Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies

CANCELLED: Time and Nothingness: Image and Temporality through the Lens of Buddhism

Trent B46
Wednesday 25th March 2020 (16:30-18:00)
Contact Dr Hongwei Bao or Ting Chang for more information.

This lecture is now cancelled.

Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies research seminar series (Spring 2020)

Time and Nothingness: Image and Temporality through the Lens of Buddhism


Buddhism is best understood as a discursive space where contesting notions on ontology, epistemology, and logical reasoning have been historically debated. All schools of Buddhism share one common underlying assumption: that conventional reality is constituted by a set of interdependent relationships. Hence, existence/non-existence, time/timelessness, spatial unity/disunity, and movement/stasis are considered forms and appearances, which are empty of fundamental values. Therefore, Buddhism brings our attention to the emptiness of individuality, subjectivity, and agency. It brings to the fore the process of interdependent constitution and mediation on the level of consciousness(es), and the unreliability of the very concept of reality.


In this presentation, I first expound how Buddhist philosophy can help scholars reevaluate what cinema and media are and what exactly they are constituting and mediating. I then focus on one issue as a case study: time. Time is a fundamental dimension in the photographic and cinematographic images, which, Iargue, instantiate two temporalities. First, there is technical time: the process in which our consciousnesses initiate an image as a duration, and as a temporal difference between the actual and the virtual, memories from the past and potentialities for the future. Yet, being animated and perceived as a spatiotemporal continuum, the image also instantiates another kind of time: poetic time. The term poetic refers to poeisis, i.e. the process of pro-ducing something in our mode of existence, which would otherwise remain concealed. Understood in terms of European transcendental philosophy, this something has been historically understood as the will, the spirit, or the soul. Yet, according to Buddhist scholars, what remains concealed in poeisis is tathātā: the way it is.



About the speaker:

Dr Victor Fan is Senior Lecturer at Film Studies, King’s College London and Film Consultant of the Chinese Visual Festival. He is the author of Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) and Extraterritoriality: Locating Hong Kong Cinema and Media (Edinburg University Press, 2019). His forthcoming book, Illuminating Reality: Locating Film and Media Philosophy in Buddhism, will be published in 2020 by University of Minnesota Press. His articles appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen, and Film History.

Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies

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