On 10 March 2020, Thought in Action – our series of film screenings and discussions – came to a halt. The COVID-19 pandemic was already hitting, making it hard to host public events. On that day, we met in the Watershed to explore Portrait of a Lady on Fire (you can relive that event by reading this blog post by UWE Philosophy student Georgia Harrison). The following season, we decided to move Thought in Action online and extend our partnership to MUBI, which has generously provided wonderful films for our virtual discussions around postcolonial cinema. The new setup allowed us to broaden our scope and involve guests and viewers from all over the world. The pandemic has certainly left us isolated and atomised. Yet it also fostered new levels of virtual connectedness, which we aim at retaining also in the future.
Now, almost two years after the beginning of the pandemic, we are excited to welcome audiences back to live events at Watershed for our fourth season. Thought in Action remains unwavering in its commitment to the audience, students, speakers, and the broader community. We are looking forward to getting back to doing what we do best: showing films of philosophical and political significance and igniting discussions on the questions they raise.
Our broader mission is to support interdisciplinary conversation among philosophers, social scientists, cinema curators, producers, students, and members of the public. We seek to stimulate critical dialogue around some of the most exciting and challenging ideas in contemporary cinema. The theme for this season of Thought in Action is “vulnerability, violence, and bodies.”
Vulnerability, and its close associates of fragility, precarity, and dependency, is deeply connected to the essence of being human – whether it is understood in the context of the material body or the human condition in a larger sense. While vulnerability is often seen as a condition of the individual, more importantly, it is closely linked to relationality. In a pandemic era, questions about vulnerability of the body but also of our entire society have become further acute.
The films we have chosen to screen engage with these themes by traversing diverse and often inimical depictions of the materiality and sociality of the human body and its gendered constructions and representations, as well as the social and political forces that shape and form what we believe is human and humanity.
We ask ourselves and our speakers questions such as how does violence function in the regulation of bodies? How can the body be wounded, transformed, adapted, and used and misused? And what does it say about the human condition?
This season’s first installment will be held at Watershed on Tue 11 Jan at 18:00. We will be watching and discussing Titane (2021) directed by Julia Ducournau – this year’s Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival. Titane is an extreme movie, violent and pitiless and funny, but the space it provides for not just tenderness but contemplation makes it an “extremely” thought-provoking film as well.
Titane is fascinated by the body's vulnerabilities and urges, its ravenous processes, and how the collective “we” attempts to deal with all these things, either by gorging ourselves or, conversely, by sublimating the need into other things. Neither process is pleasant and/or socially acceptable.
It is easy to draw a parallelism between the work’s ethos of Julia Ducournau displayed in the film and the oeuvre of David Cronenberg. Both authors engage with the task of inventing reality. They detach themselves from any moral stance, being akin to scientists faced with an unknown terrain or subject. Both filmmakers produce a kaleidoscopic look at sex, car culture, expectations, social pressure, confusion, love, kinks, connections, and genders.
Yet Julia Ducournau goes a step further by exploring fetishes rather than simply pointing out their grotesque nature. She wants to discover what is human about them. She wants to find something universal. Whilst David Cronenberg just shows us something grotesque and delights as we squirm, Ducournau wants to understand it. She wants to show us a new way to see it. Ducournau presents an inventive, bold, and fearless approach and sensitivity.
For our 2022 inaugural discussion we will enjoy the participation of three guest speakers: Amy Ireland, Finn Mackay, and David Roden.
Amy Ireland is a theorist and experimental writer. Her research focuses on questions of agency and technology in modernity, and she is a member of the techno-materialist trans-feminist collective, Laboria Cuboniks.
Finn Mackay is a feminist theorist and activist, the author of Female Masculinities and the Gender Wars, and a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of the West of England in Bristol)
David Roden is a philosopher and writer interested in dubious alternatives to our existence. His monograph Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human was published by Routledge in 2014. His novella Snuff Memories is published by Schism.
Everyone is welcome! A limited number of free tickets are available for all UWE students (just ask at the Box Office on the day of the film screening). Follow ‘Thought in Action’ on Facebook and Twitter, and on thoughtinaction.org.uk for more information about upcoming Thought in Action events.