Media landscapes are far from being homogeneous. Media diverge not only because they perform diverse functions and elicit different practices, but also because they recall distinct stages in the media history. We deal with a number of “obsolete” media that nevertheless we still find useful and friendly—and whose ultimate destiny will be either to be discharged in a dump, or to be located in a museum. But how does the past speak to the present? The talk will challenge the idea of memory and illustrate its role in our cultural practices. It will do that through a radical re-reading of few “primeval scenes” that are often recalled by film theory when it focuses on the origins of screens and screened images: the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon, the legend of Boutades’ daughter and the origin of portraiture, the chronicle of Brunelleschi’s invention of perspective. This re-reading of a number of well-known episodes will hopefully help to retrace the main operations that we perform when we “adapt” old media to new assemblages. Casetti will draw some final and critical considerations about the concepts of “propensity” and “disposition” often used to explain media evolution.
Francesco Casetti is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Humanities and Film and Media Studies at Yale University. Among his books, Eye of the Century: Film, Experience, Modernity (2005) analyses the reasons why cinema became the art of 20th century, and The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key words for the Cinema to Come (2015) depicts the reconfiguration of cinema in a post-medium epoch. He currently works on fears that cinema raised in the first decades of its life, and on the increasing interdependence of media and environment.