[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 3

Rahul Mukherjee rm954 at cornell.edu
Tue Nov 21 09:00:06 AEDT 2017

Thanks Renate. I have been learning so much from Cristina and Ellie (Tsing et al.’s Living on a Damaged Planet was my key summer reading – much to think about interspecies collaborations and/as contaminations and new modes of storytelling and hauntings (more on this later here)).

Bishnu and Tim’s ponderings on the radical entanglements of biological, cultural, and medial contagions/contaminations made me think of how figures/figurations like media pirates, MCSers (multiple chemical sensitivity/environmental illness), and vishoka/katiya (people who informally extend electricity connections in Tanzania and India) trouble neat boundaries of legal/illegal and healthy/sick etc. and perhaps point to relations/edges/intra-actions (a key viral media/network diagrammatics argument that Bishnu gestured toward) that interrogate materializations and arrangements of systems (than individuals).

As somebody studying cultural (ap)prehensions of radioactive contamination, the invisibility of radioactive isotopes is something repeatedly invoked. It goes without saying that a lot of chemical toxins are beyond human perception, and yet for some reason, studies of nuclear radiation (and nuclear criticism) have been particularly attentive to the imperceptibility of radiation. The argument has often been that while smog is perceptible, ionizing radiation is not. Indeed, one sees/feels the haziness of particulate matter (PM 2.5) in New Delhi right now, but then there are imperceptible (invisible and odorless) air polluters like carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide as well. The (in)visibility argument could also be applied to how epidemics have been apprehended, and as Bishnu mentions, thinking about some of this phenomena at the level of microbiology (through emerging mediatic interfaces) does change how we possibly think of virus and bacteria and their relations with human bodies.

Some measure of control (or rather, a feeling of control) regarding the (in)visible spread of radioactive contamination has been dealt with through mediations/translations afforded by radiation detectors and Geiger counters. There have also been poetic approaches to apprehend invisible radiation. In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe, Toshi Fujiwara made a documentary No Man’s Zone (2011, “Mujin Chitai”) by entering the forbidden zone (“red zone”/20km radius) where there still were people who could not leave (due to age or infirmity) or just did not want to leave. While interviewing people who still living in the “red zone” Fujiwara does not linger (too long) on their faces or gestures in medium close-up but rather chooses to show the landscape, often in a controlled manner through long shots from a camera held on a tripod. In the long shots of the landscapes in No Man’s Zone, the spectators see debris piling up because of earthquake and then tsunami flooding. However, in the second half of Fujiwara’s documentary, audiences are treated to lush agricultural fields and beautiful mountains, and yet the village/town, Iitate, from where these shots are taken is depopulated: because of the wind direction, radioactive nuclides found their way to Iitate (even though it was outside the 20 km zone) soon after the fallout, and hence the town had to be abandoned. Iitate’s beautiful landscape can be deadly because of the slowly decaying radioactivity that has touched (and stained) it. There is much here in terms of attending to the irradiated landscape (a land-time-scape given the half-lives of radioactive nuclides now part of the soil) as a way of invoking loss, anticipating ruination, summoning ghosts and other environmental hauntings (to get back to Tsing et al’s book). [A more detailed discussion of Fujiwara’s film can be found in the writings of Neville Anderson (particularly with respect to “landscape theory” or fukeiron) and in the piece by Rachel Dinitto (on post-Fukushima cultural trauma))].

I might discuss more about how radioactive contamination is apprehended by affected communities living in close proximity to the uranium mines of Jadugoda in India next time.

- rahul

From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of Renate Terese Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu>
Sent: Monday, November 20, 2017 1:16:04 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: [-empyre-] Welcome to Week 3

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
Dear –empyre- subscribers and guests,
Thanks to all of you who have posted this past week.  As I mentioned earlier this morning these questions have been lurking in my mind.  Wondering if any of you out there have some thoughts. What is the relationship between contamination, hazardous conditions, and toxicity.  What condition can our bodies and the environments that we live in flush out contamination, toxicity and these hazardous entities?   Can the humanities and arts, digital media and technology help us to detox from these situations or are there instances when they may exacerbate conditions?
Random threads are always welcomed to be introduces as long as they are on our topic of contamination.  This is a list serv so feel free to extend our guests’ posts and introduce others that you might have.

Thank you to Bishnupriya Ghosh, Tim Murray, and Christina McPhee for helping to think about media this week.  Welcoming Rahul Mukherjee and Andrea Haenggi to our soft-skinned virtual space to continue our discussion through Week 3. Rahul is a writer and theorist and this year a Fellow at Cornell’s Society for the Humanities.  Rahul will be intermittently chiming in throughout the week as he will in and out of range.  We are also thrilled to welcome Andrea Haenggi an artist and choreographer.  Looking forward to continuing especially with both of their interests and expertise in movement, boundaries, colonization, and media. Their biographies are below.

Andrea Haenggi (CH, US) Andrea s a Brooklyn-based artist and choreographer from Switzerland, who has been making work independently and collaboratively since 1998. She is known for pushing boundaries. Her work deals with kinesthesia, affect, perception and sensation in the digital age. Since two years her performers and co-creators are with spontaneous urban plants. The choreographic practice shoots out to explore themes of feminism, immigration, colonization and vegetal philosophies. The
radicle goes into the cracks, looking at value, emotional labor and care. She has been commissioned to create performances for Dance Theater Workshop (New York), the Queens Museum (New York), MASS MoCA (North Adams), the Transart Triennial (Berlin), New Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), SPAN Festival (Lagos, Nigeria) among many others. She is the catalyst of the research and performance laboratory 1067 PacificPeople in Brooklyn. She taught movement workshops in the
USA, Berlin, Zurich, China and Nigeria and is on the faculty of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York. Haenggi holds a MFA in Creative Practice from Transart Institute/Plymouth University UK and is a Swiss Canton Solothurn Dance Price 2008 recipient. http://weedychoreography.com <http://weedychoreography.com/> ; http://andreahaenggi.net <http://andreahaenggi.net/> ; http://1067pacificpeople.nyc <http://1067pacificpeople.nyc/>

Rahul Mukherjee (IN, US) Rahul Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of television and new media studies at Penn Cinema Studies program. He teaches and researches about environmental media and mobile media technologies. His published articles deal with mediating chronic toxicities related to chemical disasters (Bhopal) and media coverage of debates about nuclear energy in India.

Renate Ferro
Visiting Associate Professor
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Art
Tjaden Hall 306
rferro at cornell.edu

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