Fashion Media Cover Image

Fashion Media

Past and Present


Djurdja Bartlett, Shaun Cole and Agnès Rocamora (eds)

Berg Fashion Library

The Fashion Film Effect

Marketa Uhlirova

Book chapter

DOI: 10.5040/
Pages: 118–130

The ‘digital age’ has brought about considerable shifts in how fashion today is produced, represented, consumed and experienced and, consequently, in our understanding of its very culture. One important form to crystallize amidst these transformations is the fashion film. While the practice of showing fashion through the moving image (and sound) is hardly new, the phenomenon of the fashion film as a widespread form driven and controlled by the fashion industry has only gained momentum in the last decade. Just as twentieth-century fashion lent itself to powerful mediation by photography and the fashion show, twenty-first-century brands now keenly embrace fashion film’s reaestheticizations. So much so that the fashion journalist Suzy Menkes (2010: 15) recently declared that ‘movies have become the hottest new fashion accessory … for the YouTube generation’. At first glance, ‘accessory’ seems a fitting way to put it—unlike photography, film is not quite vital to the system, and it remains to be seen if it ever will be. Film is unlikely to challenge photography’s dominant position as the most convenient visual mode of representation/communication across the fashion media. Yet, together with email, websites, e-commerce, social media, blogging, live streaming and other dynamic forms of digital communication and exchange, the fashion film has already reshaped the industry in more than one way, and this transition is still very much ongoing. The moving image has proven to be an enticing alternative to other forms of (re)presentation because it has a capacity to open fashion to a performative dimension with a different kind of sensorial and experiential complexity. The fashion film is so ubiquitous and seemingly indispensable today that one imagines the cultural critic Roland Barthes would have to incorporate it into The Fashion System (1967). He could hardly afford to ignore ‘moving image clothing’ as an additional signifying structure, distinct from ‘real clothing’, ‘written clothing’ and (static) ‘image-clothing’. Fashion film’s recent proliferation on the Internet and beyond has demanded that we seriously rethink what role the moving image can play within fashion, and it has, arguably, also reinvigorated a critical interest in the historical impact of cinema on the fashion industry (and vice versa).

In an attempt to better understand this fashion film phenomenon, it is perhaps unavoidable to first ask about its legitimacy as a genre and how such a category might be conceptualized in what is a rather chaotic field. Elsewhere I have outlined a brief, introductory history of the fashion film as a kind of cinema, linked to the fashion industry, that during the course of the twentieth-century evolved in many different modes and eventually exploded with the development of digital technologies. Such a history is to act as a reminder that the rhetoric of newness that often accompanies the contemporary fashion film is not always justified. In that spirit, I have also suggested some ways of framing the fashion film in a broader sense, within intermedial practices and discourses of fashion, cinema, art and the new media ([1] Because the fashion film has asserted that movement and rhythm are among the key instruments of imaging contemporary fashion, it may be particularly illuminating to compare its aesthetic strategies with those of some subgenres in early cinema which, over 100 years ago, first foregrounded the performance and the experience of costume in motion.

I would argue that as an institutionalized cultural form, the fashion film had a curiously delayed emergence. Although it had existed in different guises throughout the twentieth century—the very label ‘fashion film’ was already used in connection with Pathé newsreels in 1911 (The Bioscope, quoted in Leese 1976: 9)—it finally achieved a ‘cultural fit’ and widespread adoption by the fashion industry in the 2000s. Thus my focus here on the fashion film in the 2000s is not arbitrary. To frame the phenomenon this way proposes to understand it, firstly, as a form that is generated and quintessentially owned by the fashion industry—fulfilling almost exclusively its creative and business needs—and, secondly, as a form that should be situated within the context of the digital technologies with which it has largely been produced and disseminated. This means acknowledging that rather than the origination and development of a form, it is the process of its solidification within certain conditions of its diffusion that amounts to a transformative cultural and social force. The electronic and, increasingly, digital technologies effected crucial changes in the practices of exhibiting and accessing film material, dispersing fashion-as-moving-image in multiple contexts, from the common practice of recording fashion shows for documentation, to television, fashion retail, exhibitions and events. But it was the growing accessibility of the Internet, combined with its increasing capacity to store and play audiovisual content, that made the fashion film finally enter the public consciousness as a distinct category of both the fashion image and the moving image. Key to this change was the placement of the fashion film in various ‘online archives’ (be they participatory or curated) that can be freely accessed at any time. Arguably the first and most important such online platform has been Nick Knight and Peter Saville’s SHOWstudio, which has since 2000 produced and diffused the fashion film globally, exploring aesthetic possibilities and establishing conventions of this Internet ‘genre’. The fashion film, then, has come into its own at a time when the very technologies and the spectatorial experience of the filmic and the cinematic were being transformed by the technologies and viewing/user modes of the electronic and especially the digital—a time that Steven Shaviro has characterized as ‘witnessing the emergence of a different media regime’ (2010: 2).

The Fashion Film As A Genre?

As a heterogeneous cultural form with no clearly predefined stylistic criteria or conventions, the fashion film eludes any attempt at a neat classification as a genre. Formally, fashion films have relied on a range of filmmaking techniques, from stop-motion and computer animation to variously processed live-action footage and combinations thereof; they have borrowed—and often combined—conventions of other genres and modes of production, including music video, avant-garde and experimental cinema, video art, documentary film, dance film and commercial; they have ranged from non-narrative to those that have a (usually basic) narrative scaffolding; they have included a whole spectrum of approaches from mimetic representation to its simulation to abstraction. They have varied from big-budget to virtually no-budget productions, from commissions by brands to individual, free-floating pieces; they have been made by individuals as well as teams of experienced fashion image-makers, filmmakers, animators and postproduction specialists. Fashion films have been circulated through a wide range of spaces, real and virtual, most prominently on websites but also in fashion show tents, cinemas, museums, galleries and retail environments. Exploratory and visual effects–driven films have coexisted alongside films that adopt more standard journalistic formats—interviews and profiles, reportage on the catwalk, backstage, beauty and the red carpet—which are now integral to online fashion and lifestyle magazines such as, or T Magazine. All these types of the fashion moving image—prolific, diverse, multifunctional and unregulated as they are—attest to the great multiplication and diversification of the moving image in the ‘digital age’. But are they all ‘fashion films’?

Perhaps characteristically for a form that didn’t develop in any programmatic way—one that wasn’t spoken for by a single collective—the fashion film and the debate about it are surrounded by a certain messiness, with a staggering plurality of views as to what exactly constitutes it. The more secure its place is within the fashion industry (that, for one, is hard to argue with), the more question marks seem to hover over its definition and its place within the histories of cinema and the new media. Given that the majority of fashion films are shot, produced and circulated digitally, can we still consider the fashion film as part of the cinema tradition? As the new media theorist Lev Manovich (2001: 302–3) Notes, digitally produced cinema is in its essence painterly, graphic and artificial. It is aesthetically based on special effects (which, as in animation, are largely manually constructed and manipulated) rather than the indexical, photographic ‘reality-effect’ of cinema proper. Is the fashion film, then, a form of digital (or electronic) cinema, with its new aesthetic derived not only from the possibilities of the electronic image but also from the new viewing experiences of the contemporary moving image culture? Or is it premature to overemphasize the departure of the digital from the (analogue) cinematic, to see it as a rupture with the old rather than its transformation and continuation, especially as the two are still profoundly intertwined and hybridized?

