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News From Home the redux version: Amodal perception and ‘la jouissance du voir’

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In my 2004 article on Chantal Akerman’s News From Home (1976), I deployed a Deleuzian reading of the film to release the film from being interpreted as manifesting the impossibility of a woman’s desire (Stephen Heath) or a desire to return to the mother (Richard Kwietniowski), arguing instead that the indeterminacy of the final sequence opens out onto a transformative freedom from identity. In this article, I persist with this idea but reconsider it in relation to Griselda Pollock’s convincing insistence that Akerman’s work is a journey towards maternal trauma, a position that she develops in relation to Akerman’s installation Walking Next to One’s Shoelaces Inside an Empty Fridge. Before encountering this work, Pollock says that Akerman’s cinematic intervention was linked to ‘the choked feminine voice in culture meeting a new cinematic formalism’ rather than to the ‘deeper trauma’ of being the child of a Holocaust survivor. Pollock’s convincing reading of Akerman’s installation as visualizing the effects of unmourned trauma transmitted to the children of Holocaust survivors had a profound impact on me, one that I take into consideration in my reframing in this article of the final sequence of News From Home. In this, I deploy Raymond Bellour’s adaptation of psychoanalyst Daniel Stern’s notion of ‘amodal perception’ as a sensory, kinetic modality of spectatorship. This model allows me to retain the transformative freedom from identity in my earlier reading, while nonetheless mapping early intersubjective relations onto the pleasures of the film body Akerman called ‘la jouissance du voir’.
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Keywords: Daniel Stern; Griselda Pollock; News From Home; Raymond Bellour; To Walk Next to One’s Shoelaces Inside an Empty Fridge; affective attunement; amodal perception; maternal trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • The Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) is the first international peer-reviewed scholarly publication devoted to artists' film and video, and its contexts. It offers a forum for debates surrounding all forms of artists' moving image and media artworks: films, video installations, expanded cinema, video performance, experimental documentaries, animations, and other screen-based works made by artists. MIRAJ aims to consolidate artists' moving image as a distinct area of study that bridges a number of disciplines, not limited to, but including art, film, and media.
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