Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathAuteurs
Artists, Auteurs, and Stars
On the Human Factor in the Culture Industry
Diedrich Diederichsen


Just in time for Oscar weekend 2001, the New York Times created a new category within the terminology of film studies—the «arteur.» An «arteur»—is that the Jabberwocky of cultural production? A filmmaker-artist; an artist-filmmaker? And, you might ask, just what is so new about that amalgam anyway? Artists have been making films since Leger and Duchamp, Man Ray and Dalí, and filmmakers have always brought in visual artists to work on mainstream productions. What is remarkable in this case, however, is the timing of the coining of this neologism. It’s Oscar night: Javier Bardem’s best actor nomination brought an «arteur» closer to winning an Oscar, the highest honour awarded in mainstream film. Bardem played the starring role in Julian Schnabel’s second dramatic feature, «Before Night Falls.» The notoriously immodest painter had previously made it known that people such as himself—visual artists, tough guys—were going to breathe new life, reform and ultimately save the musty and decrepit Hollywood system.


1. The Auteur

The auteur was perhaps the final exemplar of the «old European» [1] artist, who epitomized the tradition of European film art in both its popular and arcane incarnations. Fundamental to the auteur was the notion that even when dealing with an enormous economic, technical, and hierarchical apparatus, it was possible for the auteur to place a recognizable, individual signature on the work. Even in the most routine of studio productions, the individual’s mark on the film, that is his or her artistic influence on the work, is the most crucial part of the product. Cinema could only qualify as belonging to the category of «art» at the cost of the maintenance of a particular notion of authorship, an aspect implicit in the politique des auteurs. And the reverse begs consideration as well: the notion of authorship had to prove itself through art, but in a qualitative sense. The concept of the auteur linked the structural dimension of authorship with a means of qualitative and normative judgment. Thus were linked the realm of fine art (legitimizing models of operation for «the artist») and

icon: next page