Somewhat predictably, there are also the familiar art-and-commerce disagreements: does the fashion film have artistic merits or is it just a new kind of (formulaic) advertising? Has it developed film/computer language towards new aesthetic or social possibilities, or is it for the most part fulfilling the precoded functions of the ‘apparatus(es)’?[2] The proximity of the fashion film to advertising is particularly hard to unpack given that the category of the fashion film seems to be seamlessly applied to more direct kinds of advertising and, at the same time, to work that is demonstrably more invested in authorial expression than in generating promotional benefits for products or brands. The fashion film doesn’t always blatantly implicate the viewer as consumer and has, generally, a greater degree of autonomy from the fashions it displays or conNotes, as it is less concerned with social and psychological processes of identification, persuasion and reassurance than is the case in more conventional advertising. And therein precisely lies its appeal for brands who are certainly not blind to the new marketing trends that eschew conventional advertising in favour of a more authentic experience. The fashion film thus sits somewhere on the margins of conventional advertising, and where it is a promotion, it remains less direct and less governed—perfectly in tune with an increasingly media-savvy spectator/user who is in control of what to view and how. One thing is certain: the fashion film enters a value system where it is considered on its own terms, while, in an inverted logic, it becomes a commodity to be consumed in its own right.[3]

Failing to establish a clear corpus of the fashion film by such criteria as formal and physical properties, mode of production and effect, could we classify it by its most obvious property—its subject matter? Even that is not so simple. Through numerous interviews conducted with fashion image-makers and commentators including Diane Pernet, Adam Mufti, Kathryn Ferguson and Hywel Davies, the journalist [4]

Such practice of subordinating and even completely abandoning the fashion subject is certainly nothing new, as it already became standard in fashion photography in the previous decades.[5] When Barthes wrote about fashion photography in the 1960s, he argued it was a distinct genre possessing its own unique lexicon and syntax (1983). By the late 1980s, however, this view became increasingly difficult to sustain, for fashion photography had become highly hybridized—‘dirtied’ with a growing stock of ‘alien’ photographic genres and styles. Two major exhibitions which commented on this tendency within contemporary fashion photography, Chic Clicks (ICA Boston, 24 January–5 May 2002) and Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990 (MoMA, 16 April–28 June 2004) made the same point: in the 1990s, fashion photography no longer strove to fulfil its ‘principal’ task to illustrate the proper subject of fashion, the ‘theater of clothing’ (Lipovetsky 2002: T10). Instead, the photographers’ self-expression and exploration came to be valued more highly, especially by the more progressive fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Purple, i-D, Self-service and Dutch. This shift, it was argued, made fashion photography come closer to the contemporary lived reality (Lipovetsky 2002; Kismaric and Respini 2004) while also becoming more and more art-like (Lehmann 2002; Kismaric and Respini 2004)—hence (it was implied) its rightful place in fine art establishments.

Like fashion photography, the fashion film appears to be something of an ubergenre, an umbrella term that accommodates, and breaks down the boundaries of, a great variety of existing genres. Such openness of parameters and a genuine sense of exploration of possibilities are also actively encouraged by the various platforms that commission and exhibit it, keen as they are to emphasize the value of artistic originality. At the same time, the fashion film is, inevitably, undergoing a process of acceptance and institutionalization—of ‘stabili[sing] its own ways of being and doing’—while also becoming a ‘social institution’ as ‘a coordinated complex of objects, behaviours and expectations’ (Cassetti 2009: 59). This kind of self-management and self-regulation of the fashion film has been especially apparent since its entering the ‘mainstream’ between 2008 and 2010, with fashion journalists and big brands becoming increasingly important agents to coshape the field and the discourse. If we accept the fashion film as a genre, we have to accept a notion of a genre not as a static set of stylistic or material commonalities but as an ever-evolving historically bound category which is fluid and at times even self-contradictory. Arguably, the fashion film is most coherently bound by its belonging to the fashion industry and by its (multiple) functioning within it. Ultimately, however, the methodological question remains of how inclusive or exclusive the fashion film as a genre should be. If it is limited to the more exploratory production led by visual effects, as I am inclined to apply it, we may learn something about its aesthetic strategies—but how are we to think of what is left behind? If, conversely, it includes all the journalistic formats that are being produced, leaving only fashion as a common turf, just how useful can the category be to any understanding and interpretation of it?

