Here’s the abstract for the keynote I will be giving at Nature and the Popular Imagination in Malibu this August. It builds on my recent talk at Bucks College, but without the nod to pop-cultural interest in Avatar.
THE AGE OF THE WORLD MOTION PICTURE
starring the Cinematic Earth, with cameo appearances by Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson, Martin Heidegger, C. S. Peirce, Gilles Deleuze, Lynn Margulis, James Cameron, Stanley Kubrick, Donna Haraway, and Koko the Gorilla
My paper for this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, coming up next month in Boston, will focus on the two films that got a lot of side-by-side attention at last year’s Cannes festival, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Since a few of my favorite bloggers have also discussed them side by side, I thought I’d share my preliminary thoughts about them here.
The two films play a key role in the final chapter of my (forthcoming) Ecologies of the Moving Image, but as I’m still thinking these themes through, I will be interested in responses I get at the SCMS (or here).
Steven Shaviro has posted his response to my and three other “curators’ notes” on his Post-Cinematic Affect.
The twists and turns of the discussions that have followed each of the daily commentaries have been fascinating. Somehow we’ve gone from a discussion of recent cinema to theorizing about affect and the limitations of recent affect theory (under the sign of Spinoza, Deleuze, and Silvan Tomkins), metabolism and panpsychism, magic (homeopathic and other kinds), fashion, “cinesensuality” and allure, Lady Gaga, YouTube and its “free labor,” and back again to capital and the possibilities for resistance, liberation, and alternative logics.
Henry Fox Talbot famously described photography as the “pencil of nature.” Although this metaphor refers to photography’s special relationship to the real, to the indexicality that makes it suited for naturalist representation, Talbot’s evocative phrase also raises important questions about photography’s relationship to nature. Beyond naturalism and nature appreciation, however, how has photography approached nature?
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is probably not an essential Werner Herzog film, and I sympathize with those (like Bill Benzon) who’d much rather just see the pictures and do without Herzog’s prattling on or the “banshee muzak,” as Bill calls it. In both the prattling and especially the banshee muzak (which is pretty good, for banshees, and for muzak) it’s very much of a piece with Herzog’s sci-fi-ish and underwater scenes like those in Wild Blue Yonder and Encounters at the End of the World. In its stylized interviews with quirky scientists it’s also consistent with Encounters, though perhaps more sober.
… by the record water levels in Lake Champlain following this winter’s snows and this spring’s seemingly endless (and sometimes torrential) rains.
There is usually about 40 feet of beach at the spot pictured above, just down the hill from us, all of it now under water. Average water levels in the lake are around 95 feet above sea level. Flood stage is 100 feet. This year they hit 103.3 ft here in Burlington.
The artist of sublime faith (of the pantheistic, immanent kind) versus the artist of sublime cynicism. “Earth is heaven (and purgatory)” versus “Earth is evil.” With catastrophe and Kubrick’s 2001 lurking in the background of both…