John Powers

John Powers

Lecturer, Film and Media Studies
research interests:
  • Experimental Film and Video
  • Moving Image Media Technologies
  • Film and Media Theory
  • Critical Media Arts Practices
  • Documentary Film and Video
  • Digital Cinema Cultures
  • U.S. Film History
    View All People

    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • Campus Box 1174
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
    image of book cover

    John Powers' research draws from cultural history, media theory, and discourse and textual analysis to examine the use of commercial technologies as material and cultural resources in experimental film and video.

    His current book project, Conjuror’s Box: Technology as Cultural Resource in Experimental Film, reconstructs the histories of four technologies––the Bolex camera, reversal film stock, film labs, and optical printing––to argue that experimental filmmakers drew from discourses that accumulated in corporate advertising, techno-scientific manuals, and filmmaking guidebooks to imbue these material resources with an alternative set of values and meanings that accrued cultural capital in the avant-garde community. In contrast to the individualist and medium-specific paradigms that have dominated experimental film scholarship, this book embeds technology within the collective practices, institutions, and ideologies that have informed its uses, using it as a lens through which we can recognize the avant-garde as a social formation.

    Powers’ writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Screen, October, Millennium Film Journal, and A Companion to Experimental Film and Video.

    He has also made experimental videos that have screened at venues such as Crossroads Festival, the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, Unexposed Microcinema, the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, and the Big Muddy Film Festival.

    At Wash U, he teaches courses on the theory and practice of experimental film, contemporary women directors, documentary film and media, horror across media, film historiography, and digital cinema production.

    He holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Selected Publications

    Journal Articles:

    “Moving Through Stasis in Stan Brakhage’s Passage Through: A Ritual,” Screen 60.3 (Autumn 2019).


    “A DIY Come-On: A History of Optical Printing in Avant-Garde Cinema,” Cinema Journal 57.4 (Summer 2018): 71–95.


    Glancing Outward: Notes on the New Historicist Film Parts III & IV,” Millennium Film Journal 62 (October 2015): 58–67.


    Glancing Outward: Towards the New Historicist Film,” Millennium Film Journal 61 (Spring 2015): 75–82.


    “Darkness on the Edge of Town: Film Meets Video in Phil Solomon’s In Memoriam (Mark LaPore).” October 137 (Summer 2011): 85–106.


    Chapters in Edited Volumes:


    “Barbara Hammer, Optical Printing, and a Theory of Touch,” A Companion to Experimental Cinema, ed. Federico J. Windhausen (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell) (accepted Dec. 2016; forthcoming 2020).