John Powers

John Powers

Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies
research interests:
  • Experimental Film and Video
  • Moving Image Media Technologies
  • U.S. Film History
  • Critical Media Arts Practices
  • Film and Media Theory
  • Documentary Film and Video
    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 focuses on the aesthetic, cultural, and technological histories of experimental film and video.

    Powers’ book, Technology and the Making of Experimental Film Culture (Oxford University Press, 2023) provides the first extended analysis of Bolex cameras, film stock, film labs, and DIY optical printers in film and media scholarship. Drawing on newly available archival materials and original interviews with experimental filmmakers, Powers makes new connections between experimental film culture, avant-garde film aesthetics, and the small-gauge media sphere that also encompassed home movies and industrial, civic, educational, and other useful cinemas. Powers’ next project will place the legendary experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage at the center of 20th century American art.

    Powers’ writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Screen, Discourse, October, Millennium Film Journal, Cinéma & Cie, and numerous collections dedicated to experimental film and video.

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

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


    "Technology and the Making of Experimental Film Culture" (Oxford University Press, 2023)

    “Time Lapse Looped in Hollis Frampton’s Remote Control,” Discourse: Journal for Theoretical  Studies in Media and Culture 44, no. 2 (Spring 2022): 181–212. 


    “Rediscovering Caroline Avery,” Cinéma&Cie: International Film Studies Journal 34 (Spring 2021).


    “Barbara Hammer, Optical Printing, and a Theory of Touch,” A Companion to Experimental Cinema, ed. Federico J. Windhausen (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell) (forthcoming 2021).


    “Moving Through Stasis in Stan Brakhage’s Passage Through: A Ritual,” Screen 60.3 (Autumn 2019): 410–427.


    “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.


      Technology and the Making of Experimental Film Culture

      Technology and the Making of Experimental Film Culture

      The Bolex camera, 16mm reversal film stocks, commercial film laboratories, and low-budget optical printers were the small-gauge media technologies that provided the infrastructure for experimental filmmaking at the height of its cultural impact. Technology and the Making of Experimental Film Culture examines how the avant-garde embraced these material resources and invested them with meanings and values adjacent to those of semiprofessional film culture.