The Fashion Film Effect

Since so many fashion filmmakers have a background in the fashion industry, and so have cultivated specialist knowledge and an appreciation of clothing and accessories, it is hardly surprising that they are largely motivated by the desire to demonstrate how these are made, to show the complexities of their detail and functionality. As Nick Knight noted about one of his first films, Sweet, he wanted to

show how much effort, and even pain, goes into making a single dress. I wanted each garment to seem precious, like an art form … I’m well aware of the fact that fashion is ultimately disposable—but I’m lucky enough to be able to work with people who prove there’s more to it than that. (quoted in Frankel 2000)

Similarly, Ruth Hogben said of her 2009 collaboration with Gareth Pugh (Figure 10.1):

You’ve got to try and … mak[e] sure people can see the clothes. The clothes are just as important as the [filmmaker’s] concept; everybody has to see what the clothes are, what they’re made out of and how they move. (quoted in Ferguson and Bradley 2009)

Figure 10.1

Frame enlargements from Gareth Pugh, autumn/winter 2009. © Ruth Hogben / Art + Commerce

In a didactic sense, then, film can direct attention, show a multiplicity of angles, illustrate a way of folding or magnify detail. Crucially, it can also re-present clothing as a living organism. As Hogben observed:

[Pugh’s] clothes are not about one simple movement (walking up and down the runway). As you saw in the film, the big coat changes form and becomes a kind of ladybird. I think it was really exciting for him to be able to see in more than one way. (quoted in Ferguson and Bradley 2009)

But such notions of film as a moving study or illustration of fashion are only part of the story. Equally important is film’s capacity to extend the properties of physical garments into new mental spaces where experimental effects of impressionistic and poetic cinema play a significant role—as do the qualities of sound and rhythm. And for this, the predisposition of digital cinema as a painterly medium is ideal. Hogben’s own work transforms live footage of dressed bodies in motion into multilayered imagery, synchronizing visual rhythms with musical ones. Such an approach characterizes the fashion film as a simultaneous exploration of the properties of cinema and fashion. Film transports the sartorial into a persuasive illusory world that has the dual effect of offering new knowledge and defamiliarizing. Film furnishes different experiences and at the same time poses different spectatorial demands. As it moves, it also moves the spectator.

The fashion film’s emphasis on the display of clothing in motion echoes that of early cinema’s serpentine dance and the trick film of the late 1890s and early 1900s. It was the serpentine dance in particular, as filmed at Edison Manufacturing Company, Gaumont, Pathé-Frères, American Mutoscope and Biograph and other companies, that most prominently centred on costume as a fitting physical manifestation of motion and time ([6] A distinct subgenre of ‘dance subjects’, it capitalized on the international stage successes of the American dancer Loïe Fuller, mechanically reproducing the swirling and undulating movements of many of her imitators (that included Annabelle Whitford Moore, Crissie Sheridan, Teresina Negri and Bob Walter). In these short films, costume became a visualization of continuity—it presented itself in a permanent state of flux, with shapes rhythmically appearing and disappearing, momentarily ‘solidifying’ into flowers, waves, whirls or flames (Figure 10.2). Fuller herself had emphasized the constant metamorphosis of forms with the use of coloured lights and other stage effects, and similarly, the serpentine films were typically enhanced by colours, applied by hand or, later, stencilling.

Following Fuller, cinema embraced costume as a device that can mesmerize and hypnotize the spectator, a dramatic and radiant entity with a potential for engendering multiple forms and optical effects. Cinema proved that it could mimic, more or less successfully, the spectatorial pleasure of Fuller’s distinct choreography of effervescent, ever-evolving form. Costume, movement and time appeared to form an indivisible unity in the serpentine dance, and through the protean veils of the earliest films, cinema already anticipated its capacity to not only record (register) but also generate imagery. This interest in costume as a site of instability and constant transformation continued in Georges Méliès’s and Pathé’s trick films and ‘féeries’[7] such as The Wonderful Living Fan (Le Merveilleux éventail vivant, Méliès, 1904), Rajah’s Casket (L’Ecrin du rajah, Gaston Velle, 1906) and Transformation (Métempsycose, Segundo de Chomón, 1907), where the physical movement of the serpentine dance gives way to the ‘magical’ movement of substitution though editing. Méliès, and Pathé filmmakers after him, conceptualizated the film camera as a pleasure-loving eye

Figure 10.2

Frame enlargements from Annabelle Whiteford Moore’s serpentine dance dir. William Heise/W.K.L. Dickson for Edison Manufacturing Company, c. 1895. Courtesy Archives françaises du film / CNC

that lavishes on the spectacular metamorphoses of material splendour, and once again, it is the costume that typically becomes the principal variable, mutating into multiple incarnations before the viewer’s eyes.

Much like the fashion film, early cinema did not allow for elaborate narrative development (although narrative certainly was not completely excluded) and instead strategically focussed on display. André Gaudreault and Tom Gunning have called this tendency ‘the cinema of attractions’ and argued it was ruled by an impulse to make visible, to exhibit (Gaudreault and Gunning 1986). Although the term cinema of attractions described the early period of cinema (until c. 1906–7), Gunning (1990: 60–1) soon allowed for its wider applications, naming, among others, avant-garde and experimental film. Over the last two decades, film scholars have applied Gaudreault’s and Gunning’s influential theorization to examine a range of non-narrative film as well as non-narrative sequences within narrative film. Among others, the model of attractions has also recently been used to interpret fashion-related films such as newsreels and fashion sequences in fiction films (Hanssen 2009; Evans 2011). The contemporary fashion film too can be situated within this theoretical delineation as it clearly privileges a cumulative display of tableaux and effects (usually accompanied by asynchronous sound) over linear narrative with diegetic sound.

Although there are many affinities between the fashion film and early cinema worth examining, it is the problem of costume in movement and its relation to stasis that I want to emphasize here. There is a striking similarity in how both early cinema and the fashion film emerged out of an impulse to animate a world that was for the most part mediated through static imagery (although in both cases this was already anticipated by existing practices within visual culture). Indeed, some of the early SHOWstudio productions mine the aesthetic of what Penny Martin calls ‘moving stills’ (2009: 55). Films such as SHOWstudio’s Shelly Fox 14, Nick Knight’s 2002 Warhol tribute More Beautiful Women, Nigel Bennett’s 2004 Martin Margiela AW 2004 and Jean-François Carly’s 2005 I Feel engineer, very much from the photographer’s viewpoint, a dialogue between photographic immobility and cinematic movement and time.[8] Tellingly, early cinema was often referred to as ‘animated photographs’ or ‘animated pictures’, a fact that betrays early film culture’s reluctance to dissociate its new mode of representation from the old ones based on stillness. This early terminology reveals an understanding of cinematic movement as mechanically reconstructed from static images, not as the seamless illusion of continuity its effect produced. Fluid movement was not seen as cinema’s ontological essence but, rather, a surplus value added to pictures, especially photographs. Yet, fluidity of movement was precisely what early film practices and discourses were fascinated with. Following the many protocinematic devices (zoetrope, praxinoscope, the magic lantern and so forth), early cinema called attention to the illusion of movement—this time more seamless than ever—and its dizzying potential to surprise and amuse spectators. As cinema emerged into the late nineteenth-century culture of popular attractions (originally considered, as it was, among subjects of popular scientific amusement), the notion of animated photographs also evoked the awe-inspiring miracle of the inanimate coming to life that cinema audiences experienced.[9] Through movement and time, film undeniably foregrounds the quality of presence (although, admittedly, this presence can be theorized from several perspectives). As Roland Barthes (1978: 45) and Christian Metz after him (1974: 5–8) have noted, the ‘having-been-there’ of a photograph gives way to the ‘being there of the thing’ in film or, as Vivian Sobchack (2009: 73) has it, the moment of the photograph is replaced with the momentum of film. And because of the impossibility of fixing and owning film as a discreet, portable image/object, it also makes it less prone than a photograph to being had, to becoming fetishized (Metz 1985).

