The audiovisual essay (Master in Film and Screen Studies)

Presentation Objectives and competences Theoretical contents Practical content Evaluation Bibliography Back to the Master
Program details
Subject: The audiovisual essay
Course: First
Semester: 2
Modality: Optional
Professor: Yago Alcover


The Audiovisual Essay course is aimed at all those who wish to understand the critical exercise of images from a practical approach. In today’s world, it is increasingly common for research and criticism of images to be carried out by working with images. Thus, it is increasingly essential for the researcher’s task to be able to work comfortably from a visual facet in an increasingly hybrid discipline, which is theoretical as well as technical and creative.

The course is divided into two phases: the first, oriented towards the history and methodologies of the audiovisual and filmic essay as disciplines, with an overview of its main authors and typologies, as well as a broad exploration of the more experimental dimensions of the poetic work of montage; and the second, in workshop format, which will focus on the production of a practical project in audiovisual format. Students can carry out the project in relation to their main object of research within the framework of the Master’s degree, or they can carry out a completely original project for the subject.

Finally, the students will show the final projects in a public screening in the Zumzeig Hall. The organisation of the whole event, the programme, the communication, the design, discourse and intentions of the event will be managed entirely by the students in different working groups, which will be organised and coordinated by the subject.

Within the framework of the subject, visits to external entities such as museums, archives or cultural centres may take place outside school hours.

Objectives and competences

  • To learn about the discipline of the audiovisual essay as a tool for a researcher.
  • To promote creative activity around the critical exercise.
  • Improve the technical and narrative skills of visual and sound editing.
  • Elaborate critical discourses within the historiographical work of film and media.
  • Manage and plan a public screening event.

Theoretical contents

    • Critical Art, the visual essay and the audiovisual essay as disciplines.
    • What are we talking about when we talk about the essay, and how does it translate into the visual and audiovisual? We can re-signify images and use them according to our purpose. As in the writing exercise, we will generate spaces and intervals through which we can rewrite history again and again.
    • Hans R. Jauss, Walter Benjamin, G.K. Chesterton, Eugéne Atget, Joseph Kosuth, Marcel Duchamp, Anselm Kiefer.
    • Associated readings:
      Essay on the audiovisual essay. Verónica Cuello Blanco
      Introduction to the Audiovisual Essay: a child of two mothers. Adrian Martin
    • Viewings:
      Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep.
      Ingmar Bergman, Secrets of a Marriage.
      Catherine Grant
      Adrian Martin & Cristina Álvarez López
    • Making genealogy with images. Exploring the possibility of constellating and carrying out Visual and Audiovisual Atlases. As in any methodology, there is a conceptual work. In our case, this will be to understand what happens, which implies the meeting place of gestures through time. In the montage, their convergences are produced: in the cuts, the pauses, the ellipses and the transitions. Thus, in addition to ideas, we will be able to propose those transformations so typical of cinema, in which gestures will no longer remain fixed as in a snapshot or a sentence. We are thus moving towards a space of openness of ideas and images.
    • Michel Foucault, Jussi Parikka, Siegfried Zielinsky, Aby Warburg, Georges Didi-Huberman, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Godard.
    • Associated readings:
      Georges Didi-Huberman, Before Time.
      Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge
      Aby Warburg, Atlas Mnemosyne
      Giorgio Agamben, Nymphs
      Oblique views from the Warburg archive. Variations and intermittences of the gesture that remains and returns. Xavier Antich. In Poéticas del gesto en el cine europeo contemporáneo. Intermedio, 2013.
    • Viewings:
      Cécile Fontaine: Holly-Woods, Crossworlds.
      Dziga Vertov: Man in the Camera
      Peter Tscherkassky: Dream Work
      Jean-Luc Godard: History(s) of the Cinema
    • Towards a possible history of the essay as a genre of Non-Fiction and the Audiovisual Essay as a critical discipline: Are they really so different?
    • Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci-Lucchi Trasparenze, Oh! Uomo, Il Cinema Profumatto
    • Chris Marker La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Cartas desde Siberia, Level 5
    • Alain Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour, Noche y Niebla
    • Jean-Luc Godard El grupo Dziga Vertov
    • Wim Wenders Tokyo-Ga
    • Robert Kramer Route One Usa
    • Joris Ivens, Regen
    • Bert Haanstra, Panta Rhei
    • Harun Farocki, Parallel, Videogramas de una Revolución
    • Language, its forms and its elasticity at the centre. From lyrical narrative modes to alternative research methods. Is it the experimental forms or is it the method? This course will also explore poetic forms insofar as the montage embodied in the essay is always produced from this dimension.
    • Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow, Marie Menken, Peter Gidal, Rose Lowder, Nathaniel Dorsky, Paul Sharits, Ben Russell, P Adams Sitney.
    • Associated Readings:
    • Nathaniel Dorsky: El Cine de la Devoción
    • Stan Brakhage: El Asedio de las Imágenes
    • Eugéne Green: Poética del Cinematógrafo
    • Viewings:
    • Stan Brakhage, Mothlight
    • Nathaniel Dorsky, Pneuma
    • Rose Lowder, Bouquets
    • Marie Menken, Lights
    • Michael Snow, La Region Centrale
    • Ben Russell, Trypps
    • Christian Marclay, Alain Resnais, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Gustav Deutsch, Cory Arcangel
    • Viewings:
    • Christian Marclay, The Clock.
    • Alain Resnais, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Van Gogh, Noche y Niebla.
    • Henri-Georges Clouzot, Le Mystére Picasso.
    • Gustav Deutsch. Film Ist.
    • Cory Archangel. Super Mario Clouds.
    • Recycling, meeting images. From film collage to possible detours. Giving images a new life. In many cases, research rescues images that have remained hidden, invisible. How to guide this emergence?
    • Bill Morrison, Naomi Uman, Martin Arnold, Bruce Conner, Craig Baldwin.
    • Associated Readings:
      MacDonald, Scott. The filmmaker as miner. An interview with Bill Morrison by Scott MacDonald. Cineaste Magazine. Winter 2016.
      Tony Rains. Decasia, in Sight & Sound, BFI, 2012.
      Justin Remes. Animated Holes, An interview with Naomi Uman. Millennium Film Journal n66, 2017.
      Matthew Levine. A poetic archaeology of cinema: the films of Bill Morrison. Found Footage Magazine n1. October 2015.
      André Habib. Thinking in ruins: Around the films of Bill Morrison. Offscreen, vol 8, issue 11. 2004.
    • Viewings:
      Naomi Uman, Remover
      Bill Morrison, Decasia
      Martin Arnold, Piece Touchée, Alone
      Bruce Conner, Five Times Marilyn, Crossroads
    • Disordering or dismantling history. Towards a resistant history.
    • Catherine Russell, Anarxiu Sida, Valie Export, Cine Letrista, El Detournément, Gordon Matta-Clark.
    • Readings:
      Catherine Russell, Archiveology
      Anarchive Sida
      Beyond the Black Box: The Lettrist Cinema of Disjunction
      Paula Amad, Counter-archive. Film, the everyday and Albert Kahn’s “Archives de la Planète”.
      Gordon Matta Clark: Somewhere Outside the Law. Éric Aillez. Music, Visual and Performing Arts Notebooks 12.
    • Viewings:
      Valie Export: Archiv
      Isidore Isou, Poison and Eternity
    • Projecting in analogue
    • Projecting in digital
    • Readings:
      Process cinema, handmade cinema in the digital age.
      Jussi Parikka, Zombie Media
      Kim Knowles, Experimental Film and Photochemical Practices
    • A survey of the main contemporary video essay journals and websites.
    • Catherine Grant, Adrian Martin, Tecmerin

