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.