Johanna Laub

Setting the past into motion: Deconstructive approaches to history in film and video art

Fachbereich Kunst

Since the 1990s, a sustained engagement with the gaps in hegemonic historiography and memory culture can be observed in a variety of arts. Not only are marginalized or repressed histories researched and reconstructed, but the conditions under which this work takes place are also addressed – for example, the absence or precariousness of archives. My doctoral project examines the use of film and video art in this kind of artistic work on history, which develops an independent, heterogeneous practice with the moving image. To this end, I draw on examples from the fields of video installation, essay film and experimental documentary film, which often move fluidly between the spaces of art, the festival scene and digital platforms. 

The project is centered around the question to what extent these cinematic practices can open up a deconstructive understanding of history that is conscious of the instability of reconstruction and the limits of representation. This involves a consideration of one’s own means: How do film and video artists address the places, materials, and media of their knowledge production? And how do they reflect the pervasive influence of their own (analogue and digital) media on the way history is experienced, transmitted, and negotiated? Drawing on aesthetic theory, film and media philosophy, and post- and decolonial theory, the project argues for a cinematic presence of the past that is aware of its own ambivalence: against the experience of immediacy, the mediality of historical knowledge and historical experience is foregrounded.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch


Johanna Laub is a research fellow at the research collective "Configurations of Film" at Goethe University Frankfurt and a doctoral candidate at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach. She completed a bachelor's and master's degree in art history at the University of Leipzig and the Université de Tours. She subsequently worked as a curatorial assistant at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt on exhibitions such as “Basquiat: Boom for Real” (2018), “Hannah Ryggen: Woven Manifestos” (2019), and “Big Orchestra” (2019), and co-curated the screening program “Double Feature.”

In her research, she is interested in art as a site of knowledge production, in theories of archive and history, and the intersection of art and media philosophy. In addition to her academic work, she writes essays and contributions to catalogs on various topics in contemporary art and film. From August to December 2022, she was a visiting scholar at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University, Montréal.