Table of Con­tents | PDF


Nathan Holmes

The essays and reflec­tions col­lect­ed in this issue exca­vate 1970s visu­al cul­ture across a num­ber of sites, each inves­ti­gat­ing how modes of visu­al­i­ty devel­oped with­in and around the decade res­onat­ed in their imme­di­ate moment and yet remain teth­ered to our present. In par­tic­u­lar, the con­tri­bu­tions here grav­i­tate to gen­res and tropes that either flour­ished in the 1970s—from land­scape art and dig­i­tal film effects to gial­lo—or, like the west­ern, hor­ror, or the jour­nal­ism film, were revis­it­ed and renewed. Tak­en togeth­er, these con­tri­bu­tions offer rang­ing con­sid­er­a­tions about how visu­al con­cepts ger­mi­nate, mul­ti­ply, sur­vive, and trans­form, and how they might be seen dif­fer­ent­ly when turned in the light of alter­na­tive his­tor­i­cal coor­di­nates.

Ana­lyz­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of point-of-view cin­e­matog­ra­phy in 1970s hor­ror, Adam Hart piv­ots from the the­o­ries of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion that have per­vad­ed the dis­course of slash­er films. Instead he argues for the uncan­ny, sub­jec­tive­ly desta­bi­liz­ing effects of point-of-view as a mode of spec­ta­to­r­i­al address, con­trast­ing it with the sur­veil­lance aes­thet­ic found in recent found-footage hor­ror.

In “Pre­dic­tive Land­scapes,” K.R. Cor­nett con­sid­ers the rela­tion between Amer­i­can land­scape, the west­ern, and the road film. Exam­in­ing Monte Hellman’s The Shoot­ing (1966) and Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces (1970), she traces a mode of cita­tion and sub­ver­sion that allowed both films to pro­duce a visu­al medi­a­tion on ­America’s open spa­tial­i­ty.

Col­in Williamson con­sid­ers a dif­fer­ent vari­a­tion on the west­ern in “An Escape into Real­i­ty: Spe­cial Effects and the Haunt­ing Optics of West­world (1973),” draw­ing atten­tion to the way the sci-fi western’s dig­i­tal effects can be seen as fig­ures for the anx­i­ety and imag­i­na­tion sur­round­ing both com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy and emerg­ing con­texts of geopo­lit­i­cal volatil­i­ty. The equal­ly volatile, cri­sis-rid­den world of the 21st cen­tu­ry, Williamson points out, makes HBO’s res­ur­rec­tion of the world of West­world appo­site, even if the expan­sive tech­no­log­i­cal anx­i­eties of the present seem to demand more elab­o­rate nar­ra­tive images.

The land­scape of the Amer­i­can west and the land artists who took it as their object form the basis of Kaitlin Pomerantz’s reflec­tion piece. Wan­der­ing around Robert Smithon’s Spi­ral ­Jet­ty (1968) and Michael Heizer’s Dou­ble Neg­a­tive (1969-70) pro­vokes Pomer­antz to con­sid­er how the artist’s assump­tions about nat­ur­al his­to­ry have fared as ques­tions of anthro­pogenic envi­ron­men­tal change have inten­si­fied.

Ital­ian gial­li films have like­wise been asso­ci­at­ed with con­tex­tu­al, if more local­ized, social anx­i­eties. Seb Roberts argues, how­ev­er, that the trans­gres­sive sen­sa­tion and exu­ber­ant styl­iza­tion of the cycle allowed Ital­ian audi­ences an expe­ri­en­tial depar­ture from the moral con­ser­vatism that char­ac­ter­ized their moment.

Mov­ing from the sen­sa­tion­al to the seem­ing­ly mun­dane, Nathan Holmes inves­ti­gates the pro­duc­tion design of office space in “Deep Back­grounds: Land­scapes of Labour in All the ­President’s Men.” Draw­ing on the film’s pro­duc­tion his­to­ry as well dis­cours­es in office design and man­age­ment the­o­ry, Holmes argues that the film’s stag­ing of knowl­edge work via inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism expres­sive­ly delin­eates aspi­ra­tions for a white-col­lar work­place that would nev­er mate­ri­al­ize.

Final­ly, in “Archae­ol­o­gy of the (1970s) Com­mune,” Andrew Pen­dakis inter­views the artist Fras­er McCal­lum about his instal­la­tion, Come Live with Us. McCallum’s project recon­structs the expe­ri­ence of Rochdale Col­lege, an exper­i­men­tal, stu­dent-run school spawned with­in a mod­ernist dor­mi­to­ry high-rise at the bor­der of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to cam­pus. Draw­ing on archival mate­ri­als, inter­views, and present-day images of the building’s archi­tec­tur­al sur­faces, McCallum’s instal­la­tion grasps toward Rochdale as a rad­i­cal moment of pos­si­bil­i­ty, even as it acknowl­edges the dif­fi­cul­ty of solid­i­fy­ing its his­tor­i­cal pres­ence.