Jennifer M. Barker is associate professor of communication at Georgia State University, USA. She is the director of the Graduate Studies for the Moving Image Studies' doctoral program and of the Film, Video, and Digital Image masters program. Barker researches in the area of moving image studies, with particular interests in cinema and the senses, synaesthesia, theories of spectatorship and embodiment, performance, feminism, as well as documentary.
In 2009, Barker published The Tactile Eye. Touch and the Cinematic Experience, which discusses the sensuous exchange between film and viewer and was a finalist for the "Best Book on Moving Image Studies" prize that year. Barker's contribution "Cinema and Child's Play" was published in 2019 in the anthology "In The Structures of the Film Experience by Jean-Pierre Meunier: Historical Assessments and Phenomenological Expansions". Her work also appears in Cinema Journal, Discourse, Film-Philosophy, New Review of Film & Television Studies, Paragraph, Screen.
Three Quick Questions:
In a few words, can you tell us about your current research interest?
I’m thinking about two films that may seem to have little in common — Jordan Peele’s Nope and Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow — both of which use the figure of the animal and particular patterns of light in ways that raise questions for me about the two films’ ideas about the animal, human, and “alien” (in several senses) in their reflection on the American Western. I’m also collaborating with my colleague Ethan Tussey on a project about the paradoxical materiality of props used in runaway productions, and I continue to pursue questions about synesthesia and moving images.
How do you relate the term poiesis to your work?
In my encounters with moving images, I try to cultivate a kind of synaesthetic sensitivity — focusing on qualities like intensity, rhythm, and gesture as they appear across modalities (visual, aural, tactile, and so forth) — that might reveal or facilitate unexpected resonances between spaces, bodies, and objects.
Which film or other audiovisual format has resonated with you lately and why?
Todd Field’s Tár resonated (quite literally) with me for the way its sound design materializes mental and physical space together and makes the line between the literal and the abstract vibrate, somehow.