Medicine and Spectacle: The Local and Global Avant-Garde at Expo67. Keynote 4: Kirsten Ostherr, “Technological Innovation, Avant-Garde Aesthetics, and Miracles in Modern Medicine”

Saturday, November 4
3:00 PM–4:00 PM

Location: Council Room, King's College London

Speaker/performer: Kirsten Ostherr

Lecture: Keynote lecture
Days: Saturday, 4 November

Kirsten Ostherr (Rice): “Technological Innovation, Avant-Garde Aesthetics, and Miracles in Modern Medicine

This talk will explain how Robert Cordier's film, Miracles in Modern Medicine (1967), engaged with contemporary avant-garde film aesthetics in its presentation of innovative medical technologies and therapies. By drawing on subject matter that transgressed social norms for public audiovisual presentations, Cordier's film dramatized the aesthetics of shock that were cultivated in radical film clubs across the northern hemisphere in this era. Graphic images of childbirth, surgery, and other intimate medical procedures were interwoven with sophisticated animation, modernist editing techniques, and unusual camera angles to present viewers with a fully immersive spectatorial experience. By blending imagery that showcased the latest technology with storylines about the personal impact of these "miracles of modern medicine," Cordier's film cultivated a sense of harmony between science and humanity. Yet, as this analysis will show, human-machine relations were unable to fully escape the tensions at the heart of technomediated medicine. 

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