„Sponsored Films“ und die Kultur der Modernisierung. Schnittstellen zwischen Ökonomie und Ästhetik im österreichischen Werbe- und Industriefilm

Project directors: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Büttner, M.A., Univ.-Prof. Diedrich Diederichsen, Univ.-Doz. Dr. Siegfried Mattl
Research Team: Mag. Sema Colpan, Mag. Lydia Nsiah, Mag. Joachim Schätz
Duration: 01.08.2010–31.07.2013

Funding body: ÖAW doc-TEAM-Programm

Project description:

While advertising and industrial films in Germany have already received some scholarly attention, the history of Austrian industrial and advertising films is still widely unexplored. The project combines archival and historical research with transdisciplinary approaches linking contemporary history, film studies and cultural analysis to examine both the sociocultural and aesthetic significance of these films in the context of industrial modernity.

First, the team will research and view a corpus of Austrian advertising and industrial films produced between 1920 and 1960, a period of time coinciding with the development of regimes of mass production and mass consumption in the US and Western Europe. Second, three separate doctoral theses will examine the relations between economic rationalization, aesthetic strategies and interconnected forms of knowledge production (e.g., market research, management theory, advertising psychology) manifested in the films. Drawing on international productions as points of reference, each thesis will highlight a different aspect of advertising and industrial film production in Austria.

1) Integrating empirical research into the socio-scientific concept of Fordism, Sema Colpan will relate the films to the history of scientific management and an emergent consumer culture in Austria. Through the analyses of exemplary films, she will examine the development of a visual culture of industrial modernization in Austria.
2) Highlighting the history of advertising and industrial films as fields of formal innovation and experimentation, Lydia Nsiah will examine the relationship between these „minor“ genres and film avantgardes. 
3) In his examination of Austrian advertising and industrial films, Joachim Schätz will apply the concepts of „rationalization“ and „contingency“. These two notions will be used to identify intersections between the poetics of selected films, contemporary practices and discourses of rationalization, and theories of film as a mediator of modernity.

All three team members will focus on the functions of these films in the context of economic rationalization, while paying attention to aesthetic „surplus values“ that may enable self- reflexions of modernity beyond the assigned (e.g., promotional, disciplinary, ...) tasks. To examine the „translations“ between the interests of business enterprises and the aesthetics of the films produced, the team will also take into account intermediary forms of knowledge production developed during the period of time in question.