format : dispositif

International symposium, 8-10 June, 2022, University of Zurich


The international symposium is an attempt to systematically relate format and dispositif as key theoretical concepts that make it possible to address films as heterogenous ensembles in terms of knowledge hierarchies and power structures. Both concepts have participated in radically opening the discipline to new objects and dimensions of research, and they have had an important impact on the profound epistemological shifts that have recently transformed the discipline. If dispositif has allowed for the renewed consideration of material and political media history, format has furthered this approach to include ecological and infrastructural aspects.

From the art world to media studies, questions of format have recently become the focus of increased attention. The implications of these debates not only render the critical reflection on format as a theoretical concept possible, they also make this a desideratum. Format has moved beyond individual studies and definitions into a strategic term, a tool for an intervention in art history and film and media studies by reformatting them as disciplines “after art” and “after media”. Rewriting and revisioning their methodologies and historiographies thus allows for the recognition of the entanglement with political, economic, social, scientific, legal, environmental, and other interests beyond the technical and the aesthetic. In that, it seems that formats could be apprehended as dispositifs. However, a critical evaluation of the relatedness of the two concepts, along with their significant divergence and theoretical legacies, has not yet been undertaken.

Intended as an extension to the current research debate, the symposium invites contributions with a focus on the theoretical and discursive operations of both concepts, and on their relevance for the understanding of concrete historical or contemporary situations. The aim is (1) to consider format and dispositif with regard to their respective criticizing and legitimizing function within Western discourses of a global history of art and media, and (2) to examine artistic and non-artistic practices in which these problems and discourses materialize. Analyzing moving image formats and dispositifs should help to address the enforced exclusions and inclusions within processes of global networking, cooperation and communication. In addition to tracing the theoretical lineages and trajectories of these concepts as well as mapping their entanglements and confusions, the focus will be on specific case studies, considering particularly the practices that organize forms of knowledge and participation in moving image production and circulation, whether analogue or digital (e.g. substandard gauges in the context of decolonial art, media education, development aid, migration policy, etc.). Expanding on previous research, the symposium invites young researchers together with internationally renowned scholars in this field.

The symposium is jointly organized by Prof. Dr. Fabienne Liptay (UZH) and Prof. Dr. Benoît Turquety (UNIL). It is part of the interuniversity doctoral program “Visual Dispositives: Film, Photography, and Other Media” (UZH & UNIL) and the SNSF project “Exhibiting Film: Challenges of Format”. It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Graduate School of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UZH. Conference languages are English, French and German.


8 June, 2022

6.00 pm Evening talk and discussion
Siegfried Zielinski: "becoming disposable. towards an open & operational concept of media"

7.30/8.00 pm Apéro riche on the terrasse of schwarzescafé

Following the lecture, we cordially invite to an aperitif riche on the summer terrace of the schwarzescafé at Luma Westbau, where a new film work by Deborah-Joyce Holman will be exhibited in a specially conceived installation as part of the Zurich Art Weekend.

Lecture by Siegfried Zielinski, "becoming disposable: towards an open & operational concept of media", 8 June, 2022, schwarzescafé / Luma Westbau, Zurich, Video: Luca Marano, 2022

9 June, 2022

9.00 am Welcome

9.15 am Introduction
9.30 am Birte Kleine-Benne and Marcus Held: “Was theoretische Begriffe in Gang setzen!“
10.00 am Discussion (Moderation: Fabienne Liptay)

10.15 am Coffee break

10.30 am Axel Volmar: “Dispositif and Format as Means of Distributed Cooperation”
11.00 am Benoît Turquety: “Formats as Spatial Planning: Gilbert Simondon and the Decentralization of Media”
11.30 am Discussion (Moderation: Tobias Schönrock)

12.00 am Lunch break

1.30 pm Dalida María Benfield: “The Montage of Complex Unity: Dissonant Dialectics from the Ashes of Modernity”
2.00 pm Fabienne Liptay: "Is format theory global?"
2.30 pm Discussion (Moderation: Congle Fu)

3.00 pm Coffee break

3.30 pm Stéphane Tralongo: “Disturbing Juxtapositions: The Introduction of the Tape Recorder as a Fieldwork Tool in Swiss Expeditions”
4.00 pm Haidee Wasson: “The Sounds of Small Cinema: Mapping the Audio-Visual Dynamics of Little Film Formats”
4.30 pm Discussion (Moderation: Isabel Krek)

5.00 pm Coffee break

5.30 pm Jonathan Sterne: “When A Format (Almost) Becomes an Instrument: Provincializing Eurorack”
6.30 pm Discussion (Moderation: Daniel Wiegand)

10 June, 2022

9.00 am Maria Tortajada: “Inside a Frame: How dispositive is dealing with format
9.30 am Discussion (Moderation: Fabienne Liptay)

9.45 am Coffee break

10.00 am Michael Wagnières: “La rectangularisation passagère du format de l’image dans le jeu video comme stratégie ‘transcinématographique‘“
10.30 am Philipp Blum: “Jenseits des Medialen (?): Filmische Naturbeschreibungen zwischen Wahrnehmungsdispositiv und toxonomischem Format“
11.00 am Tobias Schönrock: “Frühe deutsche Tonfilme und ihr “Originalformat” in der Filmrestaurierung
11.30 am Discussion (Moderation: Stéphane Tralongo)

12.00 pm Lunch break

1.30 pm Volker Pantenburg: “From INCA to Mediateca Onshore: (Re-)Inventing formats and dispositifs for Guinea Bissau’s media history”
2.00 pm Miriam De Rosa: “For a poetics of conjunction: Artistic moving images in the age of media configuration”
2.30 pm Discussion (Moderation: Benoît Turquety)

3.00 pm Coffee break

3.30 pm Congle Fu: “Performative Encounter: Reflections on Projection in Art Exhibition“
4.00 pm Isabel Krek: “The Lamphouse as a Dispositive: Arrays of Lighting Technologies in Film Projectors from the 1920s”
4.30 pm Carla Gabrí: “Crisscrossing Off-Centers: Die Wäscheleine als peripheres Ausstellungsdispositiv in Roberta Cantows 16mm-Film Clotheslines (1981)”
5.00 pm Discussion (Moderation: Babylonia Constantinides)

5.30 pm Coffee break

6.00 pm Frank Kessler: “Prospects for a History of Media Dispositifs”
6.30 pm Discussion (Moderation: Maral Mohsenin)



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Foto: Franz Wanner