Richard Baxstrom and Todd Meyers’s Violence’s Fabled Experiment (2018) is a superb account of the relationship between images, violence, and history. It is also an anthropological engagement—an engagement with how certain currents of thought are posited imagistically—with three filmmakers: Werner Herzog, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. The book moves through an in-between space where creative thought and the moving image meet, where cinematic experiments are forged. Baxstrom and Meyers dwell with and assess these experiments as they pull us into a quest for human origins, enfold us in historical reenactments, and turn us into receptors of planetary crisis.
Viewed from afar, the works of Herzog, Oppenheimer, and Castaing-Taylor might appear an odd threesome, but it is precisely through their anthropological tenor that we find significant correspondences. What kind of purview does anthropology grant, over and above, conventional film criticism, for considering filmic (and human) experience? How does an attentiveness to the aesthetic, cultural, historical, philosophical and genealogical dimensions of moving images enrich this analysis? Violence’s Fabled Experiment offers us one avenue for sorting out these questions, while asserting the importance of filmic experiments as worthy of anthropological pursuit.
The contributors to the book forum are:
Nikolaj Lübecker, Professor of French and Film Studies and Fellow of St. John’s College, University of Oxford.
Christopher Wright, Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths (University of London).
Catherine Russell, Distinguished Professor of Film Studies and Cinema, Concordia University.
Aidan Seale-Feldman, Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer, Bioethics Program and Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia.
Richard Baxstrom, Professor of Anthropology and the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.
Todd Meyers, Associate Professor of Anthropology, New York University Shanghai.