Nicolas Helm-Grovas received his PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2018. Before joining the ICI Berlin he was Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. He was also Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, University College London; Jerwood Arts Writer in Residence; and taught across film, media and fine art at Goldsmiths, London College of Communication, Arts University Bournemouth, Roehampton University and Oxford Brookes University.

His book Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen: Towards Counter-cinema is forthcoming in the Historical Materialism book series published by Brill and Haymarket. His writing has appeared in publications such as Oxford Art Journal, Radical Philosophy, Trafic: Almanach de Cinéma, New Left Review: Sidecar, and in various edited collections. With Oliver Fuke he has organized several exhibitions related to Mulvey and Wollen’s work, most recently Intersections in Theory, Film and Art at Camera Austria in Graz in 2022. With Kodwo Eshun and Oliver Fuke he is currently editing a three-volume collection of writings by Peter Wollen.

Moving Up, Moving Across: Film Theory between ‘Metalanguage’ and Translation
ICI Project 2024-26

This project traces two conceptual models in political-modernist cinematic discourse, in Britain and the USA, from the beginning of the 1970s to the early 1980s: metalanguage and translation. It focuses on Stephen Heath, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Trinh T. Minh-ha, three figures in whose work these categories surface in striking and insistent ways. The notion of metalanguage, part of film theory’s inheritance from structuralism, is paradigmatic of a change in scale, moving up from ‘ordinary’ or expressive discourse to a specialized, supposedly analytically superior one. It is a discourse on or about another discourse.

Against this, translation, understood as a non-scalar, generative transformation between languages, emerged as an alternative to such hierarchical thinking, although not always explicitly. (Etymologically, translation means ‘to carry across’.) Yet although anglophone film theory inherited poststructuralism’s critique of metalanguage, it remained haunted by its spectre. The project views the co-existence of scalar and non-scalar models as marking a desire to dialectically think the relation between the aesthetic and the theoretical within a non-dialectical framework.