Day 2

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021

Panel 3: Media and the Mind (12.00-13.30)

Chair: Anin Luo

“Split-screening the Body: Intermedial Epistemic Practices in Neurology”, Marek Jancovic

Among all medical fields, epileptology – a sub-field of neurology that studies epilepsy – maintains a particularly close historical relationship with audiovisual media. Film, television and video have played a threefold function in epileptology: as a primary etiological cause of pathologies, as object of study, and as instrument of research. This paper will present a cross-section of some of the epistemic tools and media practices used in 20th century neurological research in order to reflect on the role of intermediality within medical science.

In its quest to make the brain legible, neurology has been very adept at appropriating, inventing and reassembling a range of moving image media. The techniques and technologies have involved not only reconfigurations of conventional media such as film, video and photography, but also a broad range of other, less usual light-emitting, light-projecting and light-modifying devices.

Many of the procedures developed in the context of brain research have also resonated outside of it, leaving an indelible mark on the history of cinema and video art more broadly. Conversely, historical epileptological media dispositifs not only passively represented bodies under what Lisa Cartwright has termed the ‘neurological gaze’, but often actively disturbed their corporeality.

Bringing these intermedial practices into view can allow us to explore novel ways of writing archaeologies of the moving image.

“Stillness and the Moving Image: Making Relaxation Televisual”, Ayesha Nathoo

With a focus on Britain during the 1960s-1980s, this paper will analyse how television helped to shape popular understandings of “stress”, and its management through non-pharmaceutical self-care methods such as meditation and neuromuscular relaxation therapies. It will examine the challenges of making such practices televisual, relevant to modern health and media consumers, and credible to scientific and medical audiences. 

The paper will highlight a diverse set of sources, such as episodes of the BBC’s science magazine programme, Tomorrow’s World, television news and current affairs programmes, together with health education resources including Disney’s “Triangle of Health” series. It will analyse the interplay between audiovisual and print media, and demonstrate how these sources contributed to a shifting public health discourse in favour of individuals modifying “lifestyles” and taking greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Whereas state public health campaigns regarding smoking, diet and exercise have been well documented by historians, the processes by which stress-management strategies and frameworks were widely popularised and practised have received little academic attention.

Whilst therapeutic relaxation formed part of the developing market for stress-management, these strategies also competed with numerous other approaches to “healthy living” that were potentially available to media producers, audiences and health consumers. Given that deep relaxation involved stillness and silence, I will examine the ways in which audiovisual broadcasts were adapted to create visually stimulating material that was appealing to a diversity of audiences in an increasingly competitive media landscape.

‘Fade Harmlessly into the Background’: Intermediality and representations of psychological illness in Rehabilitation at Roffey Park (1947)“, Grace Whorrall-Campbell

In the 1940s, British workers suffering from psychological illness might have found themselves at Roffey Park. Individuals who found themselves unable to cope with the pressures of the modern workplace could spend six to eight weeks recuperating at the Sussex estate, established in 1943 as a rehabilitation centre for workers suffering from ‘industrial neurosis’.

In 1947, Roffey Park opened its doors to the Realist Film Unit, commissioned by the Central Office of Information to document this experiment in psychological treatment for industry. Rehabilitation at Roffey Park was shot in stunning technicolour by Jack Cardiff, cinematographer for the Oscar-winning Black Narcissus, released the same year.

Rehabilitation at Roffey Park makes formal use of intermediality; books, music and film all appear as part of the project to construct a realistic picture of the Centre as experienced by both patients and experts. In my paper, I will analyse these intermedial instances as an attempt to build up a network of knowledge that grounds Roffey Park in a legitimate intellectual tradition. However, the translation of this ‘living experiment’ into film could also destabilise the meanings that surrounded Roffey Park. There are moments which sit at odd with the technicolour that showed the Centre in all its bucolic glory. Scenes of narco-analysis and electro-convulsant therapy disrupt the Centre’s respectable image and, I argue, point towards something more unstable. Additionally, I reflect in this paper on how viewing Rehabilitation at Roffey Park changed my understanding of a place I had previously only accessed through textual sources. 

