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PhD student Underwater landscapes and cinema (M/W)

This offer is available in the following languages:
- Français-- Anglais

Date Limite Candidature : vendredi 16 juin 2023

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Informations générales

Intitulé de l'offre : PhD student Underwater landscapes and cinema (M/W) (H/F)
Référence : UMR6590-LAULED-001
Nombre de Postes : 1
Lieu de travail : RENNES
Date de publication : vendredi 26 mai 2023
Type de contrat : CDD Doctorant/Contrat doctoral
Durée du contrat : 36 mois
Date de début de la thèse : 2 octobre 2023
Quotité de travail : Temps complet
Rémunération : 2 135,00 € gross monthly
Section(s) CN : Spaces, territories and societies

Description du sujet de thèse

.Land use and the exploitation of marine and underwater resources have continued to intensify during the 20th century. In a context where these spaces are increasingly disputed, the urgency of sustainable management of the seabed is obvious, but the notions of natural and cultural heritage, or underwater landscape, are struggling to take root in practices as well as in the imaginaries.
This thesis, which is resolutely interdisciplinary in nature (between geography and film studies), will focus on cinematographic representations of the deep ocean, one of the particularities of which is that the body of water, like the seabed itself, has been incompletely explored, is almost inaccessible to the average person, and is therefore difficult to 'make people see' (or hear). For our societies, they remain blurred landscapes, whose construction is powerfully dependent on cultural imaginaries as well as on scientific contributions and technological mediation. It is this link between scientific investigation and imaginary elaborations that this thesis project aims to study.
The close interweaving between the history of technical progress, the exploration of the ocean depths and cultural representations remains to be studied. Beyond the field of literature (J. Verne, H.P. Lovecraft, W. Hodgson...) or comics (Hergé), James Cameron's cinema provides a particularly notable example of interaction between scientific discoveries and the production of images in the field of (science-)fiction, but it is far from being the only one. Since the early days of cinema, many films have accompanied the gradual discovery of the deep ocean, whether they come from scientific production in the strict sense, from documentary expression, or from the field of fiction, whether this is anchored in our reality or whether it moves away from it to touch on the realm of fantasy.
The thesis aims to analyse the construction and circulation of representations of underwater landscapes via the powerful medium of cinema, while questioning their technological implementation, their cultural implications and their aesthetic issues. From this perspective, the corpus studied is open to a variety of media: documentaries and fictions, amateur, scientific or professional film sources.
By underwater landscape we mean the entire water column and the seabed, including (and especially) beyond the euphotic zone. These environments imply very specific constraints in terms of both access and shooting (reduction or absence of light, turbidity, pressure, movements, watertightness, etc.), which determine the conditions of visibility and the forms of the gaze, through technological innovations that constantly renew or displace the available representations. Recently, these constraints have led to the search for palliatives to the difficulty of conventional photography by using digital images (radar, thermal, magnetic and electrical fields; virtual cameras, motion and performance capture, 3D imagery, etc.), but also by the particular role of soundscapes, which must not be neglected.
More specifically, the experience of deep-sea landscapes upsets our reference points, insofar as it is more or less always mediated by images. If artists or researchers have been able to emphasise the tactile dimension of the apprehension of the underwater landscape - in terms of contact, pressure, relative weightlessness, three-dimensional mobility, embodiment - what about the deep sea, which remains an environment that is fundamentally unreachable through direct bodily experience? So we must ask ourselves how this specificity is restored or re-elaborated in the field and through the mediation of images and sounds? How does our visual culture of the "emerged" landscape condition - in terms of composition, relationship to the frame, perception of the cardinal points and the horizon, proprioceptive sensation, constitution of the point of view... - our view of 'immersed' landscapes, and what are the margins of renewal (surface shots seen from below, open water shots, etc.)?
From this first formulation of the subject, more precise research lines can be determined. By way of example, and not exhaustively:
- Consider the representations of the deep sea from an approach that historicises them and situates them geographically. These landscapes, when they appear in the cinema, are rarely precisely located on the globe, or in their own characteristics (fauna, flora, geomorphology...). They are thus often presented as atopic landscapes and therefore, in a sense, possibly utopian. From this point of view, an analysis of a large corpus (at least in the first part of the thesis) would make it possible to identify large-scale statistical elements, but also to reflect on the forms of distinction that are made between the locations (or configurations) of filming, and the diegetic locations within the framework of the fiction.
