Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Experimental Cinema
Academic Year
Semester 1
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Weekly Reflective Journal  4,000 words, marked weekly.  100%
Supplementary Assessment Weekly Reflective Journal  4,000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Engage critically with a range of experimental works.

Demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which experimental filmmakers have challenged the conventions of mainstream cinema.

Be able to use and question categorical and theoretical concepts such as 'avant-garde', 'artists' film', abstract film' 'pure cinema', 'structural film', 'materialist film', 'underground film' and 'found footage film'.

Understand films within various historical and institutional contexts.

Brief description

This module explodes the traditional understanding of cinema and invites students to explore the limitless possibilities of moving image expression beyond storytelling. What happens if we remove linearity, narrative, characters, recognisable places and situations, and a stable system of identification so common to our filmgoing experience? Over the 10 weeks, students will acquire a new 'toolbox', allowing them to confidently embrace cinematic innovation and nonconformity in all its guises.

Paying close attention to key movements and practices from the 1920s to the present day, the module provides students with a wide-ranging knowledge of the different ways in which artists and filmmakers have challenged the narrative and stylistic conventions of mainstream (particularly Hollywood) cinema. Students will consider experimental filmmaking within the wider context of artistic and literary modernism, focusing on countercultural movements such as Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, Minimalism, Fluxus and Situationism. Students will therefore be encouraged to consider these films in relation to other art forms such as painting, photography and poetry.

Close attention will be paid towards the end of the module, to contemporary debates around spaces of reception, particularly the relationship between the institutions of the cinema and the gallery, and the economic factors involved in the emergence of 'artists' film'. The module will also critically assess the aesthetic and institutional shifts in experimental film production with the rise of digital technology, looking specifically at the different ways in which filmmakers have responded to the threat to celluloid-based production by (re-)embracing materiality.

The module will concentrate on some of the most important figures in the development of experimental film aesthetics such as Man Ray, Hans Richter, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Michael Snow, Jonas Mekas and Martin Arnold. It will also look at lesser-known and emerging contemporary filmmakers, particularly those working at the intersection of the cinema and the gallery space.


1. What is 'Avant-Garde'? Some Introductory Case Studies
2. Early Avant-Garde Film
3. Exploring Subjectivity: From Maya Deren to Stan Brakhage
4. Kitsch and Camp: The American Underground
5. Structural Materialist Film
6. The Essay Film
7. Appropriation, Recycling and Found Footage Film
8. Video Art, Subjectivity and Narcissism
9. The Alternative Space of Artists' Cinema
10. Contemporary Materialist Practice in the Digital Era

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Students' written communication skills will be developed. They will be encouraged to produce detailed arguments about the subject using appropriate language and style. Students will develop their oral communication skills through seminar sessions which will use both individual contributions and group contributions.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be able to develop their skills of information location and retrieval. Students will be given opportunities to develop note-taking skills. Students will develop their critical thinking skills. Through small group discussions and seminars students will be given opportunities to develop an awareness of the opinions of others and reconsider initial ideas if necessary.
Information Technology Students will be given the opportunity to develop their authorial and note-taking skills when planning for written assignments, and will be encouraged to develop their note-taking skills in lectures. Students will be given opportunities to develop their skills using electronic search and retrieval of sources both on the web and on the AU LIS. Students will develop their skills when referencing from the web and related sources, and will focus on the selection of materials appropriate to the task. E-mail and Blackboard will be the main forms of communication and information sharing in this module, so students will be encouraged actively to engage in these processes.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will be given the opportunity to evaluate current knowledge and skills and set targets for self-improvement. Students will be encouraged to take increasing responsibility for managing their own learning. Students will be encouraged to build upon the knowledge gained from lectures through developing skills in self study (supported by the general and specific reading lists and other resources distributed throughout the module).
Problem solving Students should be able to identify tensions and debates in the field. They will be encouraged to engage with existing critical thought and theory and to evaluate the most appropriate material to use. Students will be given the opportunity to address the difficulties of analysing screen performance using close textual analysis.
Research skills Students will be able to develop their skills of information location and retrieval. Students will be given opportunities to develop effective note-taking skills. Students will be encouraged to evaluate, interpret and reflect upon a variety of sources.
Team work Sessions will be provided that enable students to collaborate in small groups.


This module is at CQFW Level 6