lk-2016Lutz Koepnick is the Max Kade Foundation Chair of German Studies and Professor of Cinema and Media Arts at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he also chairs the Department of German, Russian and East European Studies and serves as the director of the joint-Ph.D. program in Comparative Media Analysis and Practice (CMAP). He received a Joint-Ph.D. in 1994 in German Studies and Humanities from Stanford University.

Koepnick has published widely on film, media theory, visual culture, new media aesthetic, and intellectual history from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. He is the author Resonant Matter: Sound, Art, and the Promise of Hospitality (2021);  Fitzcarraldo (2019); Michael Bay: World Cinema in the Age of Populism (2018); The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous (2017); On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (2014)Framing Attention: Windows on Modern German Culture (2007); The Dark Mirror: German Cinema between Hitler and Hollywood (2002); Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Power (1999); and of Nothungs Modernität: Wagners Ring und die Poesie der Politik im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (1994). Koepnick is the co-author of Windows | Interface (2007), [Grid ‹ › Matrix]  (2006), and the co-editor of various anthologies on ambiguity in contemporary art and theory, the culture of neoliberalism, German cinema, sound culture, new media aesthetics, aesthetic theory, and questions of exile. His current projects include a book on the aesthetics of interference.


resonant matter

In Resonant Matter, Lutz Koepnick considers contemporary sound and installation art as a unique laboratory of hospitality amid inhospitable times. Inspired by Ragnar Kjartansson’s nine-channel video installation The Visitors (2012), the book explores resonance-the ability of objects to be affected by the vibrations of other objects-as a model of art’s fleeting promise to make us coexist with things strange and other. In a series of nuanced readings, Koepnick follows the echoes of distant, unexpected, and unheard sounds in twenty-first century art to reflect on the attachments we pursue to sustain our lives and the walls we need to tear down to secure possible futures. The book’s nine chapters approach The Visitors from ever-different conceptual angles while bringing it into dialogue with the work of other artists and musicians such as Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Guillermo Galindo, Mischa Kuball, Philipp Lachenmann, Alvien Lucier, Teresa Margolles, Carsten Nicolai, Camille Norment, Susan Philipsz, David Rothenberg, Juliana Snapper, and Tanya Tagaq. With this book, Koepnick situates resonance as a vital concept of contemporary art criticism and sound studies. His analysis encourages us not only to expand our understanding of the role of sound in art, of sound art, but to attune our critical encounter with art to art’s own resonant thinking.

“Koepnick wrote one of the best introductions to sound art I could think of: by exploring one single artwork he guides us into the corpus of contemporary discourses and aesthetic strategies in sound art-returning, again and again, to the one major unresolved matter of sound art theory that many researchers are still struggling with: how is it possible that a sound artwork succeeds not only in touching the lives of its audiences but in moving its listeners to unexpected tears? Koepnick’s book brings us a crucial step closer in understanding why.” –  Holger Schulze, Professor in Musicology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and author of The Sonic Persona

“The open, explorative premise of Resonant Matter itself resonates through our turbulent times, suggesting sound to assist us in our struggle to dynamically attune to an ”inhospitable” environment. Koepnick listens closely to a single artwork, then amplifies an extended contextual framework that responds with the ear and agency of a great and skilled improvisation.” –  Camille Norment, multi-media artist, musician, composer

“Koepnick has written an excellent book that explores the rarely addressed topic of resonance in contemporary sound art. He offers many new insights and captures the complexity and politics of sound art for a wide range of scholars and students of art, art history, music, aesthetics, performance, and theatre studies. As he has done in many of his previous publications, Koepnick once again helps us to think more clearly about the collaborative dimensions and the materiality of art today.” –  Lilian Haberer, Materiality in Art History, Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Germany

Bloomsbury, January  2021
$ 29.95 paper ISBN 9781501343674
$ 99.00 cloth   ISBN 9781501343377
256 pages


When it was released in 1982, Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo was widely criticized for its demanding use of human and natural resources as well as its director’s uncompromising aesthetic vision. Critics and scholars saw little difference between the film’s protagonist’s obsession with hauling a ship over a mountain in the Amazon and Herzog’s own mode of cinematic production and storytelling. And yet Fitzcarraldo stands out as one of the defining moments of New German Cinema and, as the years pass, continues to raise new questions about the relation of film and society, art and nature, progress and subjectivity, the known and the unknown. This book revisits Herzog’s tale of operatic entrepreneurialism from a decisively contemporary standpoint. It draws on recent writing on the Anthropocene to probe the relationship of art, civilization, and the natural world in Fitzcarraldo. It discusses the role of opera and music in Herzog’s Amazon spectacle. And it brings into play the development of Herzog’s own career as a filmmaker over the last few decades to offer a fresh look at this by-now classical contribution to twentieth-century German film art.

