Strawberries and Cream: On Esfir Shub and the Revolutionary Object

In: Historical Materialism

Abstract

Avant-garde filmmakers in the Soviet Union argued over the merits of the played film and the documentary film. They argued about the duration of shots, long or short. They questioned what constituted filmic material, camera subjectivity, the objective fact and whether film extended the eyes, and the capacity to see, or whether it wielded a fist, augmenting or bashing feelings. Shub contributed to these discussions, not least through her own film work, produced out of a combination of commitment and necessity. This paper traces these discussions and Shub’s role within them through a focus on two objects and the way in which they come to appear in film and film-discourse: strawberries and cream. The strawberries are drawn initially from Shklovsky’s comments on the inequities of US agriculture in his Journey to the Land of Movies (1926) and the cream stems from Eisenstein’s mechanical separator in The Old and the New (1929). Shub’s particular take on the object in her film work will emerge through the dialectical tensions of two objects.

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