impermanent cinema spaces and pop-up sociability


By way of introduction…

I’m Maria. I am based at Stirling University and am doing a research project with funding from the Leverhulme Trust. It is titled ‘Ephemeral cinemas in historical perspective: exploring ‘pop-up’ sociability’. I am interested in different aspects of film exhibition, some of which overlap with the activities of participants in the unconference – in particular:

  • Pop-up and travelling exhibition
  • Temporary uses of other venues, e.g. festivals, cine-clubs, film societies, community cinemas

My research is not focused exclusively on activist or radical film, but this is one of its major strands (I also collaborate with Document Human Rights Film Festival). I am asking questions like:

  • In what ways are these forms of film exhibition like ‘cinema’ and in what ways they aren’t?
  • What kind of social spaces or public spheres – if any – emerge around different exhibition practices?
  • If collective cinema viewing is seen as an important social activity, does its strength depend on its integration into the everyday (accessible, casual) or its separation from it (an exciting event)?
  • Do ephemeral exhibition practices always entail precarious working conditions?

This is a really timely and exciting opportunity for me to learn about what’s going on and to get a sense of what people working in this area think about these issues. I hope that participating in the unconference and listening to the discussions will shape the next stage of the project; I might follow up specific points and contact you at a later point if that is the case.

What’s the project about? 

It’s about film screenings in places that are not permanent cinemas, and about the kind of social spaces they make possible. My background is in cinema history so my research questions are mostly about the relationship between today’s exhibition practices and historical phenomena like travelling exhibition, film societies, cine-clubs, community cinemas, political and educational screenings, etc. The project is not specifically about socially-engaged exhibition, but I am interested in using this project as an opportunity to explore questions of cinema for social change.

How will I be doing the research? 

This is a mixed-methods approach including:

  • Observation (attending public screenings; I usually take some reference photos and audio)
  • Archive research (I would like to see old brochures, reports, and anything relevant)
  • Interviews
  • Meetings and workshops

At the RFN meeting I would like to keep a record of the sessions I attend. I do not expect to be dealing with particularly sensitive information as this is a public event, but if there is anything that you would prefer to keep ‘off the record’ I will of course respect that. I will not identify you in any publications without your consent, or quote verbatim.

What do I want to produce? 

First I will write a report on the event for the unconference website, and hopefully develop this into a more extended reflection; I am not sure what the best form of publication would be for that, perhaps that is something we can discuss.

The final output of the project will be a book which I need to write over the next two years. Journal articles will also be submitted – the first of them this summer. These will be open access in line with institutional requirements. I have also started a website and am seeking to use more audiovisual material to document the events I’m attending.

Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think! Happy unconferencing.

About Maria Velez

I mostly do cinema history, exhibition and audiences, for my work at the University of Stirling. Before that I worked at Glasgow on the Early Cinema in Scotland project (
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One Response to impermanent cinema spaces and pop-up sociability

  1. Hi Maria,

    I am working on the b-side of the project you are working on – looking at DIY cinemas – permanent screening spaces that act as an intersection for culture, democracy and community. I helped set up a cinema called Star and Shadow in Newcastle upon Tyne, and there are others like it in the UK, Europe and further afield. Many of the questions you are asking are also pertinent to these spaces, so I would be really interested in talking to you.

    best wishes

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