Creative Editing: Svilova and Vertov’s Distributed Cognition
Keywords:Elizaveta Svilova, Dziga Vertov, Soviet Union, montage, editing, feminist film history, collaboration, creative process, distributed cognition, embodied cognition, expertise, kinesthetic imagination
AbstractThe film editor Elizaveta Svilova (1900-1975), wife, and lifelong collaborator of the filmmaker Dziga Vertov (1896-1954), lingers to the side of scholarship on her famous husband’s films, hidden behind the historical neglect of both of women and of editors. This article addresses the silence surrounding Svilova by applying research in film history, cognitive philosophy, and creative practice to her montage filmmaking collaboration with Vertov. We aim to recuperate Svilova’s position as creative contributor to what are known as Vertov’s works of genius by showing that editing processes are the expert work of a distributed cognitive system. Using the distributed cognitive framework, which understands the work of mind to be the integrated work of brains, bodies and the world (Clark and Chalmers 1998), we analyse a particular instance of Svilova at work. This framework for analysis reveals her editing as an embodied form of expertise. The intended outcome of this approach is to ground a fresh model of creativity in film in empirical evidence that is uniquely available in the works and documents of the Svilova-Vertov collaboration. We propose that understanding editing as an instance of distributed cognition provides insight into editing expertise and its creative contribution to films. We conclude that this understanding of editing as the work of distributed cognitive systems may have profound implications for the re-evaluation of the work of otherwise invisible women and editors.
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