There is, of course, a fundamental difference between how early cinema strategically approached dress in movement and how the contemporary fashion film does. While early cinema mobilized costume (through dance or tricks, for example) in order to show what the moving image can do, the fashion industry has utilized movement (including that of the camera, editing or effects) in order to show what clothing can do. Yet, beyond this difference, both produce a similar result, what I call the fashion film effect, in that they present clothing as an elastic, polymorphous and unstable entity. No longer possessing a fixed form, the physical fashion object becomes less of an objective certainty. Its potential to be endlessly reconstituted in space and time imbue it with new defining values of visuality and transitionality. Both early cinema and the fashion film also accentuate the surface, the skin of the screen, on which the kinetic and spectacular images ‘parade’ and accumulate. This is where images of fashion are pushed towards the spectator, their fashion-filmic materiality and texture magnified in their capricious fluidity. Fashion on the screen produces a unique, emotionally charged overlapping (layering) of two materials, the sartorial and the cinematic, what Giuliana Bruno (2011: 95) has called ‘the fashioning and wearing of the image’ or, to extend the Deleuzian concept (1983), a kind of fashion-image-movement.

But for this materiality of the surface to reach its tactile and emotional potential, for it to assert its presence so as to touch the spectator, the experience of the electronic/digital screen is more limiting when compared to the projection-based cinema experience (analogue or digital). And since the performative aspect of projection/display is such a vital part of cinema, the transition from cinematic to electronic is as critical with regard to the shifts in the spectator’s experience as it is with regard to the shifts in the aesthetic of the film object itself. It is principally a question of two aspects of the viewing experience that have profoundly changed both the object and the spectatorial habits and expectations: firstly, the inferior image quality on the electronic screen that, even at its best, compromises image resolution and depth of colour and, secondly, the fragmentary viewing modes enabled by cable television, video and the Internet. The electronic and the digital have generated a new regime in which the spectator becomes a spectator-user, exercising a greater-than-ever control over film viewing while at the same time facing a greater degree of acceleration and distraction. Importantly, this is also a regime which violates the notion of ‘cinematic time’ that characterizes traditional film viewing. Nathalie Khan has recently drawn on Lev Manovich’s concept of a ‘permanent presence’ to describe the floating existence of fashion films online, ‘[un]restricted by time or space in which the image[s are] shown’ ([10]

The omnipresence and saturation of the moving image in electronic media has not always been interpreted as a positive force. Already in the mid-1990s, Suzy Menkes (1995: 47) observed that the recent ‘fashion’s TV [and video] frenzy’ (one that she put down to cable television especially) made fashion seem faster and more disposable than ever. She also noted that designers were now ‘play[ing] to the cameras’, privileging theatrical effect and entertainment over the ‘real thing’—the clothing itself. The film theorist [11] Locating the electronic image (and the electronic experience) within the postmodernist framework, she has argued that space ‘become[s] abstract, ungrounded, and flat—a site for play and display rather than an invested situation in which action “counts”’ (Sobchack 2009: 79–81).

This would suggest that, evocative and thrilling as it may be, the fashion film cannot really matter to us in the same way in the virtual electronic landscape of our computer screens as it can in the cinema, that it cannot be as fully absorbing or feel as physical. In some ways, the not-so-precious digital experience of the fashion film echoes the nonimmersive spectatorship of the cinema of attractions where visual pleasure was not (yet) locked into coherent fantasy worlds (that came to be emphasized by the narrative mode but also the cinema as a particular kind of space), worlds that would unleash the psychic mechanisms of desire and identification. The contemporary fashion film, too, is part of a distracted milieu in which we, as the viewers/users, are exposed to an abundance of appealing imagery that fight for our attention while being easily ruptured and even cancelled out by each other. Postmodern critics such as Sobchack are probably right in implying that this milieu produces short-lived audiovisual intensities whose experiences are equally short-lived. Whether we take a dismal view or not, the fashion film (somewhat like the music video) is undeniably symptomatic of our contemporary moving image landscape, the (new) media regime that raises some pressing questions about just how it might coshape twenty-first-century culture.