Panel 4: Working and Learning with Scientific Films (13.45-15.15)

Chair: Nick Hopwood

“Crawley Films and the Sponsored Science Film”, Charles Acland

While Canada has been a major contributor to all facets of world moving image culture, our proximity to and industrial integration with the United States has meant that the most developed features of Canadian media history reside outside the conventional theatrical setting. Dominant in our moving image history is documentary, animation, and experimental film; mobile projection units and 16mm film circuits; the film counsel and society movement; and public film agencies. Private film production entities played an essential role in all of these aspects, feeding a moving image infrastructure and exporting films and talent internationally. Yet, it remains the case that the bulk of Canadian moving image history focusses on public agencies (NFB and Telefilm) or individual auteurs and artists.

Continuing the work of the Canadian Educational, Sponsored, and Industrial Film Project (CESIF), which has helped develop research materials on private Canadian film production outfits, I propose to conduct a synthetic and critical study of the largest and most acclaimed of these companies, Ottawa-based Crawley Films. Excellent research on Crawley Films has paid attention to their mental hygiene films (Scott Mackenzie), their transition from amateur to professional (Liz Czach, Charles Tepperman), and the larger-than-life character of founder “Budge” Crawley (Barbara Wade Rose, James Forrester). Some work has treated Crawley Films as a classic example of Canadian failure as they were primarily “stuck” in the sponsored film market (Ted Magder).

What I propose to show is how their productions navigated the relations of sponsorship and science, where ostensibly educational materials bolstered applied and industrial approaches to scientific knowledge. The intersection of sponsored and science film has been particularly key in the Canadian context as it helped establish national institutional priorities that valued resource extraction, land usage, industrial processes, and colonization. Through the case of Crawley Film, with its catalogue of over 5000 films and its long history of such productions, this research demonstrates how their films operated as a major part of the Canadian industrial science sector.

Cinemas of Extraction: Geology, Race, and Settler Imaginaries in Canadian Popular Science Films“, Rachel Jekanowski

As early as the 1940s, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) produced industrial, scientific, and educational films about natural resource management, mining, and exploratory drilling. Many of these films were co-sponsored by government ministries with an interest in promoting the profitable development of Canada’s natural resources. In this talk, I will focus on a collection of popular science films produced by the NFB in the decades following post-World War II concerned with geology, deep time, and extractive industry. Films like Know Your Resources (dir. David A. Smith, 1950), The Face of the High Arctic (dir. Dalton Muir, 1958), Riches of the Earth (Revised) (dir. Colin Low, 1966), and The North Has Changed (director uncredited, produced by David Bairstow, 1967) depict some of the social dimensions of industry, alongside scientific narratives about Canada’s physical geography and geological history.

Although created with different contexts and audiences in mind—from high school classrooms to Canada’s centennial celebration in 1967—these films share an investment in moving images as a popular educational practice. They also reflect what Kathryn Yusoff calls geology’s “racial formation” (2018) through their use of earth science to legitimize settler colonial and extractivist claims to Indigenous lands and waterways. Drawing on film history, science studies, and the environmental humanities, I analyze how these films encapsulate the interlocking logics of scientific praxis, extraction, and race at work within Canada’s settler colonial project and Western models of economic development.  

Science in Close-up: the Rockefeller Foundation’s Documentary Film Harvest, Diana Alejandra Méndez Rojas

In 1962, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) released the documentary Harvest, designed to disseminate the scientific achievements of the agricultural programmes that, since the 1940s, it had promoted through collaborative agreements with various Latin American countries, including Mexico and Colombia. Harvest was aimed at a select audience —in the United States— made up of government and private agency personnel dedicated to international technical assistance, as well as agricultural scientists and students. It was, therefore, an internal propaganda campaign that privileged film as the disseminator of a double message. First, the narrative of the documentary aimed to affirm the idea that the RF had established a model of international technical assistance that could be taken up by other institutions. Secondly, the documentary sought to highlight the scientific practices and places of a model of agricultural modernisation that would later become known as the Green Revolution. This paper considers the conception of the documentary, its production process and its distribution. Contextualising these three phases, it explains that the strength of Harvest’s narrative rested on the exclusion of Latin Americans, as it sought to prevent the film’s circulation in this region. It is also made clear that the double message of the documentary required that screenings be accompanied by printed materials to facilitate the viewer’s understanding of the film. Harvest clearly exemplifies that not all material crosses borders unfiltered, as there are control mechanisms, and demonstrates the complementarity of scientific filmic discourse with other media.

