Diana-Cristina Bulzan

PhD Candidate Junior Fellowship

Sensible Worlds. Experience and Labour in the Age of Cinema 

The dissertation proposes the concepts of experience and labour to address the changes determined by the invention of cinema in the way the subject relates to the world. The term ‘sensible worlds’ points to this latter dimension and designates a way of addressing the relation between cinema and subject in terms of the body’s possibilities of perception, most notably referencing Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological work. The research follows two directions. On the one hand, an analysis of the medium of cinema which traces these changes back to Walter Benjamin’s distinction between ‘Erfahrung’ and ‘Erlebnis’. For Benjamin, ‘Erlebnis’ designates the type of experience accessible to the modern subject; it consists of exposure to shocks characterized by discontinuity and which finds its expression in cinema’s use of montage. The division of labour connects to experience in two ways. Firstly, through an analogy between the organization of labour and the use of montage in cinema, an analogy already present in Walter Benjamin’s work. Secondly, by researching the role played by the distribution of images in implementing the division of labour at a social and cultural level. The division of labour is, therefore, understood as tracing lines of visibility, as well as determining spaces of experience.

            The second direction of research focuses on VALIE EXPORT’s artistic practice, namely on her use of fragmentation and discrepancies when deconstructing representations of the female subject. Her reflexive approach to the language of different media aims at an anagrammatic re-arrangement of the structural elements of representation which simultaneously exposes the codifications of social reality, while also pointing beyond them and to the possibility of creating new meanings. Thus, the elements connecting modes of experiences to modes of organizing labour are brought into further focus by researching the way they are embedded in different representations of reality. More specifically, I want to connect the two directions in the following ways: in the first instance, by relating her use of fragmentation to the description of ‚Erlebnis’ as the type of experience accessible to the modern subject. Secondly, the determination of ‘Erlebnis’ in Benjamin’s texts sits alongside a new reading of history and memory, both relating to cinema’s potential for subversion. By placing VALIE EXPORT in dialogue with Benjamin, I would like to re-read this potential for subversion. The elements constitutitve of ‚Erlebnis’ are used by EXPORT as key elements of appropriation, of play and overdetermination of images. Thus, the underlying question guiding the dissertation – the potential of subversion through the cinematic medium – will touch upon the link between structural linguistic elements and artistic practice in EXPORT’s work, while nonetheless being situated in connection to the determination of experience in modernity and the mediation between subject and reality effected by technology.



Diana-Cristina Bulzan is currently working on her PhD on the relation between cinema, experience and the possibility of subversion through the cinematic medium. She has previously obtained a master’s degree in philosophy from the University Babes-Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca, Romania with a thesis on Gilles Deleuze’s notion of cinema. Her fields of research range from the phenomenology of perception, the political inscription of the body, feminist artistic practices to experimental film.