Some of the ideas that I develop in this chapter stem from a conversation between Caroline Evans, Penny Martin and myself in 2009 about the inherent similarities between the contemporary fashion film and the early cinema of attraction. I would like to thank both for their comments on this text.


[1] Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry and other film theorists have considered cinema in terms of what unique effects it produces, or what it does as a medium, beyond its ‘reality-effect’. More recently, Sean Cubitt has in his ambitious study The Cinema Effect (2005) posed this question anew, with regard to the entire history of cinema, including digital cinema.

[2] From early on, Manovich (2001) has shown how computer software programmes and packages cleverly embed avant-garde aesthetic strategies in their menus and commands.

[3] In The System of Objects, the cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard has already made this point about advertising. He was concerned with its ‘dual status as a discourse on an object and as an object in its own right’ and its dual function as imperative and indicative (2005: 180). Following Barthes, he Notes that advertising is not merely functional but also creates an extra universe of ‘pure connotation’ (Baudrillard 2005: 178–9), which in itself becomes the object to be consumed.

[4] One might, of course, ask what exactly are the fashion markers in most conventional perfume commercials, given perfume and smell are such abstract entities. The bottle itself? Images of glamour, beauty, desire, sex? The Comme des Garçons film seems to be a rare example of a perfume commercial that attempts to illustrate an essence of the thing rather than a promise it makes.

[5] This is also true for other imagery produced and commissioned within the fashion industry. Comme des Garçons’ own ad campaigns or their Six magazine from between 1988 and 1991 are good examples.

[6] The term serpentine dance is used here as a common denominator for a number of specific choreographies based on a similar principle, including the butterfly, fire, lily, lotus and scarf dance.

[7] The cinematic féerie (fairy play) developed from the stage féerie, a genre that was especially popular in France during the nineteenth century, with an equivalent in the English pantomime. The féeries dealt with fantastical and supernatural subjects and were especially distinctive for their spectacular displays and magical transformations, with great emphasis on production values, including costumes. For more on early film costume as a cinematic spectacle and the aesthetic of opulence, see Uhlirova 2011.

[8] In her recent article on the digital fashion film, Nathalie Khan (2012) too considers the contemporary fashion film as transitional between stillness and movement; she also believes that the contemporary fashion film must be understood vis-à-vis the fashion photograph. I would like to thank her for sharing her article with me prior to publication and comparing Notes.

[9] The act of coming-to-life was in fact thematized in early cinema, most notably by Méliès who had paintings and objects routinely transform into living, breathing creatures. Also see Barthes 1981 and Metz 1985 on the conceptualization of the photograph as death-like and the cinema as life-like.

[10] In Benjamin’s account, film was precisely one of the prevalent modern media of mass reproduction associated with the loss of the aura. See especially his critique of the ‘ultraconservative’ notions of film as being in any way sacred or supernatural (Benjamin 1999: 221). Yet, Benjamin was largely concerned with the absence of the real that film—itself a copy—can only represent; he couldn’t see the cinephile point of view that film stock, despite its status as copy, may have intrinsic artefact value attached to it, that cinema viewing, as experience, may be the authentic reality, and that the film image may acquire an auratic presence of sorts as it travels in real time from a projector to a screen.

[11] Sobchack (2009) puts special emphasis on the network’s character as flimsy and insubstantial, as opposed to being a grounded and physical presence. Drawing on Fredric Jameson (1984), she sees electronic space as affect-free, as both disorienting and liberating of centred subjectivity—what Jameson described as a peculiar kind of euphoria.


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