Elena Gorfinkel (King’s College London)
Cinema, the Soporific: Between Exhaustion and Eros
From medicine to philosophy to political theory, sleep has of late become a subject of extensive rumination and consternation. Whether conceived as territory of subjective possibility exceedingly contaminated, by the depredations of “24/7” capital (as per Jonathan Crary), or as a threshold corporeal state that signals the zero degree of human vulnerability and the alterity of subjectivity (as per Jean Luc Nancy), sleep resonates in our contemporary moment with pressing questions about mediation, labor, exhaustion and lived time. In the context of accelerating temporalities and unrelenting compression, sleep represents a disappearing currency for the overworked, oversaturated, hypermediated subject, but also connotes a certain (necessary) luxury. What are the potentialities and opacities proffered by cinema's figuration of sleep? Sleep when made an object of cinema's gaze is both pervasive and reflexive, as it can mark transitional narrative temporalities, spaces of erotic surplus, nonagentic performance, as well as recall some of the most fundamental ontological precepts and blind spots of filmic representation. Looking at sleep as both a condition of temporal alterity as well as potential zone for spectatorial surrender, this talk will analyze Tsai Ming Liang’s No No Sleep (2014), Sergei Loznitsa’s The Train Stop (2000), and Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor's Somniloquies (2017). Drawing on histories of sleep and insomnia, the presentation considers how the interstitial nature of sleep facilitates examination of cinema’s preoccupation with bodily endurance, performative labor, erotics and exhaustion, as well as a reconsideration of corporeal inactivity and its cinematic value.
Elena Gorfinkel is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. She is author of Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s (Minnesota, 2017); and co-editor of Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image (Minnesota, 2011) and Global Cinema Networks (Rutgers, 2018.) Her writing on sexuality, embodiment, cinephilia, labor and marginal cinemas has appeared or is forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Discourse, Screen, Jump Cut, Framework, Camera Obscura, World Picture, Cineaste, Sight & Sound, and numerous edited collections. Her second book project examines contemporary film art practices that perform duration, endurance, exhaustion and modes of decay and deceleration in service of aesthetic critique.