John Powers

John Powers

Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies
research interests:
  • Experimental Film and Video
  • Moving Image Media Technologies
  • U.S. Film History
  • Critical Media Arts Practices
  • Film and Media Theory
  • Documentary Film and Video
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    • Washington University
      Campus Box 1174
      One Brookings Drive
      St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    John Powers' research draws from cultural history, media theory, and discourse and textual analysis to examine the use of commercial technologies as material and cultural resources in experimental film and video.

    His current book project reconstructs the histories of four technologies––the Bolex camera, reversal film stock, film labs, and DIY optical printing––to argue that experimental filmmakers made significant contributions to film culture by drawing from discourses that accumulated in corporate advertising, techno-scientific manuals, and filmmaking guidebooks to imbue material resources with alternative values and meanings. In contrast to the individualist and medium-specific paradigms that have dominated experimental film scholarship, his book embeds technology within the collective practices, institutions, and ideologies that have informed its uses, using it as a lens through which we can understand and appreciate the challenges posed by the moving image avant-garde.

    Powers’ writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Screen, October, Millennium Film Journal, Cinéma & Cie, and A Companion to Experimental Film and Video. He has published on the work of artists such as Stan Brakhage, Barbara Hammer, Phil Solomon, and Caroline Avery.

    He has also made experimental videos that have screened at venues such as Crossroads Festival, the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, Unexposed Microcinema, the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, and the Big Muddy Film Festival, and he has served as an advisor on thesis committees in FMS and the Department of Art History.

    At Wash U, he teaches courses on the theory and practice of experimental film, the history of American cinema, contemporary women directors, documentary film and media, horror across media, and film historiography.

    He holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


    “Rediscovering Caroline Avery,” Cinéma&Cie: International Film Studies Journal 34 (Spring 2021).


    “Barbara Hammer, Optical Printing, and a Theory of Touch,” A Companion to Experimental Cinema, ed. Federico J. Windhausen (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell) (forthcoming 2021).


    “Moving Through Stasis in Stan Brakhage’s Passage Through: A Ritual,” Screen 60.3 (Autumn 2019): 410–427.


    “A DIY Come-On: A History of Optical Printing in Avant-Garde Cinema,” Cinema Journal 57.4 (Summer 2018): 71–95.


    “Glancing Outward: Notes on the New Historicist Film Parts III & IV,” Millennium Film Journal 62 (October 2015): 58–67.


    “Glancing Outward: Towards the New Historicist Film,” Millennium Film Journal 61 (Spring 2015): 75–82.


    “Darkness on the Edge of Town: Film Meets Video in Phil Solomon’s In Memoriam (Mark LaPore).” October 137 (Summer 2011): 85–106.