On 19 September at Marie Lokezaal (Harmonie building), University of Groningen, as part of the Colloquium of the theme group ‘Art, Medium and Moving Images’, Dr Ariano D’Aloia of the University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” will give a guest lecture titled “En… action! A neurofilmological analysis of Spike Jonze’s short films”.
In this lecture he adopts an enactive approach to the human experience in order to discuss the interaction between body and space through the mediation of technology and how this interaction is central in the analysis and interpretation of the contemporary film and audiovisual media experience.
Enactivism is an emerging perspective in cognitive science that promotes the idea that perception and action are fundamentally inseparable in lived cognition. According to enactivists, “cognition depends on an experience that derives from having a body, with its various sensory-motor capacities [that] are themselves part of a wider biological, psychological, and cultural context” (Varela, Thompson, Rosch 1991: 172). Rooted in the ecological approach to visual perception and in the phenomenological approach to human experience, enactivism has the theoretical potential to renew and relaunch the adventure of film studies.
Such a potential consists in an epistemological turn that enlightens a series of aspects that classic cognitive film theory neglected for a long time, e.g. the centrality of the system of bodies – the characters’, the spectators’ and the film’s body – involved in the film experience; the relevance of the biological and neurobiological substratum in the study of the cultural aspects of film viewing; the importance of multisensory integration and multimodal perception in the design and the experience of the film; the significance of kinaesthetic empathy in determining the intersubjective nature of film participation; the specific role of cinematic technology in extending the human faculties and in mediating between lived body and lived space.
The constellation of theories that revolves around Enaction (Embodied mind, Extended mind, Embedded mind, etc.) contributes to the emerging theoretical framework of Neurofilmology, an epistemological and methodological approach that aims at putting into productive dialogue aesthetic/semiotics film theories and new acquisitions from the field of cognitive and neurocognitive science. Adopting a neurofilmological perspective, as a case study he analyses Spike Jonze’s commercials Kenzo World (2016) for Kenzo perfume and Welcome Home (2018) for Apple HomePod. The two works involve a multiplicity of media (film, dance, music, fashion) and interestingly represent the relationship between the (female) body and the (both spatial and social) environment through the mediation of (apparent or transparent) technology.