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Sylvia Wohlmut, senior administrator, Department of Art and Art History: (650) 725-0143,

John Sanford, writer, News Service: (650) 736-2151, jsanford@stanford

Tom Gunning to discuss development of early cinema

Tom Gunning of the University of Chicago will discuss the development of early cinema at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in Annenberg Auditorium.

Gunning's talk, "The Art of Motion: The Invention of Cinema in the Context of Fin de Siècle Obsession," is the eighth annual Christensen Fund Distinguished Lecture in Art History. The event is free and open to the public.

Gunning will discuss how early cinema emerged not only from the technological innovations in photography and theories of human perception at the end of the 19th century, but from an obsession with the nature of motion in the popular and innovative arts.

The lecture will focus on the American dancer Loie Fuller, whose invention of the Serpentine Dance was greeted enthusiastically by Symbolist artists and poets such as Auguste Rodin and Stéphane Mallarmé. Fuller combined a new form of dance illuminated by ever-changing electrical, colored light to produce a spectacle that avant-garde Parisian artists acclaimed as the harbinger of a new art form. The Serpentine also was one of the most popular subjects of early cinema; scores of films were made of the dance in the 1890s.

Gunning will explore the way this visual spectacle, which combines new technology and a new aesthetic form, anticipates the cinema and exemplifies the philosophical speculation of Henri Bergson, while also promising a new visual art that is both avant-garde and popular.

Gunning is the acting chair of the Cinema and Media Committee and a professor in the Art Department at the University of Chicago. He is the author of D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film and the recently published The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity.

Gunning has written on pre-narrative cinema, the international silent film and the continuing history of avant-garde cinema. His work centers on the dynamic relation between film and the culture of modernity. Gunning has lectured around the world, and his writings have been published in dozens of different languages.

The lecture is made possible by a grant established by the Christensen Fund of Palo Alto for the Department of Art and Art History.

For more information about the event, contact Cynthia Losinsky at (650) 723-3788.


By John Sanford

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