German Film Classics
Camden House, Setpember 2019
ISBN: 9781640140363
49 colour illustrations
92 pages

An impassioned argument for the cinematic long take as a compelling source of wonder and a unifying force of contemporary art.

In The Long Take, Lutz Koepnick posits extended shot durations as a powerful medium for exploring different modes of perception and attention in our fast-paced world of mediated stimulations. Grounding his inquiry in the long takes of international filmmakers such as Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-liang, Abbas Kiarostami, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Michael Haneke, Koepnick reveals how their films evoke wondrous experiences of surprise, disruption, enchantment, and reorientation. He proceeds to show how the long take has come to thrive in diverse artistic practices across different media platforms: from the work of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto to the screen-based installations of Sophie Calle and Tacita Dean, from experimental work by Francis Alÿs and Janet Cardiff to durational images in contemporary video games.

Deeply informed by film and media theory, yet written in a fluid and often poetic style, The Long Take goes far beyond recent writing about slow cinema. In Koepnick’s account, the long take serves as a critical hallmark of international art cinema in the twenty-first century. It invites viewers to probe the aesthetics of moving images and to recalibrate their sense of time. Long takes unlock windows toward the new and unexpected amid the ever-mounting pressures of 24/7 self-management.

University of Minnesota Press, December 2017
$27.00 paper ISBN 978-0-8166-9588-1
$108.00 cloth ISBN 978-0-8166-9584-3
288 pages, 42 b&w photos, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

If size counts for anything, Michael Bay towers over his contemporaries. His summer-defining event films involve extraordinary production costs and churn enormous box office returns. His ability to mastermind breathtaking spectacles of action, mayhem, and special effects continually push the movie industry as much as the medium of film toward new frontiers. Lutz Koepnick engages the bigness of works like Armageddon and the Transformers movies to explore essential questions of contemporary filmmaking and culture. Combining close analysis and theoretical reflection, Koepnick shows how Bay’s films, knowingly or not, address profound issues about what it means to live in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. According to Koepnick’s astute readings, no one eager to understand the state of cinema today can ignore Bay’s work. Bay’s cinema of world-making and transnational reach not only exemplifies interlocking processes of cultural and economic globalization. It urges us to contemplate the future of moving images, of memory, matter, community, and experience, amid a time of rampant political populism and ever-accelerating technological change. An eye-opening look at one of Hollywood’s most polarizing directors, Michael Bay illuminates what energizes the films of this cinematic and cultural force.

“Compelling. The brilliance of this new book lies in the way that it grasps Bay’s cinema not as the diametrical opposite, but rather as the dialectical counterpart, of ‘slow cinema.’ Exemplary in the way that it takes full measure of its subject without naive enthusiasm, but also without critical condescension.”–Steven Shaviro, author of Post Cinematic Affect

“This book is for everyone who loved the film classes they took in college, then watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and thought ‘I give up.’ Lutz Koepnick’s study of Michael Bay is a clear-eyed assessment of the oeuvre of Hollywood’s hyperkinetic trash-virtuoso, but it is also a joyful demonstration of what film criticism and film theory can accomplish when they don’t capitulate before the new cinema of confetti-cuts and incessant franchise service. The thinking person’s guide to Bayhem.”–Adrian Daub, coauthor of The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism

University of Illinois Press, February 2018
$ 22.00 paper ISBN  0252083202
$ 99.00 cloth   ISBN 0252041550
208 pages

on slowness

Speed is an obvious facet of contemporary society, whereas slowness has often been dismissed as conservative and antimodern. Challenging a long tradition of thought, Lutz Koepnick instead proposes we understand slowness as a strategy of the contemporary—a decidedly modern practice that gazes firmly at and into the present’s velocity.

As he engages with late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century art, photography, video, film, and literature, Koepnick explores slowness as a critical medium to intensify our temporal and spatial experiences. Slowness helps us register the multiple layers of time, history, and motion that constitute our present. It offers a timely (and untimely) mode of aesthetic perception and representation that emphasizes the openness of the future and undermines any conception of the present as a mere replay of the past. Discussing the photography and art of Janet Cardiff, Olafur Eliasson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Michael Wesely; the films of Peter Weir and Tom Tykwer; the video installations of Douglas Gordon, Willie Doherty, and Bill Viola; and the fiction of Don DeLillo, Koepnick shows how slowness can carve out spaces within processes of acceleration that allow us to reflect on alternate temporalities and durations.

On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary
Columbia University Press
October, 2014
Cloth336 pages, 44 b&w illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-231-16832-8
$35.00 £24.00
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