Anne Eakin Moss is Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature (formerly The Humanities Center) at Johns Hopkins University. She received her PhD in Slavic from Stanford and has held postdoctoral positions at Harvard and Hopkins. Her most recent publication was “A Woman with a Movie Camera: Chantal Akerman’s Essay Films” published in The Essay Film: Dialogue, Politics, Utopia (2016). She has just completed a book manuscript on gender and philosophies of community in Russian literature and film, and is now working on a comparative project on Soviet and Hollywood cinema of the 1930s entitled “The Permeable Screen.” In January 2019, she will be a research fellow at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie.
Sergei Eisenstein claimed in 1947 that once perfected, stereoscopic cinema would fulfil theatre’s ‘abiding tendency to reunite the actor and the spectator, the stage and the auditorium, the viewing masses and the spectacle’. Eisenstein did not imagine, however, that wearing virtual reality goggles, we could join a pilgrimage to Mecca or walk on Pluto. My talk will address the problems of contingency and causality in the development of new media through the prism of Eisenstein’s writings on the concept of immersivity, and the cultural sphere from which they emerged. Why do professionals in the industry describe VR as a ‘natural’ progression of cinema and insist that 3-D technology makes cinema more ‘realistic’? Soviet cinema of Eisenstein’s day strove for a kind of three-dimensionality and simultaneously immersivity in seeking to ensure the penetration of the cinematic image into the spectator’s reality. Rather than the natural progression of the cinematic medium, this historical case might show us the causal importance of history and ideology.