Martial Arts Studies Workshop & Lecture, 17th July, University of Cologne, Schloss Wahn

Martial Arts & Media Culture

Workshop & Lecture, 17th of July, University of Cologne, Schloss Wahn

With a focus on tropes of East Asian martial arts in film and computer games, this event brings together scholars from the fields of Media, Cultural, Japanese, and Chinese Studies to explore how representations of martial arts have been shaped under the influence of changing technological and sociocultural dispositions in 20th and 21st century media cultures. The signs and images produced by cinematic representations of martial arts have long become an integral part of global media cultures. In the post-cinematic era, these signs are constantly being reassembled, and increasingly transcend regional, textual, generic, and media boundaries. At the same time, mediations of martial arts remain to be about embodied knowledge and fighting. While technical media are themselves disembodied, they produce multiple relations to the human body in their aesthetic design and perception. This becomes especially evident with regard to fight scenes drawing on and in turn producing notions of martial arts. In this sense, tropes of martial arts are predominantly signified through two interrelated dimensions: a collective symbolism and a (re)presentation of certain body techniques. Tracing both these dimensions, the workshop examines the continuities and fragmentations that occurred in the shifting meanings attached to “martial arts” in technical media.

Conception & Organisation: Benjamin Beil, Marc Bonner, Tim Trausch

Keynote: Paul Bowman

Moderation: Martin Roth

Discussants: Stefan Borsos, Felix T. Gregor, Andreas Rauscher

Location: Schloss Wahn, Burgallee 2, 51147 Köln, Germany. The event is free of charge. Everyone is welcome, but participants are asked to register to in advance.


14:00 – 16:00     Workshop

16:00 – 17:00     Break

17:00 – 19:00    Keynote by Paul Bowman: Mediatized Movements: Martial Artistry and Media Culture

This presentation will be structured by the relatively informal discussion of a range of clips and case studies that draw into focus key questions that arise in relation to the representation of ‘real fighting’ and ‘real martial arts’ in various contexts. Its argument proposes a complex and ineradicably supplementary relationship between lived (‘real’) practice and (‘unreal’) representation. The guiding thread of the presentation will be an exploration of the ways that ‘real’ martial arts practices attempt to deal with ‘unreal’ representations, and reciprocally the ways that various kinds of media representation attempt to measure up to – or find ways to ‘capture’ – reality. As this is research and theory in progress, the presentation will be informal, and the presenter will be happy to be interrupted by questions, interjections and observations.

Paul Bowman teaches cultural studies at Cardiff University. He is author of quite a few academic books. Those that relate specifically to martial arts and media include Martial Arts Studies (2015), Beyond Bruce Lee (2013) and Theorizing Bruce Lee (2010). In terms of martial arts scholarship, he is also founder of the journal Martial Arts Studies and also of The Martial Arts Studies Research Network.

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