Artemis Willis

Research Interests: The magic lantern; film historiography and media archaeology; early and silent cinema; experimental and avant-garde cinema; film and still photography; documentary and nonfiction film; melodrama and spectacle; early popular visual culture


Artemis Willis graduated in Summer 2020 with a PhD in Cinema and Media Studies. Her research - broadly speaking - focuses on media environments, projection performance, and spectatorial experience, as radiated by the magic lantern. 

- Dissertation: "Performing Pictures - The Magic Lantern c. 1900"

- Committee: Thomas Gunning, Yuri Tsivian, and Noa Steimatsky

- Current Position: Research Fellow in the Open Documentary Lab at MIT

Willis is currently working on a monograph titled Lanternology: The Magic Lantern and the Possibilities of the Projected ImageLanternology offers an alternative and complementary approach to the study of the magic lantern by excavating a corpus of previously unrecognized lantern performances and theorizing its implications for media history. Willis focuses on the later history of the lantern—a medium that emerged among a cluster of optical devices in the seventeenth century—and examines how its interaction with such media and commercial entertainments as motion pictures, comics, stage melodrama, vaudeville, photography, and electric light shaped its aesthetic and cultural practices. In doing so, she argues, it poses a challenge to evolutionary accounts of technological progress while also recasting debates that have informed conventional modes of media-historical inquiry. What emerges is an original account of an old medium of ongoing transition and transformation, which raises new questions about how we write media history, even as—and especially because—it is being rewritten vis-à-vis the digital turn.

During her time as an ODL Fellow, one of the topics Willis is taking up is an investigation of how the lantern participates in and sheds light on the documentary project. She is also developing a digital version of the Keystone 600 Set, a seminal visual-instructional system of corresponding and cross-referring views (lantern slides and stereographs), and creating a hybrid slide-film performance piece.

Teaching Experience

  • Visual Style in Still and Moving Images, CA - Spring 2018
  • Film and the Moving Image, Lecturer - Spring 2017
  • CMS Undergraduate Preceptor 2015-2016
  • Senior Colloquium, Preceptor - Autumn 2015
  • Documentary Values, Lecturer - Winter 2014
  • History of International Cinema, Part I: The Silent Era, CA - Autumn 2013
  • Documentary Production I, CA - Autumn 2012
  • Methods and Issues, CA - Autumn 2011
  • The Moving and Projected Image, CA - Spring 2011