In the original version of this story, the title was “Preview: The Uses of Subjectivity,” when it should have instead read, “Preview: The Unstable Object.” The subhead was “Film-maker Daniel Eisenberg to screen film,” when it should have instead read,”Film-maker Daniel Eisenberg to give presentation.” Lastly, the addendum read “‘The Uses of Subjectivity’ will be showing on Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m. in Communications 150 (Studio C),” when it should have read “Daniel Eisenberg will give his presentation on Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m. in Communications 150 (Studio C).” This post was updated on Oct. 18 to reflect this change.


For filmmaker Daniel Eisenberg, the label “avant-garde” means very little. A purveyor of essay films on human history since 1976 and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Eisenberg does not subscribe to a single contemporary genre. His work, loosely referred to as “film meditations” on history, poses a series of inquiries into the shifting interests of the viewer, which try to examine the historical subject’s movement from expression to understanding.

On Oct. 22, Eisenberg will make a stop at UC Santa Cruz as he tours the West Coast for the screenings of his latest documentary, “The Unstable Object,” which will be the first installation of a three-part series. The film was screened last spring at UCSC as part of the “Moving Parts” film series, a collection of documentaries exploring themes of global capitalism, the movement of commodities and people across national and geographic borders.

“A lot of us [in the film department] have known about his work because he makes these amazing documentaries based in research and historical analysis …  it’s very thoughtful and beautifully made,” said Irene Gustafson, associate professor of film and digital media at UCSC. “When it came time for us to choose visiting artists, [Eisenberg] was an obvious choice.”

In his presentation, titled “The Uses of Subjectivity,” Eisenberg will be speaking about his film work excavations of recent history. Eisenberg will demonstrate how past events accrue new meanings and power with new forms of expression, through clips from his formal cinematic timepieces.

The evening will cover his film repertoire, especially in dialogue with “The Unstable Object,” an interrogative portrait of three factories with radically different models of labor. The film paints each scene with an emphasis on the subjects’ senses.

Eisenberg demonstrates healthy versus unhealthy labor, projecting both the archival sum of artifacts as an intermediary for the transmission of sensation, and the resulting radical shift in “the nature of making.”

Eisenberg stressed the importance of keeping the work open and unlimited to a single point of view, decidedly leaving it to the viewer to choose where to invest themselves within that context.

The multiple dislocations in contemporary working life are depicted in 20-minute portraits without narration, or intrinsic meaning. The proof, for Eisenberg, is in the paint.

“These are not narratives, they’re fragments, formal experiments where the viewer is positioned relative to the work itself,” Eisenberg said. “Truth is always contextual in media — there’s a world outside the frame … my duty is simply trying to understand the subject and interrogate the image.”

Eisenberg sees the urgency of the moment as a medium through which young filmmakers have the freedom to reproduce stasis, sounds and imagery.

“There is an enormous amount [in film] to invent, and you have the freedom to form and dispense ideas on a micro- and macro- level,” Eisenberg said. “I take risks in my work, and one of the most important things I communicate to my students is to invest themselves in their work completely. Failure is often your best friend … if failure isn’t possible, then risk isn’t possible.”


Daniel Eisenberg will give his presentation on Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m. in Communications 150 (Studio C)