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Akira Mizuta Lippit "Medium Disaster 311"

17:00-19:00, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Collaboration room 2, Bld 18, University of Tokyo, Komaba

Akira Mizuta Lippit (Professor of Cinematic Arts, Comparative Literature, and East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California)

"Medium Disaster 311"

The 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent low-grade nuclear crisis have come to be known collectively as “311,” marking the date of that three-part disaster on March 11, 2011, while echoing the appellation for the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States or “911.” Why invoke the events of September 11, 2011 here? Why situate this event 311 in relation to that other event 911? The nature of these two events differs in numerous ways, not least of which involves the status of nature itself. In the case of “311,” an earthquake triggered a tsunami, which in turn unleashed a force already at the threshold between nature and technology, nuclear radiation, a phenomenon at once natural and unnatural. A sequence of natural disasters led to a technological crisis, perhaps the exemplary technological crisis, and the threat of total annihilation. But 311 is also the echo of another event, another threat of annihilation, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and marks the return of radiation to Japan more than 65 years after the end of World War II. Between 1945 and 911, 311 recalls the specters of a crisis in representation, a middle space or medium convergence of history, disaster, and the forces of representation. This paper seeks to understand the multiple media at work in 311 and to expose the pressures it places on the media that seek to name and render 311 visible. It asks whether the contemporary Japanese cinema anticipates the disaster to come, a medium disaster embedded in the traces of Japan’s recent past, the very disaster of the medium as such.

What 311 makes evident is the shadow optic of 1945, a trans-historical light that anticipates the return of catastrophic light, of the radiation that never left: it was always there, a low disaster that anticipates the medium disaster to come. Japan’s superficial cinema, the cinema of surfaces, prepares ad nauseum for the return of disaster, for the return of a disaster that never fully disappeared. A spectral disaster, already at work throughout the medium, there, everywhere already.

Moderator: Yasunari Takada (UTCP)
Language: English | Admission Free | No Registration Required

Sponsored by The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy (UTCP), Uehiro Research Division
Co-sponsored by The University of Tokyo, Komaba, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Cultural Representation


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