Blink and Burn: Cinema, Materiality, and the China Girl

4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

The “China girl,” sometimes called a “China doll” or “girl head,” has appeared in more films than any actress, though these women are almost never seen, save for a fleeting glimpse an audience might catch at the end of a film reel. Since the late 1920s, China girls—women posed demurely next to color swatches—have appeared on the leader of every commercial manufactured film. While they are instrumental in determining exposure, image density, and color balance in film print stocks, their images have lingered in production facilities despite the contemporary use of digital technologies that otherwise render them obsolete.

This presentation addresses the China girl’s appearance in two registers: as an image both central to, and invisible within, the history of industrial film production, and as a subject recuperated by a number of avant-garde films and digital works. It argues that in both industrial and experimental contexts, the China girl expresses an enduring association between filmic materiality and femininity that, in a predominantly digital production context, persists despite the newer technologies’ connotations of objectivity and accuracy, as well as their supposed immateriality.

Genevieve Yue
is a Consortium for Faculty Diversity postdoctoral fellow at Macalester College. In 2012 she received her Ph.D. from the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California. She is an editor of Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, and her essays and criticism have appeared in Reverse Shot, Grey Room, The Times Literary Supplement, The LA Weekly, Cinema Scope,, Film Comment, and Film Quarterly. Her research interests include American experimental film and video, feminist film theory, contemporary East Asian cinema, and media history and theory.

Sponsored by the Culture & Media Department and the Dean's Office of Eugene Lang College.

6 E. 16th Street, Room 1618

Free; no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

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