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The Fog Medium: Visualizing and Engineering the Atmosphere

Film Studies Thinking Cinema Series, Yuriko Furuhata, McGill University

October 16, 2018 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 106 McCormick

Fogs are clouds that descend on earth. Clouds have, in the past few years, captured the attention of media scholars. From the metaphor of the cloud in cloud computing to the spread of microsensors embedded in our urban environment, the current media conditions prompt us to reconsider the articulation of media and the natural milieu in a new light. This talk proposes to trace one political genealogy of artificial fog as medium, paying particular attention to Japan and military science from World War II through the Cold War.

Long before cloud computing and environmental sensors made it popular to talk about media as “atmospheric,” literal clouds and fogs fascinated both scientists and artists. Focusing on the work of Japanese environmental artist Nakaya Fujiko and her father, Nakaya Ukichirō’s scientific research on artificial snowflake and fog-dispersal first during the wartime period and then into the Cold War era, this talk explores how the infrastructural conditions of cloud computing today are imbricated in the transpacific orbit of military research on weather control that binds two imperial nations: Japan and the United States. The talk also traces how this infrastructural history intersects with the emergence of environmental art practices, which pioneered the artistic use of artificial fog, rain, and other micro-climates during the Cold War.

Yuriko Furuhata is Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar of Cinema and Media History in the Department of East Asian Studies, a faculty member of the World Cinemas Program, and an associate member of the Department of Art History and Communication Studies. She is the author of Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics (Duke University Press, 2013), which won the Best First Book Award from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. She has published articles in journals such as Grey Room, Screen, and Animation and edited volumes, such as Media Theory in Japan and Animating Film Theory. She is currently working on a book, A Political Genealogy of Environmental Media.

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