A decade ago, American political satirist Stephen Colbert coined the term ‘truthiness’ in his program ‘The Wørd’, to call attention to a striking pathology in American politics, broadcasting, and business: to purposefully create poisonous information environments not based on logic, examination, or facts, but rather depending on affects, intuitions, and perceptions. Colbert’s main case in those days was United States President George W. Bush’s plea to invade Iraq (in 2003) by playing on people’s gut feelings, not on factual truths. The media, and mass media such as television in particular, have played a pivotal role in spreading ‘truthiness’ since the 1990s. However strong this may be and despite the ontological and epistemological crises of mediated truth claims, the true nevertheless echoes across media forms. This moment seems apt to explore the problem of truthiness and the true in media environments. As such, the Spring 2017 special section in NECSUS investigates the ring of the true in contemporary media.
The guest editors for this special section are Ilona Hongisto (Macquarie University), Toni Pape (University of Amsterdam), and Alanna Thain (McGill University). They have assembled a wonderful roster of writers covering a wide range of issues of form, circulation, perceptual habits, affective assessments, and institutional framings pertaining to such diverse fields as documentary cinema, social media, television news, and online video channels. Rob Coley discusses so-called aesthetic truths in the context of the television crime board. The ‘chromo-politics’ of François Laruelle’s ‘photo-fiction’ are analysed by Yvette Granata. Ilona Hongisto discusses the documentary frame in East European longitudinal documentary maker Gerd Kroske’s work, in particular in his Kehraus trilogy (1990-2006). The politics of spatial fictions is discussed by Emanuel Licha within the context of training the eye for war. Maria Walsh analyses the production of ‘truth-effects’ in video art, focusing on Oriana Fox’s The O Show and Gillian Wearing’s Self Made. Chang-Min Yu discusses effects of ‘digitality’ and ‘operability’ in feature-length films.
The Features section in this issue opens with a conversation on radical media archaeology with Wolfgang Ernst, conducted by Elodie Roy. Phenomenology is quite prominent in media studies at this point in time. It is within this realm that Husserl specialist Christian Ferencz-Flatz explores the phenomenology of television audiences, critically rethinking the canonical writings of Walter Benjamin through the modernity thesis. Michael Witt offers a defining piece on two decades of teaching the history, theory, and practice of audiovisual criticism, which is yet another exciting current in the field of media studies today and also presented regularly in the audiovisual essay section of NECSUS.
The audiovisual essay section is guest edited by Kevin B. Lee, a key figure in the production and dissemination of video work online. Lee has been active in this field for a decade now, making more than 100 video essays. His thematic focus here is critique, activism, and protest. Lee feels that this form of socio-political engagement is often missing from the discourse surrounding audiovisual essays. For this section he has selected work by Chloé Galibert-Laîné, Steven Boone, Kiera Sandusky, and the Anti-Banality Union. We are thrilled to publish Lee’s work and these amazing video essays he has selected in an effort to better shape the world we live in by using the tools of our discipline.
The film festival review section devotes space to human rights festivals, also Eastern European and Spanish-language film cultures. The exhibition review section covers dynamic work by Pipilotti Rist, William Kentridge, and Filipa César. We thank section editors Marijke de Valck & Skadi Loist (festivals) and Miriam de Rosa & Malin Wahlberg (exhibitions) for their dedicated and outstanding work.
This year the NECS annual conference takes place from 29 June to 1 July at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3. The NECSUS editorial team will be in attendance, and as is customary will deliver a report on the state of the journal at the annual members meeting. We would like to thank the entire NECS community for supporting the journal. NECSUS editors will also participate in a workshop on the changing landscape of open access publications in film and media studies. We remain committed to the principles of open access and call on our readers, authors, and other collaborators to join us in propagating these values throughout Europe and the rest of the world.