Saturday, 27 February 2010

Guest Paper: 'Beautiful Images, Spectacular Clarity'

In our next guest paper in the seminar series organized by the Cultural Studies Research Group with ICAN, we welcome Dr Helen Wheatley from the University of Warwick. Helen will be delivering a paper entitled '"Beautiful images, spectacular clarity": Spectacular television, "landscape porn", and the question of (tele)visual pleasure'. The event takes place on Wednesday 3rd March 2010, from 4.00-5.30pm in in room GEE219 (George Eliot Building on the Clifton Campus of Nottingham Trent University). The abstract of the paper is as follows:
In establishing television’s difference from cinema, scholars have too quickly dismissed the medium’s spectacular qualities. Typically, arguments about television which emphasise comparison with cinema position the medium as visually inefficient (Williams, 1975 ) sound-led and lacking in visual detail (Ellis, 1982), or simply ‘less dense, less complex, less interesting’ (Lury, 2005). Theories of television’s liveness and distracted viewership also understand television as anti-spectacular. Considering the recent cycle of ‘landscape porn’[i] on British television, I will counter these arguments by discussing television’s spectacular aesthetic. The paper will explore the pictorial qualities of programmes such as Coast (BBC2/1, 2005-), A Picture of Britain (BBC1, 2005), Wainwrights Walks (Skyworks for BBC4, 2007), Britain’s Favourite View (ITV1, 2007)  and Britain from Above (Lion for BBC1, 2008), and visual pleasure on television. I will argue that these programmes presume a contemplative mode of viewing more traditionally associated with the spectacular in other media (landscape painting, film). Whilst I reject a technologically determinist argument about the rise of HD shooting and viewing technologies and the advent of this genre of programming, I will also understand these recent programmes as post-digital revolution television. This is simultaneously ‘slow television’ which allows for a contemplative gaze on spectacular ‘natural’ landscapes, and also a heavily-CGI’d cycle of programming which draws on a ‘Google Earth’ aesthetic to produce a frenzy of dazzling topography, showcasing the spectacle of satellite technologies. The paper will be informed by interviews with production personnel working within this burgeoning field of programming.
Everyone is welcome but places are limited so if you would like to attend, please email Joanne Hollows.
(Photo credit: Stuart Herbert. Permissions)

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