Reading Viktor Shklovsky's "Art as Technique" in the Context of Early Cinema

van den Oever, A., Jul-2019, Viktor Shklovsky’s Heritage in Literature, Arts, and Philosophy. Gratchev, S. N. & Mancing, H. (eds.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield

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  • Reading Viktor Shklovsky’s “Art as Technique” in the Context of Early Cinema.

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This chapter argues that Viktor Shklovsky’s key text “Art as Technique”, which revolves around the famous key term ostran(n)enie (“making strange”), points at two related phenomena: (1) the way in which the early film show exploited the expressive potential of the new cinema machine to make humans and objects look “strange” (if not “grotesque”), as Maxim Gorky had aptly argued in 1896; and (2) the ways in which “strangeness” inspired the avant-garde performances celebrated by Shklovsky’s Futurist friends.

“Art as a Technique” is reread within the historical context of the effects of the early film shows and the question how the new cinema machine functioned to make Maxim Gorky label it as a “grotesque creation” is addressed. This chapter attempts to create an understanding of Gorky and Shklovsky’s relation to the “strangeness” of the early film shows. Therefore, it will present specific fragments of a cultural archaeology of the then new medium and an excavation of its novelty effects. This method is chosen in an attempt to avoid the misunderstandings created by the retrospective perspective, from which one tends to overlook the novelty experiences triggered by a new medium. As is so aptly explained by Shklovsky in “Art as Technique”, novelty/strangeness experiences vanish overtime. Thus, excavations such as in this chapter are needed to remind us of them and to reinvigorate the context from which “Art as Technique” emerged.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationViktor Shklovsky’s Heritage in Literature, Arts, and Philosophy
EditorsSlav N. Gratchev, Howard Mancing
Place of PublicationLanham, Maryland
PublisherRowman and Littlefield
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4985-9793-7
ISBN (Print)978-1-4985-9792-0
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2019


  • Early cinema, Viktor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique", ostrannenie

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