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Auerbach Lecture | 15.05.2023 | 18 Uhr

Nicholas Baer (Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht): The Ends of Perfection. On a Limit Concept in Global Film and Media Theory


This talk examines the concept of perfection against the backdrop of today’s digital mediascape, where the latest screen technologies promise sharp, pristine images with lossless compression and a lifelike appearance. While, in Hito Steyerl’s account, the circulation of “poor” or “imperfect” images can disrupt hegemonic media logics, I demonstrate that the very ideal of perfection is an engine of semantic instability in the modern age. Intervening in contemporary debates about “rich” and “poor” images, and “high” and “low” definition, my lecture offers a differentiated and historically dynamic understanding of perfection as a limit concept in global film and media theory. I argue that moving images played a crucial role in the redefinition of perfection, as classical conceptions of the term gradually and unevenly gave way to perfectionism, perfectibility, and an aesthetics of imperfection. Integrating Reinhart Koselleck’s method of Begriffsgeschichte into the study of moving images, my talk reconceives the history of global film and media theory as one of semantic persistence, change, and radical novelty of meaning.

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