Construction of Cultural Identity in Swiss Weekly Newsreels 1940 - 1975
Cooperational Research Project SNSF Imesch-Oechslin (UNIL) / Schade Tholen (ICS/ZHdK)
From the very beginning, reports on art and culture have been a fixed component of international newsreel business. This kind of reporting was exceptionally well endowed in Swiss weekly newsreels / “Filmwochenschau” SFW / “Ciné Journal Suisse” CJS (1940-1975). In the SFW/CJS, contributions of the above mentioned kind did not act as a mere “gap filler,” as the qualitative and quantitative attributes testify to their significant value.
This finding is prerequisite for this current SNSF-research project (2009 – 2012). The project examines the positioning of art within the context of national self-determination and self-definition as presented through the SFW as a mass medium. Thus the project analyzes the understanding of art inherent to the SFW as well as studies the history of the Swiss art world as conveyed to the public through this mass medium.
In doing so, the project addresses gaps in research in two ways. On the one hand, it takes up an object of investigation that has hitherto been neglected in studies conducted about the SFW/CJS. On the other hand, it complements and enlarges art-historically orientated research regarding the Swiss art world by concentrating on its most formative years. The research project investigates the ways in which the SFW/CJS reports furthered ideas about the Swiss art world, but also what has been left out in these reports. Furthermore, it looks into how the SFW/CJS reports reflect the contemporary knowledge society through filmic styles and narrative modes and what understanding of art might be inherent to this highly selective presentation of artistic tendencies and artists. Thereby, it is also being examined whether the SFW/CJS addressed issues of artistic avant-garde and future-orientated thinking within the Swiss art world. Thus, the research project discusses the role of the mass medium SFW/CJS as a cultural repository as well as to what extent art was assigned a crucial position within the “grand narrative” of Swiss culture.
The research project draws from theories developed for analyses in art history and film studies while relying heavily on discourse analysis and semiotics. Both due to this interdisciplinary approach and the involved subject matter, the project testifies to the growing awareness within art history and cultural studies about the crucial position of the “moving image” as a relevant source for the discussion of social and cultural developments.
For this research project, the whole of the production period of the SFW/CJS from 1940 to 1975 has been considered. However, a strong focus is laid on the 1950s and 1960s as the “classical” decades of the medium, as well as on the re-orientation of the medium around 1970 – a point in time which was equally crucial for the development of the Swiss art world.
In fall 2012, a film circle which will presided over by members of the research project will take place as well as an interdisciplinary, international conference in order to present and discuss the results of the research project. Furthermore, the results will be made publicly available through the publication of an anthology and two dissertations (Lic. Phil. Mario Lüscher, UNIL; Lic. Phil Nadja Lutz, ICS/ZHdK).