Practical content

Development of an Audiovisual Essay:
1st phase: a selection of five still images accompanying an oral presentation of the idea.
2nd phase: an audiovisual/film essay of 5-10 minutes, completely free. It may or may not be aligned with the possible theme or axis of the TFM. Two cut versions will be delivered and a presentation will be made.
Final screening in a Public Space (Zumzeig).
The students will organise the event, its call, dissemination, structure and design autonomously. Presentation of the final cut.


The course will be assessed continuously throughout the semester. It will be assessed on the basis of the different stages of delivery of the essay project. In addition, active participation in class and involvement in the screening event that closes the course will also be positively assessed. Attendance at the workshop is compulsory. An unexcused absence of more than 20% of the sessions will result in an automatic failure.

Students who have to attend the re-evaluation will have to hand in the completed rehearsal project. They will also have to produce a written report of at least 5000 words defining the process of carrying out the project in three chapters: research, execution and analysis of the result.


Basic bibliography 

Found Footage Magazine
Historia(s) del Cine, Jean-Luc Godard. Caja Negra, 2007.
Los condenados de la Pantalla, Hito Steyerl. Caja Negra, 2014.
El cine de la devoción, Nathaniel Dorsky. Lumiére. 2013.
Archiveology, Catherine Russell. Duke Univertity Press, 2018.
Desconfiar de las imágenes, Harun Farocki. Caja Negra, 2013.
Imágenes pese a todo, Georges Didi-Huberman. Paidos, 2004.
Ante el Tiempo, Georges Didi-Huberman. Adriana Hidalgo Editora, 2014.
Lo que vemos, lo que nos mira, Georges Didi-Huberman. Manantial, 1997.
El Asedio de las Imágenes, Stan Brakhage. Ediciones Bastante, 2019.
Sans Soleil, Chris Marker. Mula Plateada, 2020.
La Arqueología del Saber, Michel Foucault. Siglo XXI, 2010.
Counter-archive. Film, the everyday and Albert Kahn’s “Archives de la Planète”. Paula Amad, Columbia University Press. 2010.
Beyond the Black Box: The lettrist cinema of disjunction. Andrew V. Uroskie, MIT Press, 2011.
Gordon Matta Clark: en algún lugar fuera de la ley. Éric Aillez. Cuadernos de Música, Artes Visuales y Artes Escénicas 12.
Miradas oblicuas a partir del archivo Warburg. Variaciones e intermitencias del gesto que permanece y retorna. Xavier Antich. En Poéticas del gesto en el cine europeo contemporáneo. Intermedio, 2013.

Online resources: