If we are to learn anything from the kraken, it might be new socio-techniques of responsivity – stretched between inside and outside, eccentricity and curiosity, wanting and giving attention. Can the octopus encourage us to think more from multiple perspectives instead of clinging to a closed worldview?
My current project “Octoscopia” builds on these questions and tries to develop a new idea of expanded cinema in dialogue with the octopus’ behaviour. How could expanded cinema be conceived from the perspective of the octopus?
In my book Die Gesellschaft des Tentakels (The Society of the Tentacle, 2021), I established the skeleton-less octopus as a central – and ambiguous – figure for an analysis and criticism of our culture and media history, suggesting that we’re not only in the midst of a society of the tentacle, but might also let the octopus help us imagine new modes and narratives of collectivization—open to new inclusions, intervals and interspaces. Its outlandishness makes the octopus unpredictable as a ceaseless deviation - even from itself. Surprising turns occur. The octopus repeatedly escapes our orders of knowledge to show us forms of “epistemic disobedience” (Walter Mignolo) that ultimately arrive at a new social contract based on the recognition of vulnerability. If we are to learn anything from the kraken, it might be new socio-techniques of responsivity – stretched between inside and outside, eccentricity and curiosity, wanting and giving attention. Can the octopus encourage us to think more from multiple perspectives instead of clinging to a closed worldview?
My current project "Octoscopia" builds on these questions and tries to develop a new idea of expanded cinema in dialogue with the octopus’ behaviour. How could expanded cinema be conceived from the perspective of the octopus (in whose body tactility and visuality, data and images intricately exchange)? What might such an “octoscopage” of the moving image produce? How could a trans-species epistemology and poetics of search for new forms and social realities of the image look like?
Of course, we can’t know what it is like to taste, see, feel the world in a multidirectional and poli-perspectival way with tentacles, suction cups, chemoreceptors, etc. But we can trace the (after)life of the octopuses in the archives of (post)film and watch the society of tentacles transforming our knowledge – and expanding, decentring and destabilizing our notions of image, cinema, experience. Perhaps, even, there are anti-cinema-Gestalten of the octopus, and an octopodology of world experience out there that cannot be cinematographed, pointing us to blind spots of our “own” (?) technologies and grids of visualization, technologies that have always had a mimetic relationship with the animal world.
DIE GESELLSCHAFT DES TENTAKELS - The Seminal Book
As an incessant deviation and a virtuoso of ambiguity, the octopus is the central figure for an analysis and criticism of our cultural and media history.
The book (2021) is published by Matthes & Seitz
"GHOST WITHOUT A SHELL", a 3-parts essay, published on Various Artists (2021):
1. Within the Society of Tentacles
3. A Tightrope Dance with Eight Arms
"Tentakuläre Gesellschaften" - Radio podcast in the series "Superscience Me - Wissenschaft, Fiktion, Spekulation #7", by Julia Grillmayr (9.11.2021) - on the Cultural Broadcasting Archive of the Freien Radios Österreich
"Das Buch ist auch das Dokument einer Art 'Filmsinnkrise' in meinem Leben"
Conversation between Matthias Wittmann and Alejandro Bachmann on Kolik.film, n.37/2022, pp. 59-86
OCTOPIAN LECTURE PERFORMANCES
Lecture Performance at the Stadtkino Basel (17.12.2021) with film screening (The Navigator, Buster Keaton, 1924) and live music
Lecture Performance at the Fotomuseum Winterthur (23.11.2022) in the context of the exhibition "Jean Painlevé - Les pieds dans l'eau"
Stadtkino Basel: ©Piotr Dzumala
Fotomuseum Winterthur: ©Doris Gassert
0 | Octopus-Simulator, by J.E. Williamson, 1917, patented 1921
1 | Screenshot from Les amours de la pieuvre, by Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon, 1965; developed by Matthias Wittmann
2 | Screenshot from Les poulpistes, by Pierre Desproges, 1982
3 | Screenshot from Les poulpistes, by Pierre Desproges, 1982
4 | Screenshot from Les amours de la pieuvre, by Jean Painlevé, Geneviève Hamon, 1965; developed by Matthias Wittmann
5 | Page from Hand und Wort [Le geste et la parole], by André Leroi-Gourhan, 1964
6 | Screenshot from La pieuvre, by Jean Painlevé, 1927
7 | Screenshot from La pieuvre, by Jean Painlevé, 1927
MATTHIAS WITTMANN - INFOS
Born in Vienna in 1976, Matthias is a media theorist, writer and curator as well as a literary and film critic (for Filmexplorer, Cargo a.o.). He received his PhD in media studies in 2013 on the topic MnemoCine. The Construction of Memory in the Experience of Film. From 2009-2019 he researched and taught at the Seminar for Media Studies at the University of Basel, focusing on film, screenology, medial mnemographies, and transcultural image research (esp. cinema of Iran). In 2021 he was a visiting professor at the University of Vienna (theatre, film, and media studies). He undertook essayistic excursions into the field of poetic ornithology ("The Birds", in: Frankfurter Rundschau: Poetic Ornithology, ed. Teresa Präauer, 1, 2017, pp. 102-109). Editor of the German translation of Jean Louis Schefer's enigmatic film poem: Der gewöhnliche Mensch des Kinos, translated by Michaela Ott and Raimund Linden, Fink, 2013.
He calls one of his main fields of research: “Octopodology”. In his recently published book Die Gesellschaft des Tentakels (Matthes & Seitz, 2021) he made the octopus the central figure for a criticism of our culture. Upcoming: Oktopia (Büchergilde Gutenberg, 2023, together with illustrator Michèle Ganser). Other books: Counter-Memories in Iranian Cinema, co-edited with Ute Holl, Edinburgh, 2021).
Photo: ©Ute Holl, Peter Ott, 2020
Matthias' profile for the Atelier Mondial
Matthias' essays published on Filmexplorer