Research Presentation: Woman with an Editing Bench: Vertov, Svilova and Extended Mind

This paper examines the more than 30-year collaboration between acclaimed filmmaker Dziga Vertov (1898–1954) and his wife and professional associate, Elizaveta Svilova (1900–1975), as an example of ‘extended mind’ (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, Clark, 2008). It will first draw on my own editing experience and knowledge to describe the embodied skills and processes of a film editor. It will then demonstrate that these processes are instances of distributed cognition at work. Finally, by examining historical evidence of Vertov and Svilova’s collaboration as an instance of distributed cognition, this paper will suggest that Svilova, as a full creative partner in Vertov's own extended mind, is a significantly under-recognized figure in the Soviet montage era. Svilova is the ‘woman with an editing bench’ seen onscreen, editing, in the 1929 Man with a Movie Camera (the #1 film on the Sight & Sound list of best documentaries ever made). Svilova’s contributions were central to Vertov’s achievements. Given that these contributions tend to be overlooked when appraising “Vertov’s” films, just as most collaborations between editors and directors are, this paper proposes that theories of distributed cognition offer film studies a new model of collaboration with a potentially significant impact on definitions of ‘authorship’ in film.   


Biographical Statement:

Dr Karen Pearlman, lecturer in screen production at Macquarie University and former Head of Screen Studies at AFTRS, Australia's national screen arts and broadcast school, is the author of Cutting Rhythms, Shaping the Film Edit (Focal Press, 2009 & 2015).  Former President of the Australian Screen Editors Guild and current director of the critically acclaimed Physical TV Company, she has produced, directed or edited many award winning short films. The 2014 recipient of a Macquarie University research grant on the topic of “editing thinking”, Karen is currently in production on a short fiction film inspired by the life and work of Elizaveta Svilova.  


Research Seminar | "Woman with an Editing Bench"

Thu 21 Apr 2016 4:00pm5:00pm


Room 601, level 6, Michie Building (#9)