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Scales of Being: Ed Emshwiller's Relativity

Stephen Broomer   •    09.04.2024

Ed Emshwiller (full name: Edmund Alexander Emshwiller) was an American experimental filmmaker, visual artist, and illustrator primarily active after the second half of the 20th century. To this day, his work is considered one of the finest works of experimental cinema in the States. He is known for his sheer experimentalism and distinctive usage of most mediums available to produce movement images at the time, from film to video to computer animation, which puts his work in perspective regarding expanded cinema. He passed away in 1990.


This video essay, with its particular emphasis on the fact that Emshwiller did not do the work he had done in his times in isolation, considers his oeuvre as a whole, which is tightly related to the scientific and philosophical developments that occurred in the 20th century, the century that identified by many as “the century of cinema.” Accordingly, it contextualizes the film that has long been regarded as the masterpiece of Emshwiller, along with Sunstone and Thanatopsis, which is no other film than Relativity, to narrow down and exemplify the vision introduced in the video. The video essay introduces new thoughts on and around the film. Yet, it is also inspired by the analysis of Relativity given by R. Bruce Elder in A Body of Vision: Representations of the Body in Recent Film and Poetry. With its multilayered and detailed organization and poetic delivery, the video essay is as helpful in understanding the complex nature of Emshwiller’s art as in appreciating one of the unique works of the canon of experimental cinema. 

Hasan Cem Çal

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