Colloquium | Miryam Sas

Mar 31, 2021 @

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Miryam Sas

Feeling Media: Potentiality and the Afterlife of Art

By the time I give this talk we will be over a year into the pandemic, which has given new meaning to what “air” means—what is “airborne”—as well as to the experience of disruption and normalcy. Infrastructure studies has had as one of its key approaches the consideration of newly visible structures of everyday life at a moment of large-scale disruption. Affect studies, though it has many guises, can sometimes begin with the micro-tremor of a feeling. Yet the advantages of the concept of affect as it extends out of and challenges narrower definitions of emotion is that it can begin to read for “tones,” and mood that limn larger political and social situations we hold in common. Whether the “normalcy” that we thought existed before the pandemic really existed or was rather a function of tricks of perception and willful ignoring of crises “elsewhere” as well as “here,” it is nonetheless a moment when reading infrastructures and affects together feels all the more necessary, helpful, even urgent.

Traversing these two theoretical terrains, my forthcoming book takes on what is perhaps an odd task in its structural form: the historical time periods of most intensive focus are the 1960s-70s and the first two decades of the twenty-first century. The book starts by studying the movements of boundary-crossing arts in the ‘60s-70s Japan from intermedia and expanded cinema to experimental art animation to theories of the culture industry. I then move to the fraught and generative terrain of more recent “Japanese contemporary art,” both in its relation to the former works and in its own redefinition of some of the key concerns of those earlier times. The linearity of periodizations, with their narratives of progress or regress, yields for a moment to a sense of parallax view, in which one earlier period gains an afterlife by its re-uptake, its resemblance, its semblance (schein), even if illusory, and dissemblance—one might even say its translation—with and into another. This talk gives a preview of soon to be published segments of the book and traces the relation between these two central periods of concern as they appear in my past and future research.

Miryam Sas is Professor of Comparative Literature and Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley. She has written books and articles especially focused on Japanese experimental literature and arts including Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism (Stanford University Press, released in 2001) and Experimental Arts in Postwar Japan: Moments of Encounter, Engagement, and Imagined Return (Harvard, 2010). This talk will give an overview of the key concerns of her forthcoming book from Duke University Press on intermedia art and media theory.


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