- Underwater landscapes and the deep sea in particular shake up the landscape aesthetics inherited from the use of emerged landscapes and renew the codes of reading and interpretation. The plastic or sensitive experiences specific to the deep sea build an aesthetic that evolves very rapidly over the course of the production of images: light, colour, visibility, motifs, framing, movements...
- The representations of the deep ocean are very specific, due to the convergence of factors (absence of light and landmarks, pressure, strange bestiary...) which feed a "dark" imaginary (oppressive, dangerous landscapes). In fact, as in our minds, the dark ocean questions our relationship with death, with nothingness; the descent into the abyss is associated with an endless, agonising and tragic fall. Fear and morbidity are associated with the eternal night of the ocean depths, but also the attraction and fascination of a beyond that can also be very luminescent (Jérémie Brugidou, 2022).
- To analyse cinematographic representations of the deep sea as belonging from the outset to a double imaginary, scientific and spectacular. Whether they are filmed by and for scientists, intended to provide a better understanding of the environment in a documentary context, or developed with a view to fiction, deep-sea landscapes develop an imagination of scientific innovation and, at the same time, the spectacle of a new, poorly known and intriguing world. It is also a world that is hardly one of "silence", to use the title of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle's film, but also a world of diverse and original sounds. It is also a world made of specific materialities, which the thesis will be able to study through a more frontally aesthetic approach.
- These representations condition our ways of thinking and acting on these spaces, from a social, political, legal and scientific point of view. The representation of an immense, infinite and unfathomable ocean feeds a relationship with the marine environment that is thought of as an inexhaustible resource, an unlimited ultra-resource (Roberto Casati, 2022). The powerful economic stakes (mineralogical, energy and fisheries resources, control of communications networks by submarine cables, etc.) are fuelling strategies of conquest. The law struggles to regulate conflicts, just as science struggles to convince people of the need for reasoned exploitation of the ocean environment, so much so that the thought of a far-deep open to the most adventurous people more or less consciously legitimises predatory appetites. Ecology, economics and politics thus maintain an ambiguous relationship in which the researcher is himself instrumentalised in this quest for modern exploration.
-The methodology and objectives of the thesis will of course be refined according to the profile of the recruited doctoral student, who may have studied social sciences (geography, landscape), but also arts (film studies, art history) and the first exchanges with the thesis committee. Nevertheless, several steps are already envisaged:
- The choice of the cinematographic corpus: if a broad statistical approach can bring instructive quantitative elements, the analysis will then be restricted to allow a qualitative approach (by period, geographical area, author, types of spaces or audiovisual enunciation systems).
- The search for co-occurrences and filiations in the field of representations (visual or not) within the corpus, with regard to film studies but also other cultural and scientific sources; and the analysis of what these cultural circulations reveal about the co-construction of underwater landscapes.
- The interpretation of these representations according to an imaginary of underwater landscapes which has itself been largely bequeathed by the cinema (whether scientific or for the spectacular and general public), particularly with regard to actors in contact with the deep sea (scientists, lawyers, artists, activists, operators, decision-makers), who only have indirect - and technically mediatised - access to the spaces on which their work focuses.

Contexte de travail

The thesis will be supervised by Laurence Le Dû-Blayo, professor of geography at the UMR CNRS ESO, more precisely within ESO-Rennes, which hosts an average of thirty doctoral students. The doctoral student will therefore be enrolled in the STT (Societies, Time, Territories) doctoral school and will benefit from the resources made available within the team. The co-direction by Eric Thouvenel, Professor of film studies at the University of Paris Nanterre, will also allow the doctoral student to be hosted by the UR4414 HAR (History of Arts and Representations). In addition to the monitoring committee, a thesis committee will be set up for the scientific monitoring of the thesis. Its objective is to enrich the disciplinary openness of the co-directorship (geography + film studies) with the appropriate complementary entries on the subject, notably oceanography, global physics, anthropology, philosophy, filming techniques, etc.
Proven writing skills in French are essential, fluency in English desirable.

Contraintes et risques

The PhD student will have to integrate into the host laboratories, participate in the dynamics of the research teams, get involved in communication and publication projects, and engage in the travel necessary for research (interviews, seminars, etc.).