1000 Plateaus (2004 - 2014)
• Gerda Cammaer Stardust (2009)
• Emma Hart, Skin Film (2007)
• Takeshi Murata, Monster Movie (2005)

READING WEEK – no class

February 25
On Identity / Alterity / Community
Reading: “Queer Media Manifestos,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 19, no. 4 (October 1, 2013): 559–74,
Reading: Nancy Chen, “Speaking Nearby – A Conversation with Trinh T. Minh Ha”
• Barbara Hammer, Superdyke (1975)
• Jerry Tartaglia, A.I.D.S.C.R.E.A.M. (1988)
• Thirza Cuthand, 2 Spirit Dreamcatcher Dot Com (2017)
• Vivek Shraya, Reviving the Roost (2019)
• Julie Dash, Four Women (1977)
• Trinh T. Minh Ha, Reassemblage (1982)
• Ina Diane Archer, Hattie McDaniel: Or A Credit To The Motion Picture Industry (2002)

March 4
On Corporeality – Guest Lecture, Alla Gadassik
Reading: Len Lye, "Art That Moves" (1964)
Reading: Carolee Schneemann, “The Obscene Body/Politic” (1991)
Reading: Amy Greenfield, excerpts from “Greenfield on Greenfield” in Flesh Into Light (2012)
• Len Lye, Free Radicals (1958/1979)
• Chris Burden, documentation of Shoot (1971)
• Amy Greenfield, Element (1973)
• Carolee Schneemann, Fuses (1967)
• Ng’endo Mukii, Yellow Fever (2015)
• Thirza Cuthand, Thirza Cuthand is an Indian Within the Meaning of the Indian Act (2017).
• Martina Scarpelli, Egg (2019)

March 11
Experiments in the Archive
Reading: TBA, “Trajectories of Decay: An Interview with Bill Morrison” in Senses of Cinema, 2006
• Ken Jacobs, Perfect Film (1986)
• Ken Jacobs, Tom, Tom the Pipers Son (1969)
• Bill Morison, Decasia (2002)
• Sara Cwynar, Red Film (2018)
• Ja’Tovia Gary, The Giverny Document (single channel), 2019

March 18
Experiments in Sound and Colour
Reading: TBA
• Mary Ellen Bute, Tarantella (1940)
• Norman Mclaren, Phantasy in Colours (1949)
• Norman Mclaren, Synchromy (1971)
• Joyce Wieland, Handtinting (1968)
• Jane Gillooly, Suitcase of Love and Shame (2013)

March 25
Final Project Pitch meetings

April 1
Experiments in Memory
Reading TBA
• Alan Berliner, Family Album (1986)
• Kandis Friesen, Katyusha (2016)
• Zach and Adam Kahlil, Inaate Se [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./] (2016)
• Tourmaline, Atlantic is a Sea of Bones (2017)

Sunday, April 4: Take-home exam due

April 8
Final Presentations / Video Essays

April 15
Student Meetings / Feedback Session



The majority of readings for this course will be writing by filmmakers themselves as opposed to academics. By reading manifestos, artistic statements, and interviews with filmmakers, we’ll aim to understand the methodologies and theories as expressed by the artists themselves. * All required readings will be posted to canvas

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).