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Atomic Light (Shadow Optics)

Atomic Light (Shadow Optics)

Akira Mizuta Lippit
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Atomic Light (Shadow Optics)
    Book Description:

    Dreams, x-rays, atomic radiation, and “invisible men” are phenomena that are visual in nature but unseen. Atomic Light (Shadow Optics) reveals these hidden interiors of cultural life. Akira Mizuta Lippit produces readings of secret and shadow archives and visual structures or phenomenologies of the inside, charting the materiality of what can and cannot be seen in the radioactive light of the twentieth century._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9747-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 0. Universes
    (pp. 1-12)

    The man painted with Chinese ideograms is Hòichi, a blind monk andbiwalute player in Kobayashi Masaki’sKwaidan(1964, based on Lafcadio Hearn’s 1904 collection of “stories and studies of strange things”). The inscriptions, which have been written over his entire body, are Buddhist prayers. In a few moments a phantom will come for Hôichi and escort him to a grave site where he has, for the past several nights, performed an epic poem commemorating the ancient Heike (Taira) clan. Hôichi’s song chronicles the 1185 Battle of Danno-ura, where the Heike, including the child emperor Antoku, were annihilated at...

  5. 1. The Shadow Archive (A Secret Light)
    (pp. 13-34)

    Sigmund Freud’sMoses and Monotheism: Three Essays(1934-39) and Tanizaki Jun’ichirô’sIn Praise of Shadows (In’ei raisan,1933-34) disclose two archives that were never constructed or, rather, that were constructed as virtual archives. They belong to an imaginary architecture. Almost or nearly archival, these structures name two virtual sciences, one Jewish, the other “Oriental.” Imaginary, phantasmatic, racialized archives. From two ends of the twentieth century, these two archives speak to the question of the end, an end, one could say, of the twentieth century, what will have been its end—in cinders and ashes. Psychoanalysis, says Jacques Derrida, “aspires to...

  6. 2. Modes of Avisuality: Psgchoanalysis–X-ray–Cinema
    (pp. 35-60)

    Sigmund Freud’s dream of visualizing the unconscious, his wish to archive the unconscious as a psychosemiography, came to him in late July 1895. It came as an actual dream; a dream carried by a dream that collapsed the figurative and literal dimensions of the word. In Freud’s thesis on dreams, which he developed from his dream of 1895, this and every dream represents a continuation of thought, an unconscious wish. The unconscious, itself an archive of the human subject, comprises for Freud the material and immaterial traces of each individual; the history and prehistory of the subject and all the...

  7. 3. Cinema Surface Design
    (pp. 61-80)

    Writing in 1928, the impressionist filmmaker Germaine Dulac called for a return to “visual” cinema, a restoration of cinema to its origins in the world of visuality. Narrative form—the structural demands of temporality, continuity, and causality—had driven cinema further from its essence as a visual art. “The great pity, as far as film is concerned,” she says, “is that, though a uniquely visual art, it does not at present its emotion in the pure optic sense.”¹ Cinema operates according to modes of visuality, says Dulac, striving toward a “pure optic sense.” Drama affect in cinema, she insists, “must...

  8. 4. An Atomic Trace
    (pp. 81-104)

    In 1951 the abstract painter Willem de Kooning commented on the radical visuality unleashed by the atomic bomb. The advent of atomic light signaled, for de Kooning, the absolute transformation of visual representation.

    Today, some people think that the light of the atom bomb will change the concept of painting once and for all. The eyes that actually saw the light melted out of sheer ecstasy. For one instant, everybody was the same color. It made angels out of everybody.¹

    An atomic visuality, forged in the spectacular visuality of the atomic or bomb, an A-visuality. De Kooning’s reflection on the...

  9. 5. Exscription/Antigraphy
    (pp. 105-132)

    Autopsy: “Seeing with one’s own eyes”(OED),as if in contrast to seeing with another’s. (To see one’s own death with one’s own eyes.)¹ What does it mean to see with one’s own eyes rather than another’s? How do these two perspectives, these two sets of eyes, alter the scene? Where am I when I see with my own eyes; do I see myself when I look through another’s? To see oneself and to make oneself seen—to oneself or another—suggests a remove, a distance, a vantage point on the other side of vision, on the other side of...

  10. 6. Phantom Cures: Obscurity and Emptiness
    (pp. 133-158)

    Two films at the end of the twentieth century reflect a continued disturbance in the visual economy of Japanese cinema, sustained since the end of World War II. The films, neither one representative of late-twentieth-century Japanese cinema, are nonetheless exemplary in their examinations of the fragile relation between avisuality and unimaginable destruction. Kore-eda Hirokazu’s 1995Maborosi (Maboroshi no hikari)and Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s 1997 Cure explore thematically and materially the phenomena of superficial obscurity—an opacity that renders the surface inward—and empty depth, an abyss without volume. Fifty years after the end of World War II, one hundred years after...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 159-194)
  12. Index
    (pp. 195-208)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)