About | Visualizations of the invisible

In the project „Visualizations of the invisible” visualizations are understood as forms of image production beyond the professional/official image circulation, realized through amateur media practices. The project is dedicated not only to the particular practice of state-financed amateur film clubs during the times of Polish People’s Republic (1944-1989), but also to their history: Beginning in 1953 with the first established club until social system change in 1989.

Amateur film clubs in Poland formed a kind of socio-cultural niche for participants who dared to undertake aesthetical and thematic experiments that would have been inconceivable in the official, highly funded and state-controlled cinematography. These experiments related especially to visualizations of publicly repressed sexuality and marginalized minorities such as the officially not forbidden, yet tabooed homosexuality, but likewise political issues or formal experiments.

The survey of amateur’s visualizations is intended to show, how what has been concealed by culture-specific techniques and societal power relations, i.e. what was tabooed and excluded within state socialism, were set into in the picture and made visible.

The project for one thing aims for determination and analysis of the visualizations and secondly, for the media practices that have produced them. Methodically, it combines the media-archeological and micro-historical approach with the visual culture’s perspective on amateur film practice in Poland. Using pictorial-scientific approaches to combine image analyzes with questions of image production, the complexity of medial representations is interpreted by a triad of visualization (practice), actors (social networks) and results (visualizations/productions of visibilities).

Not only the contents and forms of amateur films are to be examined, but also the cultural and social processes of their production, distribution and reception in relation to local and translocal conditions, media upheavals and socio-political changes. In order to understand the various image and media practices, significant amateur films are examined in their context, while at the same time the action logics of the film amateurs and their media practice are reconstructed in interviews and extensive archive work. The research project will be used to examine the cultural practices of amateur film in Poland and to establish its media- archaeological and technical-historical conditioning.

In the course of this, its relationship to professional or artistic production and its transnational involvement with other amateur film cultures will be defined. The aim of these contextualizations is to sharpen the perception of the political, social and media conditions under which the amateurs acted and developed their visualizations.

The interdisciplinary project sees itself as a contribution to the media archaeology of amateur film in Poland and to the visual culture of the modernity. It is located at the Chair for Media History and Visual Culture at the University of Siegen and funded by the German Research Foundation from 2020 to 2023.

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