The class went on a field trip to see The Act of Killing last week, which fit our reading of Chapter 4 of Ecologies of the Moving Image better than I could have planned. (That’s the chapter that deals with “anthropomorphism,” that is, the “becomings-human” — or “becoming-subjective” — within the world of a film.)
The Act of Killing is Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary about the perpetrators of the mass murders committed by the Suharto regime’s paramilitary death squads in mid-1960s Indonesia. The filmmakers interview some of the worst of the perpetrators and — controversially — invite them to re-enact the killings for the camera, filming these scenes in the style of their favorite film genres. This interplay between mass murder and Hollywood movies — gangsters, westerns, and musicals — is a focus of the film.
What Chapter 3 did with the world (and, specifically, nature), Chapter 4 does with people (and, specifically, their relation to nature). In particular, it deals with contrasts between a normative, “modern” (western, industrial) relationship to nature and a non-normative one: non-western, pre-modern, “primitive,” and all those other characterizations that carry so much baggage in the modern creation narrative.
(“We ‘moderns’ are what we are because we . . . [ascended from, descended from, evolved out of, transgressed, superseded, conquered, etc.] this more . . . [primitive, natural, better, worse, etc.] way of being.”)
The following notes are reading notes provided to students in an upper-level undergraduate course entitled “Ecopolitics and the Cinema.” The course name is a little outdated, as the course has evolved in the direction of an ecophilosophical exploration of cinema, but a new title has not yet been approved.
As an Environmental Studies course, it is tailored to students majoring in interdisciplinary environmental studies. Concepts from other disciplines — such as philosophy, film or cultural studies, and others — are introduced and explained more carefully than they would be in other disciplinary contexts.
I’ve begun teaching a course on film and ecology and using my book Ecologies of the Moving Image as the main text.
Since the topic is related to the theme of this blog, and since I’ll be creating reading guides and posting links to film clips and related materials for my students, I thought I might as well share those publicly here.
The first materials from the course will go up later this week on this blog. They’ll continue on a more-or-less weekly basis, at least until further notice.
The book can be ordered online from the publisher for $36.75 Canadian, or from Amazon for $42 U.S. Alternatively, you can request that your local or institutional library order a copy from the publisher.
The tentative course syllabus is here, but the scheduling will be a little off (later online than in the classroom version) and screenings may change a little from what’s listed there. I will try to add links to films or clips that may be available open access. (And help will be graciously accepted; use the “Comments” field for any given week.) Otherwise, you can view things on Netflix, Amazon, or whatever other place you may get your videos/DVDs. (Public libraries are especially recommended!)
The following is a a summary of our class review of the “Seedbomb Burlington” class project.
What worked well
Overall the expressed consensus was that the project went well. Materials were easy to get and to work with. The use of media, especially social media (such as Facebook), was considered successful. Many people beyond the class participated in the workshops, with a wide demographic among those interested, and there were expressions of interest from schools and individuals for follow-up workshops. Community engagement — including donations from organizations and businesses — was high. And in the end several hundred — perhaps close to 1000 — seedbombs were created and disseminated. The sense was that we made an impact and that that impact will not have been in vain.
As we wrap up the course, let’s weave together some of the threads we’ve explored over the last few months.
We have looked at theories of new media, social media, Web 2.0, and media convergence, and examined a series of definitions of “media ecology.” These included the medium theory of Marshall McLuhan and others; the mental environmentalism of Adbusters; the cultural environmentalism of James Boyle and Lawrence Lessig, with their ideas of a mental or informational commons; the global network society theories of Deleuze (“society of control”), Galloway and Thacker (whose article we didn’t talk much about), and others; the “greening of media” assessments and proposals of Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell; and (briefly, this past week) the “three ecologies” of Felix Guattari.
We’ve looked at the relationship between contemporary media and the public sphere; distinguished between Continue Reading →