Panel 5: Recording Nature’s Movements (15.30-17.00)

Chair: Sophia Gräfe

“The ever-changing aurora borealis: motion and sequentiality within 1930s atmospheric photography”, Fiona Amery

A transitory and constantly varying phenomenon, the aurora borealis was a fundamentally difficult subject to capture during the 1930s. As part of the programme of the Second International Polar Year (1932-3), Carl Størmer, the leading auroral photographer of the era, experimented with cinematography in order to record the emergence and development of auroral forms on a given night and analyse rapidly moving versions of the lights. His film strips were relatively successful, even rendering the lowest aurora observed in Norway at the Tromsø Auroral Observatory in 1932.

Perhaps more significant though was Størmer’s endeavour to reduce the exposure times of his auroral photographs to such a degree that they would behave as if they were part of a cinematic reel, initially even making use of a small lens included in a children’s motion camera toy to do so. In contrast, most auroral images produced during the IPY were exposed for over a minute due to the phenomenon’s faint luminosity. The mutable nature of the aurora meant its movement was inevitably imprinted on the photographic plate in what appeared as a static image. These longer-exposures were invariably placed in a pattern of six, the sequentiality of the series linked to conventions of development. Their changing perspective also betrayed the movement of an active photographer behind the lens.

In this talk, I explore what it means to capture the movement of the ever-varying aurora on single plates and cinematic film, paying heed to the embodied practices of 1930s Arctic photography.

“Tremulous Media: Nature, Technology and the Seismic Imagination”, Debjani Dutta

This paper draws the scientific instrument of the seismograph into a broader history of media and technology while exploring its unique role in colonial knowledge production. I argue that seismographic devices form part of the late 19th century landscape of inventions that transformed spatio-temporal and sense perception. Focusing on the Assam earthquake of 1897, the paper maps its massive disruption of the technologies of public timekeeping in the early colonial era like the mechanical clock, telegraph and railway system. Utilizing the mechanisms of motion photography, the seismograph emerges as the most accurate ‘medium’ for capturing the time and location of tectonic movements. This paper looks at how international seismographic networks were able to anticipate the possibility of instantaneous communication over large distances before modern media infrastructures could withstand massive environmental disruption. The Milne horizontal pendulum seismograph, which came to be deployed across the breadth of the British Empire, used the impression of light rays on bromide paper to produce a singular image of the time, duration, and location of an earthquake. The seismograph became the most efficient time-based technology that documented an image of homogenous time during a period when the rhythm of life in India remained unsynchronized with the standardized time of the British empire. This paper examines how the recording of invisible and inaudible geological phenomena would become crucial to the project of colonial territorial expansion and consolidation. I create a technological history of the earthquake-measuring device, exploring the latent dreams and desires it evoked. 

“The Intermedial Afterlives of Maurice and Katia Krafft”, Georgina Evans

Werner Herzog’s Into the Inferno (2016), a documentary collaboration with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, surveys a series of volcanic locations from both a scientific and cultural perspective. Herzog remarks that he will not, however, approach active craters, because he is ‘the only one in filmmaking who is clinically sane’, gesturing to volcanologist filmmakers Maurice and Katia Krafft, whose material he then presents. Archive footage from the Kraffts’ films, close up shots of lava flows and eruptions, are encapsulated in montage in Herzog’s film. These images stand both as a substitute for those Herzog will not make, and as a memorial to the Kraffts, who lost their lives to pyroclastic flow in 1991. We glimpse them here as daredevils, their decontextualised footage supplemented by emotive soundtrack and collapsed into a sequence which transmits above all a fascination with the sublime. Yet the couple’s project was also highly practical. Katia’s photography was a research tool, and their films were attributed with saving thousands of lives. Popular books, TV appearances, and the establishing of a volcano museum on Réunion were all expressions of their expansive mission. This paper examines the afterlives of the Kraffts’ work and myth. In particular, I interrogate how the curiously domesticating aspects of their love of volcanoes are carried forward. Maurice dreamed of sailing a titanium boat down a lava flow; can we connect this impossible dream of assimilation in the name of science with the (literally) immersive drone shots of recent Icelandic eruptions?