Materiality of Nothingness: Inspiration, Collaboration, and Craft in Devised Filmmaking


  • Alex Lichtenfels Salford University


If documentation is to have any value for practice, it begins by acknowledging that it is not capturing practice as objective knowledge, but according to its own craft of documentation. This article tries to document a workshop while performing a craft that attunes to the affective force of that workshop. It is also a metacommentary on documentation that performs a research role where knowledge is generated not as an articulation of practice, but as an attunement to affect through which a part of one practice unknown to another becomes embodied.

Craft’s dilemma is that craft is necessary to artistic integrity but is also the basis of industrial process. The challenge is to create contexts where the artist uses their craft in new ways, augmenting that craft’s practice. We experimented with a workshop in which the philosophy of practice was that the process was always itself in process. Stories told in the moment generated scores that made performance machines that would break themselves in the process of being embodied. The processes took on their own movement, structure, momentum: moments of resonance emerged unexpectedly, from some inarticulable place. Yet if our work had value, it was in the way a collective momentum gathered to create such forces and affects.

The article intersperses Sartre’s concepts of being and nothingness to explore inspiration and collaboration as ways of approaching intuition as an intending of craft that breaks being from itself and generates the materiality of nothingness—those forces and affects that lead to moments that resonate. The documenting considers the camera as a place where information is stored as well as being active in performance and suggests a form of montage to create a context between filmed machines that allows the audience to experience the breaking of them, thereby generating affective resonance.

Author Biography

Alex Lichtenfels, Salford University

Alex Lichtenfels is a filmmaker and theorist who is a senior lecturer in film production at the University of Salford. He has several years’ experience in the film and television industries, working primarily as a freelance producer and director in corporate and advertising venues. He is also an independent filmmaker with the Primary Films collaborative, producing or directing numerous short films as well as several longer projects. Through his work, he investigates emerging filmmaking practices, driven by research into technological changes and how methods used in other artforms might be applied to filmmaking. He is concerned with how these practices might allow for new types of films that engage audiences in nonstandard ways. He is currently pursuing research projects on remodelling the organization of film production based on anarchist political principles, and the links between film and antihumanist ethics.






Devised Filmmaking Practices