Public dissemination to challenge and illuminate cultural values and social assumptions around ‘cinesexuality’
Submitting InstitutionAnglia Ruskin University
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
Summary of the impact
On the basis of the research in her book Cinesexuality
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), Patricia MacCormack gave nine public lectures
at Treadwell's bookshop in London (2009-2011) to 450 people in total,
rethinking traditional ideas of gender, identity, feminism and occultism
in cinema. All nine lectures sold out. She also appeared on 16 DVDs being
interviewed or as interviewer, explaining and distributing key concepts
from Cinesexuality that question how we watch as gendered viewers,
and what licit and illicit paradigms constitute transgression and the
politics of cinematic pleasure. Impact occurred via:
1) Increasing public understanding of the relationship between
image and spectator with reference to identity, alterity and ethics;
2) Enabling public participation with themes in contemporary
philosophy that validate multiple subject positions, and encourage social
inclusion and equality through creative practice in film and other arts,
as consumers and producers.
The primary research underpinning public impact was MacCormack's
monograph, Cinesexuality (Ashgate, 2008). Research for this was
conducted at Anglia Ruskin, where MacCormack has been employed since 2001,
first as a lecturer, then a senior lecturer, and now as Reader. The
research began with a series of articles (see Section 3) initiated in 2006
that sought to deal with issues of spectatorship differently via
Continental Philosophy, feminism and queer theory in order to study the
impact of cinema on the constitution of alternate identities. Through this
goal, the ethical impact of how images are received, and how this
reception can extend to a more ethical operation of social inclusion for
different subject positions through art, was analysed. Two articles cited
in Section 3 were adapted and in 2007-8 the rest of the monograph was
completed, before it was published in 2008. It was funded by a prestigious
AHRC Research Leave Award (£23,000). Key findings included the following:
- How we watch, rather than what we watch, is capable of constituting an
openness to difference, which translates to openness to other subjects,
that can affect social policy;
- Art, while occupying a fictive space, is real in its capacity to alter
ideologies and actions in the social sphere;
- The relationship between desire and the cinematic image - what
MacCormack terms `cinesexuality' - allows spectators to contemplate the
ways they watch in an ethical operation of self-reflection, thus making
them accountable active viewers rather than passive spectators.
Through eight chapters (85,000 words) various issues that extended beyond
cinema studies were also challenged. These included:
- The connectivity between cinema and all art, beyond the discretion of
- The redundancy of genre;
- Challenges to concepts of `perversion' and `normativity' in reference
to desire and its relationship with identity through what can be
considered examples of `extreme' perversion;
- The necessity of feminism, queer theory and other philosophies of
alterity as they can be translated into daily life beyond both
spectatorship and academics.
MacCormack's book is highly regarded. Catherine Grant chose Cinesexuality
as academic book of the week in The Times Higher Education (18 Dec
2008), calling it an `ambitious and avowedly experimental work on film
spectatorship ... in which meanings of gender, sexuality, propriety and
subjectivity are problematised'.
Joanna McIntyre in M/C Reviews said: `It is easy to foresee the
importance of this book as a defining text. Scholars of film, feminism,
queer theory, post-structuralist theory and philosophy will no doubt tease
out the complexities of MacCormack's work throughout the coming years to
discover multiple applications and possible expansions'.
Cinesexuality has formed the basis of journal articles, such as
Tim Huntley's `Abstraction is Ethical: The Ecstatic and Erotic in Patricia
MacCormack's Cinesexuality' (Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror
Studies, Issue 8, June 2010).
In Anglia Ruskin's External Assessment Exercise in 2012, the External
Assessor gave the book a 4* rating. (This can be provided by the HEI on
request). This provides evidence of the book's esteem.
References to the research
1. Patricia MacCormack, Cinesexuality (Aldershot: Ashgate 2008).
This is included in REF2.
2. Patricia MacCormack,'A Cinema of Desire: Cinesexuality and Guattari's
Asignifying Cinema.' Women: Special Issue on Guattari and Feminism
16 (3), Winter 2005/6. This is available from the HEI on request.
3. Patricia MacCormack 'Cinemasochism: Time, Space and Submission.' In
D.N. Rodowick, ed. The Afterimage of Gilles Deleuze's Film Philosophy
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). This is available from
the HEI on request.
4. Patricia MacCormack, 'Masochistic Cinesexuality'. In Mathijs, E. and
Mendik, X eds. Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema
Since 1945 (London: Wallflower and New York: Columbia UP, 2004).
This is available from the HEI on request.
Details of the impact
i) Increasing public debate of issues of gender, social inclusion,
power relations and the ethics of spectatorship through widely
As a result of their engagement with Cinesexuality, four
directors and producers invited MacCormack to appear talking about the
themes that were addressed in Cinesexuality on DVDs intended for a
wide public audience. These films are often associated with issues of
violence, masculinity and are rarely perceived through a feminist frame.
