M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents
“Dance of Values: Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project”
[response by Devin A. Fore]
Tue March 3, 2020 @5pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107
Sergei Eisenstein’s planned film adaptation of Karl Marx’s Capital stands as one of the most enigmatic projects in the history of cinema. Though never realized, it has haunted the imagination of many filmmakers, historians, and philosophers to the present day. A recent look into Eisenstein’s archive revealed the full scope of his plans: between October 1927 and September 1928, he gradually transformed his working diaries into an editing board. This “visual instruction in the dialectical method,” as Eisenstein himself called his project, comprises over 500 pages of notes, drawings, press clippings, expression diagrams, plans for articles, negatives from October, theoretical reflections and extensive quotations. What can be seen and read is not a film but a series of variations on the themes of economy and capitalist exploitation.
Elena Vogman’s recent book Dance of Values. Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project explores the internal formal necessity underlying the director’s choices, arguing that Capital’s visual complexity as well as its epistemic efficacy reside precisely within the state of its material: the dance of heterogeneous themes and disparate fragments, a non-linear, provisory, and non-articulated flow. In this way Eisenstein’s montage sequences produce a kind of surplus value entirely their own: a semiotic excess, which stirs the materials and represented bodies into a dance analogous to Marx’s “dance” of “petrified conditions.” It is in this polymorphic and “diffuse” language – associated with the stream of consciousness of Joyce’s Ulysses – that Eisenstein saw the strongest critical and affective potential for the future cinema.
Elena Vogman is a literary scholar, theorist and independent curator. She has published two books: Sinnliches Denken. Eisensteins exzentrische Methode (Diaphanes 2018) and Dance of Values. Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project (Diaphanes 2019). She currently teaches at the Art Academy Weißensee in Berlin and is working on a research project on media and milieus of critical psychiatry at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar.