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Subject and Matter in Anja Kirschner’s Moderation (2016)

Film still from Anja Kirschner's Moderation. Courtesy of Anja Kirschner.

Seminar Room 1.10
School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies
University Road
University of Leeds

Convened by Luisa Lorenza Corna and Rose-Anne Gush (Centre for Critical Materialist Studies).

A screening and discussion of the film Moderation (2016, 149 mins) directed by artist filmmaker Anja Kirschner.

Moderation recounts the pre-production process of a horror film and looks at the way external events and internal conflicts between the director, the screenwriter and the producers shape the process of scriptwriting.

Throughout the movie the scripted narrative remains largely elusive, but a few themes insistently recur in the dialogues between the director and her cast. Amidst these, particularly prominent is the theme of matter, with a focus on its transformative possibilities as well as the history it is imbued with. In one scene, for example, a chemical engineer analyses a strange and possibly ‘cursed’ and ‘sentient’ archaeological relic in a lab; in another, the actress who plays the chemical engineer discusses her personal collection of discarded objects and their meaning in relation to abandonment and redemption.

Often, the conversations on the disintegration and re-composition of objects refer to transformations simultaneously occurring within the lives of the characters. The focus on matter can therefore be understood as an oblique expedient to address psychic processes, such as the experience of trauma and the attempt to recover from it.

Kirschner’s approach, in our view, offers an interesting entry point to reflect upon the relation between matter, the body and subjectivity, as well as on questions raised by new-materialist theories, which have been addressed in our discussions in 2016.


11:00 – 13:30
Screening of 
Moderation, Anja Kirschner, 2016, 149 mins, Format: DCP / HD video

13:30 – 14:30

14:30 – 15:30
Conversation with Anja Kirschner followed by discussion of some aspects of the texts.

(This list has been provided by the artist, it includes some of the key texts that have inspired the film. We will refer to them during the debate after the screening. Participants do not need to read them.)

  • Aleksandr Ėtkind, Warped Mourning: Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2013) (“Introduction”, “Mimetic and Subversive” and “Post-Soviet Hauntology”)

  • Bracha Ettinger, The Matrixial Borderspace (University of Minnesota Press, 2006) (“Introduction” by Griselda Pollock).

  • Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982) (“Approaching Abjection”)

  • Avery F. Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, 2nd edition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008) (“Introduction” to the New Edition)

  • Griselda Pollock, “From Horrorism to Compassion: Re-facing Medusan Otherness in Dialogue with Adriana Caverero and Bracha Ettinger” in Griselda Pollock (Ed.), Visual Politics of Psychoanalysis: Art and the Image in Post-Traumatic Cultures (I.B.Tauris, 2013)

15:30 – 15:45

15:45 – 17:00
Discussion led by Luisa Corna addressing how theories of “New Materialism” have been taken up in art.


  • October, issue 155 on Materialism. In particular, the articles by: Christoph Cox and Suhail Malik; Helmut Draxler; Alexander R. Galloway; Kerstin Stakemeier

  • Benjamin Noys, “Matter against Materialism: Bruno Latour and the Turn to Objects” in Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies Today (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

  • Jordana Rosenberg, “The Molecularization of Sexuality: On Some Primitivisms of the Present”, Theory & Event, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2014.​

Additional reading:

  • Alexander R. Galloway, “The Poverty of Philosophy: Realism and Post-Fordism”, Critical Inquiry Vol. 39, No. 2, 2013.

For more information and the text booklet, please contact Luisa Lorenza Corna (luisalorenzacorna@gmail.com) or Rose-Anne Gush (roseannegush@gmail.com).

This event is organised by the Centre for Critical Materialist Studies based in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.

Image: Film still from Anja Kirschner’s Moderation. Courtesy of Anja Kirschner.

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