Pop cinema: aesthetic conversations between art and the moving-image
This dissertation seeks to recover a seemingly lost story in the history of experimental cinema: its relationship to Pop Art. Although both Pop Art and non-narrative filmmaking have received significant scholarly attention, there has not been a sustained attempt to probe theoretically the link between these two areas of cultural production. This work is the first study to attempt to understand historically and theoretically the relationship between the fine art practice of Pop and the production of non-narrative experimental cinema. It posits that works of experimental cinema exist that not only bear resemblances to central examples of fine art Pop but may be labelled works of Pop Art in their own right. To make the case for such works, this dissertation is split into four main chapters. The first offers an overview of the history of the phrase ‘Pop Cinema’ and traces its usage in a variety of discourses in critical, journalistic and academic discussions of mainstream and experimental film practice throughout the second half of the 20th century. In the subsequent chapters, case study films are presented as works of Pop Cinema, observed in relation to discourses on Pop Art found in art historical scholarship. Each work is shown to be a Pop Film not only because of its engagement with a subject of mass and consumer culture, but also the way in which such material is rendered on screen through medium-specific manipulation of film language and the foregrounding of cinematic technologies and techniques. In Chapter Two, I uncover the Pop aesthetic beginning in the 1950s with William Klein’s ‘city symphony’ film Broadway by Light (1958), arguing that the film is the urtext of Pop Cinema, fusing an intermedial exploration of stillness and movement with an ambivalence towards its subject: the advertising light signs of Manhattan’s Times Square. Following this, I discuss artworks and films created by the British artist Jeff Keen. Here the notion of collage as both an artistic methodology and formative medium for the dissemination of Pop Art are examined in relation to Keen’s 1966 film Flik Flak. Through in-depth analysis of Keen’s work, I draw attention to his distinct mode of collage filmmaking, arguing that it seeks to intervene and comment on the media-saturated environment of the 1960s in both humourous and poltical ways. Finally, I look towards Pop Art’s interaction with Minimalism using the work of German artist Peter Roehr. Taking Roher’s Film Montages (I-III) (1965) as my central object of focus I explore how Roehr developed strategies of seriality and repetition that can be seen in concert with Pop artists like Andy Warhol. Ultimately, through these examples and through my wide contextualising discussion, I illuminate ways of seeing a variety of filmmaking from the 1950s onward as Pop Art and I offer new dimensions of intermedial understanding to the practice of non-narrative cinema in relation to Art History.