Chelsea Birks

c.birks.1@research.gla.ac.uk

Research title

Limit Cinema: Contemporary Film, Bataille, and the Beyond-Human

Research summary

As the ecological crisis increases in intensity, we are beginning to realize that we urgently need to reconsider our relationship with the environment. Discourses from across disciplines, from science to politics to the humanities, are answering this demand by engaging with ecological questions and problematizing the hierarchical position of humans over nature. My dissertation situates itself within these discourses, focusing in particular on the ways that art cinema is responding to the ecological crisis. I argue that certain contemporary art films can be described as limit cinema: these films operate at the boundary between the human and the nonhuman, blurring the lines between nature and culture and reframing our relationship to aspects of existence in excess of human thought.
       In taking a film-philosophical approach, I explore not only what philosophy might be able to say about ecological aspects of contemporary film, but also what films can contribute to philosophical discussions of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Central to my methodology is the work of Georges Bataille: I argue that Bataille’s ideas of transgression, unreason, and inner experience have the potential to provide new and radical ways of understanding how the beyond-human can be evoked through cinema. Bataille’s thought is given an ecological focus and brought into dialogue with more recent philosophical movements, including speculative realism and object-oriented ontology. Drawing on contemporary examples from filmmakers such as Ben Wheatley, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Peter Bo Rappmund, and Lars von Trier (among others), I investigate the ways that cinema can gesture towards what is beyond our limits, even as it necessarily remains circumscribed by human understanding. 

Publications

  • Birks, Chelsea. "Ecology and Excess in Ben Wheatley's High RiseThe Drouth 55 (2016): 36-42.
  • Birks, Chelsea. “Body problems: new extremism, Descartes, and Jean-Luc Nancy.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 13.2 (2015): 131-148.
  • Birks, Chelsea and Lisa Coulthard.“Desublimating monstrous desire: the horror of gender in new extremism.” Journal of Gender Studies ahead-of-print (2015): 1-16
  • Birks, Chelsea and Lisa Coulthard. “Horrible Sex: The Sexual Relationship in New Extremism.” Sex and Storytelling in Modern Cinema. Ed Lindsay Coleman. New York and London: I.B. Tauris, 2015. 33 pages. Print. 50% contribution. (Forthcoming)
  • Birks, Chelsea and Dana Keller (co-editors). Contemporary Extremism. Spec. issue of Cinephile 8.2 (2012): 59 pages. Print and Web
  • Birks, Chelsea and Dana Keller. “Extreme Vancouver.” Contemporary Extremism. Spec. issue of Cinephile 8.2 (2012): 54-7. Print and web. 50% contribution

Supervisors

Grants

  • 2017: First Place SCMS Student Writing Award, 'Ontology, Speculative Realism, and the Cinematic Apparatus.' 500$ prize and publication forthcoming in Cinema Journal
  • 2017: School of Culture and Creative Arts Research Support Award, University of Glasgow
  • 2016: College of Arts Research Support Award, University of Glasgow
  • 2016: School of Culture and Creative Arts Research Support Award, University of Glasgow
  • 2014: College of Arts Postgraduate Scholarship, University of Glasgow
  • 2012: SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Master’s Scholarship
  • 2011: Faculty of Arts Graduate Award, University of British Columbia

Conferences

  • "Eco-consciousness: Subjectivity and Nature in Under the Skin and Nymphomaniac." SCMS Annual Conference, Chicago IL. Mar. 2017. 
  • "Not For Us, Inevitably For Us: A Critique of Speculative Realism through Tectonics and Jauja." FSAC Annual Conference. The University of Calgary, Calgary AB. May 2016
  • "Green Unpleasant Lands: Ecology and the Sacred in Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Ben Wheatley." SCMS Annual Conference, Atlanta GA. Mar. 2016
  • “The Face as Image: Absent Interiority in Jean-Luc Nancy and Bruno Dumont” (with Lisa Coulthard). Film Philosophy Annual Conference, Glasgow UK. July 2014.
  • Open Spaces: Uncanny Landscapes and the Cinema of Bruno Dumont” (with Lisa Coulthard). Screen Annual Conference, Glasgow UK. June 2014.
  • “Body Problems: New Extremism, Descartes, and Jean-Luc Nancy.” SCMS Annual Conference, Seattle WA. Mar. 2014.
  • “Violent Subjectivity: European New Extremist Cinema and the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy.” FSAC Annual Conference. The University of Victoria, Victoria BC. June 2013.
  • “Paraphernalia: Excess, Desire and the Creative Process in David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.” Endnotes UBC English Graduate Conference. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. June 2012.
  • Doubt and Documentary: An Epistemological Perspective on the Films of Errol Morris.” FSAC Annual Graduate Colloquium. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. Feb. 2012.

Teaching

FTV 5060, Mlitt 'Advanced Topics in Film Studies,' Winter 2017. Block One: Ecology and Ethics

FTV 4004, 'Film Analysis,' Fall 2015 and Fall 2016.

 

Additional information