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Unit Overview


Since the earliest period of the cinema, avant-gardist filmmakers have explored metaphoric correlations between the visual image and music and poetry. The polemic of the early Dada and surrealist works by Leger, Clair, Dulac and Bunuel/Dali led to a more concerted exploration of the expressive nature of avant-garde film by Deren, Brakhage, Anger (and others) during the early period of the New American Cinema. Through lectures, screenings and tutorial based discussion, this unit examines avant-gardist imagist films and critical texts that developed in the interwar and postwar periods. The unit also provides students involved in film/video production with a conceptual and historical framework of ideas.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the History of Art major sequence
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of the historical and cultural progression of the film avant-garde that focused upon visual experimentation; (2) develop an ability to make correlations between transhistorical works and to synthesise an analysis that makes relationships between the film avant-garde and other forms of explorative art; (3) understand the values of exhibition and distribution in relation to other forms of cinema and art and the dissemination of cultural values within those practices; (4) apply art historical research techniques in the development of written texts that infuse the critical discourse surrounding avant-garde film practice within fresh approaches to the subject; and (5) develop written and spoken communication skills within reflective examinations of Imagist avant-garde films.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) short essay; (2) major essay; and (3) tutorial presentation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Peter Mudie
Unit rules
HART1000 Great Moments in Art (formerly VISA1000)
or HART1003 Ways of Seeing: Themes and Theories in Art
VISA2243 Imagist Avant-Garde Film
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour per week, plus film screenings
Enrolled students can access unit material via the Learning Management System.

Able, R. French Cinema: the First Wave 1915–1929: Princeton University 1978

Adams, P. A. Visionary Film: Anthology Film Archives 1977

Curtis, D. Experimental Cinema: Studio Vista 1971

MacDonald, S. Avant-Garde Film Motion Studies: CUP 1993

Mellencamp, P. Indiscretions: Avant-Garde Film, Video and Feminism: Indiana University 1990

Mudie, P. Dusting Off the Other: UWA Press 1993

Mudie, P. Sydney Underground Movies: Ubu Films: UNSW 1997

Polan, D. The Political Language of Film and the Avant-Garde: UMI 1985

Rees, A. L. A History of Experimental Film and Video: BFI 1999

Sitney, P. A., ed. Avant-Garde Film: a Reader of Theory and Criticism: Anthology Film Archives 1978

Thither, A. The Cinematic Muse: University of Missouri 1979

Thoms, A. Polemic for a New Cinema: Wild and Woolley 1978

Williams, L. Figures of Desire: a Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film: University of Illinois 1981

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.