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Dr Erika Balsom

Dr Erika Balsom


Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and in Liberal Arts

Tel +44 (0) 207 848 7559
Film Studies Department
King's College London
Norfolk Building
Strand Campus




  • PhD in Modern Culture and Media, Brown University, USA (2010).
  • MA in Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London.
  • BA Hons in Cinema Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.

Before joining the department at King’s in 2013, Erika Balsom held a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley (2010-2011) and was assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University, Ottawa (2011-2013).

Research Interests
  • moving image installation
  • experimental cinema
  • history of film theory
  • new media/old media
  • documentary

Erika Balsom specializes in the study of the moving image in art and the history of experimental film. Her book, After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (forthcoming from Columbia University Press in 2017), explores how artists and filmmakers have confronted the implications of the reproducibility of film and video. For some, the copy is a utopian promise to be exploited; for others, it is a dangerous threat to be suppressed. After Uniqueness explores this ambivalence of the copy and the accompanying issues of access, authenticity, and rarity through a comparative analysis of selected distribution models (such as the limited edition, digital bootlegging, and the 8mm reduction print) and case studies of key works that take up questions of image circulation.

More broadly, Erika’s research interests include experimental documentary, media archaeology, and exhibition history. Recent texts include writing on Polaroid’s instant film format Polavision, Pere Portabella, John Smith, Candice Breitz, and 3-D beyond the feature film. She is the co-editor of Documentary Across Disciplines (MIT Press, 2016), an anthology bringing together interventions at the vanguard of conceptualizing what documentary is, means, and can do. Exploring the many lives of documentary images, texts, and sounds – from the imperialist management of human life to redemptive encounters with the fragility of our world, from professional and disciplinary contexts to personal confrontations with mortality and alterity – this collection seeks to provide a capacious and interdisciplinary account of the vital field of practice that is documentary.

Her 2013 monograph, Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art, confronts the changing contours of what we call “cinema” after digitization through an examination of uses of the moving image and references to film history in art since 1990. 

In addition to her academic scholarship, Erika writes criticism on art and film that appears regularly in publications such as Artforum and Sight and Sound and numerous exhibition catalogues.

Erika Balsom welcomes PhD theses on any topics related to her research, including avant-garde film, moving image installation, film theory, new media, and experimental documentary.

For more details, please see her full research profile.

Selected Publications
  • “Instant Failure: Polaroid’s Polavision, 1977–80,” Grey Room (forthcoming)
  • “Freedom of Association: The Cinema of Pere Portabella,” Artforum (September 2016)
  • “John Smith, The Girl Chewing Gum, 1976,” Tate In Focus (2015) 
  • Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013)
  • “Original Copies: How Film and Video Became Art Objects,” Cinema Journal 53.1 (2013)

 For a complete list of publications, please see Erika's full research profile.


Erika Balsom has taught modules on moving image art, digital cinema, film theory, cinema and portraiture, the essay film, and theories of media temporality. 

In Autumn 2016, she will teach the second-year opportunity module “Issues in Contemporary Art” and the third-year Film Studies module “Documentary in the Twenty-First Century.” She is on research leave in Spring 2017.

Expertise and Public Engagement

Erika Balsom has lectured widely, including recent invited talks at the Centre Pompidou (Paris), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Whitechapel Gallery (London), Goethe Universität (Frankfurt), and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh).

She is interested in pedagogy beyond the university, leading the Oberhausen Seminar at the Oberhausen Film Festival in 2016, and running short courses at the British Film Institute (on the writings of Malcolm Le Grice, 2016) and Camden Arts Centre (on documentary and contemporary art, 2015).

In Spring 2014, she was a writer-in-residence at Fogo Island Arts. From 2012–15 she was co-chair of ExFM, the experimental film and media scholarly interest group at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. She is currently a trustee at LUX.

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