Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
Nº 11 – 2023 (1)
Memories of It
Kathleen Loock (Universidad Leibniz de Hannover)
How to cite this article: Loock, K. (2023). Memories of It. Tecmerin. Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales, 11, 2023(1). ISSN: 2659-4269
For many practitioners, videographic work allows personal explorations and the reconciliation of individual feelings and fantasies with the analytical. Catherine Grant and Christian Keathley (2014), for instance, suggest that videographic criticism has carved out a space for cinephilia in film studies: working with the images and sounds that constitute the object of study encourages creative expressions and it also permits an engagement with the emotional responses and aesthetic experiences associated with that object of study. “[O]ur scholarship has tended to repress them,” Grant and Keathley write, “or at least to back away from them, to keep them at arm’s length for the purposes of distanced, objective analysis and interpretation.”
This idea of intellectual detachment has also defined inquiries into memory – including my own research on how film remakes, sequels, and reboots shape memories, lived experiences, and generational identities. My audience research examines how global viewers (re)construct the past in the present through both individual recollections and collective socio-cultural contexts of remembering certain movies, characters, storyworlds, and stars. But is there also a connection between my personal experiences and my analytical approach, between individual and cultural memory that emerges in the scholarly research process?
A number of video essays explore personal movie memories, showcasing the constructedness of individual memory (as in Chloé Galibert-Laîné’s research project “A Portrait of the Spectator as a Cannibal,” for example) or its media-historical situatedness (something that Cormac Donnelly examines in his video essay “Pan Scan Venkman” about the VHS version of Ghostbusters he watched as a kid). For their video essay collection “Once Upon a Screen,” Ariel Avissar and Evelyn Kreutzer (2020) asked scholars and media practitioners to use “videographic practices to confront the most personal, intimidating, and visceral encounters with film during our childhoods.” In his response to this project, Christian Keathley (2020) writes: “As we watch these videos, we understand not just one cinephile’s experience of a movie trauma, we begin to have a feeling for something much bigger: the place of the movies in the lives of generations of people.”
But how can we move from the personal and cinephilic to the collective – from individual memory to cultural memory – in our videographic work? Is it possible at all to produce knowledge by remembering one’s own past in connection to film experiences?
According to cultural memory scholar Astrid Erll, “no memory is ever purely individual, but always inherently shaped by collective contexts” (2008: 5), by institutions, media, and practices working to construct a shared past that social groups can remember. One possible way to link the two is to engage in the kind of memory work that informs Annette Kuhn’s book Family Secrets. She describes memory work as “a conscious and purposeful performance of memory” (2002: 157) that might lead to “a more profound lived understanding of the activity of remembering and of how remembering binds us as individuals into shared subjectivities and collectivities” (156). With regard to films, Kuhn writes that
“[m]emory work presents new possibilities for enriching our understanding not only of how films work as texts, but also of how we use films and other images and representations to make our selves, how we construct our own histories through memory, even how we position ourselves within wider, more public histories”. (2002: 46)
If the underlying assumption of my research is that movies become thoroughly entangled with lived experiences and that remakes, sequels, and reboots can serve as memory prompts inviting viewers to revisit their own past in the present, it seemed obvious that I had to set aside my scholarly objectivity to reflect on my own life story and to engage in videographic memory work.
In my video essay, I engage with the haunting power that the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel It still holds over my imagination. Watching the trailer for It: Part II (2019) – the sequel to the 2017 remake – at a cinema was the prompt that made me remember my childhood viewing experience of It, which in turn became the pretext for exploring memories and associations that extend beyond the personal. When I began my videographic memory work, I quickly realized that I had embarked on an impossible journey. I found myself confronted with repressed and forgotten feelings that I could neither situate nor articulate. And I felt that I was missing something when I tried to reconstruct this particular viewing experience.
I hesitantly approached It through my editing program and I came to realize that my memories of the movie were intricately linked to my personal experiences of the German Reunification and its aftermath, to the generation of so-called Wendekinder (children of change). The movie It is not about us Wendekinder, but – at least for me – it has come to stand for the sweeping changes, uncertainty, social and cultural instability, and disorientation that the Reunification entailed for East Germans. For me, the movie It strangely resonates with the shared historical experience that defines my generation.
Or does it? My video essay makes these connections but it remains a creative exploration of the relationship between individual and collective memory, a fabulation in which fragments of my childhood become thoroughly entangled with history, media technology, and with It. But maybe this is precisely how memory – and the intersection of individual and cultural memory – works: as an act of “performance, representation, and interpretation” (Hirsch and Smith, 2002: 5) that calls up a shared past in the present.
This video essay was made as part of “Hollywood Memories” (https://hollywood-memories.com/en/), and Emmy Noether research group that is based at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The archival GDR footage is courtesy of Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv (DRA), the German Broadcasting Archive. The video essay is also inspired by Dörte Grimm’s documentary film Die Unberatenen: Ein Wendekinderporträt (2015).
- Avissar, Ariel, and Evelyn Kreutzer. “Once Upon a Screen”: Screen Traumas and Cinephilic Hauntings – Introduction.” The Cine-Files 15 (Fall 2020): http://www.thecine-files.com/once-upon-a-screen-introduction/.
- Donnelly, Cormac. “Pan Scan Venkman.” [in]Transition 6.3 (2019): https://mediacommons.org/intransition/pan-scan-venkman.
- Erll, Astrid. “Cultural Memory Studies: An Introduction.” Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Ed. Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008. 1–15.
- Galibert-Laîné, Chloé. “A Portrait of the Spectator as a Cannibal.” https://www.chloegalibertlaine.com/cannibal-anglais.
- Grant, Catherine, and Christian Keathley. “The Use of an Illusion: Childhood Cinephilia, Object Relations, and Videographic Film Studies.” Photogénie, 19 June 2014, https://cinea.be/the-use-an-illusion-childhood-cinephilia-object-relations-and-videographic-film-studies/.
- Hirsch, Marianne, and Valerie Smith. “Feminism and Cultural Memory: An Introduction.” Signs 28.1 (Autumn 2002): 1-19.
- Keathley, Christian. “Response to ‘Once Upon a Screen’: The Personal, the Emotional, and the Scholarly.” The Cine-Files 15 (Fall 2020): https://www.thecine-files.com/response-to-once-upon-a-screen/.
- Kuhn, Annette. Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination. 1995. London: Verso, 2002.
- It (Thomas Lee Wallace, 1990).
- Trailer of It: Chapter Two (Andrés Muschietti, 2019).
- “Tippeltips – Neues aus Marzahn und Hellersdorf.” IDNR 025271. Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv.
- “Wenn die Eltern Geld verdienen.” IDNR 041380. Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv.
Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
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