Because of MacCormack's participation, viewers of these DVD extras were
impacted by radically alternate ways of thinking about (i) meanings within
the films and (ii) how they watched these films in relation to gender and
The DVDs included:
- The 13 films of Jean Rollin (2009, 30,000+ unit sales), and Burke
and Hare (2010, 2000 unit sales) and Daughter of
Darkness (2010, 3000 unit sales) from Redemption Films (UK and US
Suspiria (2009) Nouveaux Pictures release (UK and US
distribution, 1400 unit sales, UK and European distribution);
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (2009) (UK, US and
Australian Distribution, repeat screenings on The Horror Channel, 5000+
unit sales). This DVD has the additional impact of reflecting upon and
affecting future censorship debates and regulation;
Maitresse (BFI, 2012). (UK distribution, approx. UK sales 2000
ii) Challenging public understanding of stereotypes of gender and
desire by drawing (in art practice and script consultancy) on Cinesexuality
's address to the shift from spectatorship as dialectic to baroque
MacCormack's was commissioned, on the basis of Cinesexuality, by the
Whitechapel Gallery in London to act as script consultant on the Gonda
film project, directed by Ursula Mayer (2009). This film premiered on 12
April 2012. (http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/ursula-mayer%E2%80%99s-gonda/).
MacCormack wrote the script for the second part of the Gonda trilogy,
Pheres. This was filmed in October 2012. MacCormack's script drew on
philosophical ideas from Cinesexuality to reorient traditional
concepts of the relationship between gender, performance, image and
identity that directly ask the audience to become accountable for their
own practices of spectatorship, the key claim which underpins Cinesexuality.
Gonda has been downloaded 12,000 times and Pheres has been
downloaded 5000 times. Pheres is still showing as an installation
at 21er Haus in Vienna (13 Oct 2013 -12 Jan 2014) so viewer numbers are
iii) Increasing public understanding of concepts related to feminism,
cinema and the social impact of art through public lectures
MacCormack increased public understanding of the above issues through a
series of public talks, including the lecture series at Treadwells, and
through participation in public arts festivals.
Treadwell's is a London bookshop that specialises in esoteric books, and
for 10 years has been running workshops, events and public lectures that
draw participants from all walks of life and all areas. Past presenters
have included academics and students but also politicians, people in legal
studies, art practitioners, activists and others. Treadwell's aims to draw
together those who would not ordinarily converge to share ideas and
disseminate theories and practices in a direct attempt to create impact
between audiences and individuals and expose ordinarily closed worlds such
as academia, public policy and art practice to the entire community to
foster exchanges and developments. Presenting at Treadwell's is by
invitation and entry to each lecture costs the public between £7-15. There
were 50 places at each of MacCormack's talks, all of which sold out. These
people came from many areas of public life. They included artists, medical
and legal professionals, public workers, and students of various
disciplines. MacCormack's talks increased their understanding of the
ethical relation between art and experience as it translates to mediation
between different subjects. In her talks on cinema, occultism and the
esoteric, MacCormack drew attention to a neglected strand through the lens
of feminism, focusing on sexuality and the social demonization of
alterity, and thus addressing issues of social inclusion and cohesion.
In addition to the lecture series, MacCormack also spoke about her
research at a range of public festivals. These included:
Abandon Normal Devices Festival of Cinema and Digital Culture.
Manchester, October 2010. MacCormack was a paid interviewed speaker at
this event, which was attended by approx. 120 people. The festival
utilised MacCormack as a guest to conduct interviews based around
challenges to gender in cinema. This increased the level of public
debate about the perception of gender as performative and learned, and
publicly challenged opinions based on biological essentialism which have
been detrimental to social equality and inclusion;
Spill Festival. Barbican. London. April 2011. MacCormack was a
paid interview panel guest speaker at this event, which was attended by
approximately 40 people. This festival panel focused on and discussed
one chapter of Cinesexuality (`Zombies without Organs'), for 40
members of the public, increasing their understanding of the
significance of feminine sexuality in the burgeoning popularity of
zombie culture in various media, including film, television, art, music
and popular culture.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Owner Treadwell's Books London has provided a letter outlining
- Commissioner for extras on DVD releases for the British Film Institute
has provided a letter outlining McCormack's input.
- Festival organiser for Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival,
Manchester 2010, has provided a letter outlining MacCormack's role.
- Session organiser for Spill Festival, Barbican London 2010,
has provided a letter outlining MacCormack's role.
- Artist and director of Gonda I and II, has provided a
letter outlining MacCormack's role.