Durations of Knowing: Towards Attentive Anthropological Filmmaking

Mikhail Lylov, Elke Marhöfer

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 10, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: in words
practice: image
keywords: anthropology, film, Henri Bergson, multiplicity, Roger Caillois

abstract video about the author(s)


To elaborate a critique on the affiliation between anthropological filmmaking and the colonial projects of the West, we attempt to shift the attention from the conditions of representation to the questioning of the role representation plays in the techniques of power and domination. Our contribution will try to provide some examples that allow representation to be moved to a secondary position of importance and that highlight nonrepresentational features of film practice that still allow for a critical perspective.

Anthropological film and image production can be characterised (1) as a practice of perceiving and recording visible forms of doing and (2) as being in a direct relationship to knowledge on both sides of a recording device. One might say that such films are knowledge records. One of the general characteristics of film is duration; thus, anthropological films might be said to present durational knowledge. Our contribution will discuss the relationship between film practice and practices of understanding and comprehension as determined by two qualities: duration and attention.

Contrary to identifying the practices of understanding as constructing an immediate concept of a real temporal event, we will attempt to outline some characteristics of durational knowledge. We will rely on the concept of duration as a qualitative multiplicity elaborated by Bergson and Deleuze. According to them, multiplicity is heterogeneous and continuous, inexpressible in a unified manner. What is most important about knowledge as multiplicity is that it does not resemble the result of its implementation, and what is most important about film as a multiplicity is that it does not resemble what was filmed. For Deleuze, conditioned practices are empirical and individuated while the condition of this individuation will be different from the former, and thus impersonal and pre-individual. This allows us to say that knowledge and film practices are not representations of reality, rather they are a differential element of the reality without identity, they are virtualities.

While singling out virtualities, anthropological film also follows corporeal events. It attends a situation, a thing, or a subject. Attention is an event of following and of creation of relation, meaning that one pays attention to the others’ attention. Relations of attention are intensive, so they can hardly be accumulated and measured, but they can be described by their degree of power. We will present these two notions based on our own film work and compare them with the speculative use of images by French sociologist of science Roger Caillois.

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about the author(s)

Mikhail Lylov

Mikhail Lylov is an independent artist and curator who lives in Berlin. His practice includes films, installations, performances, and writings. The works establish and discuss situations in which economic and knowledge models are questioned, renegotiated, or rendered useless. Lylov’s work investigates a genealogy of the divide between mental and material in different contexts, especially in labour and anthropology. He looks for situations in which concepts become sensually available forms and knowledge turns into a matter of perception. Lylov’s projects have been supported by “Le Pavillon” programme at Palais De Tokyo, Paris, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, the BFI (British Film Institute, London), Berlinale—Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Courtisane Festival, Ghent, and Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

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Independent artist and curator, Berlin, DE

Elke Marhöfer

Elke Marhöfer is an artist living in Berlin. Via moving images and suppositious writing, Marhöfer works with notions of self-admitted foreignness and radical othering. She collaborates with dear friends and things and revises notions of animal, vegetable, and object relations. Marhöfer studied at the University of the Arts Berlin, the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York, and is enrolled on a practice-based PhD at the University of Gothenburg. She received fellowships from IASPIS Residency, Sweden, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, and Cité des Arts Paris. Her films have been screened at the British Film Institute, London, Berlinale—Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin, International Film Festival, Rotterdam, Courtisane Festival, Ghent, Cinematek Brussels, Images Festival, Toronto, and the Showroom, London. Her art exhibitions include at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, FCAC Shanghai, Manufactura’s Studio, Wuhan, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and NGBK, Berlin.

info & contact


Independent artist, Berlin, DE