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Conceptualizing "The Original": Artifact, Intent, Experience, and Process in Avant-Garde Film Preservation


While the moving image archival field has devoted considerable attention to theorizing preservation practice for traditional narrative cinema, comparatively little emphasis has been placed on avant-garde film. By specifically considering hand-manipulated avant-garde film and expanded cinema, I argue for a malleable archival theory which represents contemporary efforts to preserve and exhibit these films in a manner philosophically, technically, and aesthetically appropriate to the work. Underwriting this archival theory is a model based on four central conceptions of "originality" which play a decisive role in the preservation of these films, namely Spectrum of Influence, Temporality, Degree of Translation, and Method. By illustrating these conceptions as two related model graphs, I am able to plot, along four axes, decision points which have informed a range of contemporary preservations. In so doing, I conclude that the proposed archival theory successfully represents avant-garde film preservation practice, and has practical applications in the field.

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