In Lag of Knowledge. The Video Essay as Parapraxis

in: Bernd Herzogenrath (Ed.): Practical Aesthetics. London, New York: Bloomsbury 2021, S. 83-94 ///

Abstract: In this chapter I aim to focus on one particular aspect in video essayistic practice which seems more crucial to me, while video essays have become more professional due to better digital equipment. Namely, I am interested in what new forms of disruptions and frustrations the new technologies confront us with when looking at films and how these disruptions can serve as critical practices in the video essay. In contrast to the common assumption that digital devices increase and facilitate our consumption of audiovisual content, I would argue that while providing broader access to film and film history they also install new and intricate forms of interference or “unattainability” which are worth being analyzed. 

As a name for this particular form of an accidental practical aesthetics, I propose the Freudian term of Fehlleistung—parapraxis. But while parapraxis is normally (and also by Freud) thought of as an inner conflict between the subject’s conscious intention and the unconscious, I would take the term in a both more pragmatic and literal but thus also in a more radical sense. Parapraxis is to be located “beyond” or “beside” it (as the prefix “para-” already suggests) instead of within the subject. I argue that not only slips of tongue but also the parapraxes of technical objects and devices, the slips, blips, beeps, and lags of microphones, typewriters, cameras, projectors, and computers make us encounter the unconscious. I understand the video essay as a preeminent field of parapraxis inasmuch as it does not try to contain or exhaust film by analyzing its contents but instead by opening it up to those distortions that supposedly have nothing to do with it that seem to come from outside as interferences.