KONF: Forgetting the Scissors. Histories of Cutting and Other Discontinuous Practices, Basel (26.-27.02.2020)

Philipp Ekardt's picture

Basel, 26.-27.02.2020




from analog past to digital present


Feb 26/27 2020

Conference at eikones: Center for the Theory and History of the Image, Universität Basel

eikones Forum, Rheinsprung 11, 4051 Basel

(please scroll down for concept)


WED 26

14.00h – Welcome: Ralph Ubl (Universität Basel/eikones)

Introduction: Philipp Ekardt (Universität Basel/eikones)


Chair: Nancy Thebaut (Universität Basel/eikones)

14.30h – Catriona MacLeod (University of Chicago): Remembering the Scissors. Cutting Matters in the 19th Century.

15.30h – Malika Maskarinec (Universität Basel/eikones): The Truth of the Scissors. Berlin Alexanderplatz and its Legacy.

16.30h – Coffee

17.00h – Tessa Paneth-Pollak (Michigan State University): Bordered Organisms: Hans Arp’s wood reliefs and other modernist cut-outs.

18.00h – Apero



09.30h – Coffee


Chair: Simon Vagts (Universität Basel)

10.00h – Gertrud Koch (Brown University/Freie Universität Berlin): Warten auf den Schnitt - Zur Ästhetik der langen Einstellung.

11.00h – Philipp Ekardt (Universität Basel/eikones): Cutting a “Rock”, Skirting a Film. Digital Production and Analog Prehistory in an Étude by Tom Tykwer and a Project by Alexander Kluge.

12.00h – Lunchbreak


Chair: Hannes Bajohr (Universität Basel)    

14.00h – Florian Cramer (Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam): Cut-and-paste in zine making, and its mutations from 1930 to 2020.

15.00h – Coffee

16.00h – Markus Krajewski (Universität Basel): Batch Processing. Textual composition, digital/analogue.

17.00h – Leif Weatherby (New York University): Is the Digital a Medium?

18.00h – END


The event is sponsored by eikones, the NOMIS Foundation and the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft Basel. Concept and organization: Philipp Ekardt, NOMIS Fellow, philipp.ekardt@unibas.ch



Forgetting the Scissors – Recalibrating the Tools of Incision:


In 1926 Sergei Eisenstein famously faulted film critic and theorist Béla Balázs by contending “Béla forgets the scissors“. In these words the Soviet film director reproached his contemporary with basing his account of cinema solely on the unit of the shot, at the expense of the very category that formed the fundament of Eisenstein’s practice, and a constituent element of nearly all of cinema counterbalancing the recording powers of the camera: the cut.


What at that time summed up a controversy regarding the nascent art of filmmaking can be seen as pointing more widely — beyond the medial specificities of the cinema — to a general cultural technique that manifested itself by way of interventions in concrete layers of aesthetic material: the incision, dissection, or untethering of continua with the intention of producing form. Scissors cut into paper, pages, sections of print, cloth, segments of text, photographs, strips of celluloid, yarn, fields of canvas, magnetic tape, following patterns or not, in these acts of disarticulation either laying the groundwork for later recombinations, or contributing to the immediate generation of artistic and aesthetic products of great variety. Tied to this cutting practice were, concretely or conceptually, a whole set of promises and a host of pathos formulae of discontinuous production, from Saussure to Foucault and Kittler, from the idea of ‘critical’ montage programs to the aesthetics of shock, from the poetics of cut up and collage to a wider understanding of assemblages as aggregations of non-organically connected entities.


Nowadays matters seem to have shifted considerably. With the emergence of the digital we are not only facing a stratum in which the generation of form occurs in a manner that makes older models of resistant material(ity) seem oddly agonistic. We are also encountering a technologically mediated mode of symbolization in which, in contrast to the compact and fused layers of the analog, a segmented regime is implemented from the very beginning: the always already discrete operations of the digital. Whether digitally motivated or not - models of discontinuity and incision could be seen as losing clout, as evidenced, for example, in those assemblage theories that have emerged in the wake of actor-network-theory, in which constituent elements lock into remarkably smooth, non-antagonistically functioning arrangements. Gone seem the conflicts, hierarchies, and incompatibilities that were profiled in theorizations of such material/political conglomerates which deemed themselves “critical”. Gone are the cuts with which strata or stuff needed to be surgically dissected, in order to produce fragments which could in turn become building blocks for new constructions.


Given these transformations: What did it, what does it mean to cut? Is it time we forgot the scissors? Or, that we started addressing them as a device of a different era, less as historical tool, and more as an instrument of a prehistory to our present? Or, are we to recalibrate our very notions of such discontinuous practices, present and past, and resurrect the tools of incision? If so, under what premises?



Redaktion: Constanze Baum – Lukas Büsse – Mark-Georg Dehrmann – Nils Gelker – Markus Malo – Alexander Nebrig – Johannes Schmidt

Diese Ankündigung wurde von H-GERMANISTIK [Lukas Büsse] betreut – editorial-germanistik@mail.h-net.msu.edu