Day 3

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021

Panel 6: Visions of the Healthy Nation (12.00-13.30)

Chair: Alexander Hall

“Visualizing a Healthy Village:  UNESCO Fundamental Education Pilot Project in China”, Yarong Chen

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the metaphor ‘the Sick Man of East Asia’ that  implying China is a decaying country and populace with a dysfunctional mode of  political organization and cultural production has once regained its popularity in the  international society. Seven decades ago, an experiment on public health education with audio-visual aids conducted between United Nations Educational Scientific and  Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and China in 1949 was considered valuable for vast  underdeveloped countries and the experience was circulated via UNESCO clear house  across the globe. Locating in a long history of transcultural dialogue on illness between China and the West, this article takes a closer look at a UNESCO-China joint  pilot project on ‘Healthy Village’. This article will illustrate how the verbal and visual  representation of illness and scientific-medical knowledge was negotiated,  accommodated, and mediated among UNESCO experts, Chinese local activists, and  local villagers in build up a theater of scientific medical truth to engage the audience  during the production and application of audio-visual aids such as posters, booklets,  film slides, and animation etc. in this pilot project.  

“Crossing forms and places: The American cancer film and the Portuguese fight against cancer”, Beatriz Medori

Historian David Cantor describes the American Society for the Control of Cancer’s (ASCC) rapid relationship with film as one of ‘uncertain enthusiasm’. Dependent of pricy production and equipment, the motion picture could reach broader audiences, but potentially overwhelm them too, jeopardizing the ASCC’s moto of a timely diagnosis as being the cure to cancer. Thus, during the 1920s and 1930s, the ASCC’s films were mostly screened in smaller venues in the presence of specialists who could answer directly to audiences. The Portuguese Institute of Oncology (IPO) was very much aligned with the ASCC’s programme, appropriating their campaigns since 1928, translating their movie scripts into the IPO’s Bulletin, using film in the Portuguese campaigns since 1931. However, mentions to these movies were tardy and scarce in the IPO’s Bulletin, whereas other media were often detailed in this monthly publication aimed at educating the ‘wider public’ on the importance of cancer’s prevention. Also, these films have not been found to date. The IPO’s relationship with the moving image is still being studied, but it can be said that the IPO’s films enjoyed a ‘limited freedom’ too; moderated and exceeded by other voices and media, but not without influencing them with more strategic forms of approaching public fears and taboos regarding cancer. Finally, the relations between the ASCC, the IPO and film shed light on the surprising influence of the US culture in the Portugal already at the beginning of the 20th century and during the Portuguese dictatorship of the Estado Novo (1933-1974).

“Biopolitical and nationalist time in scientific films from 1920s Argentina”, Oliver Wilson-Nunn

This paper explores the multiple temporalities at the heart of intermedial popular scientific culture in 1920s Argentina. I analyse meteorologist José Manuel Moneta’s Antarctic travelogue Between the Ice of the Orkney Islands (1928) and Eduardo Martínez de la Pera and Ernesto Gunche’s laboratory film The Dangers of the Fly (1920) alongside advertisements and illustrated articles in the popular magazine Caras y Caretas. On one hand, these films build on the futuristic optimism and positivist faith in linear progress that defined Argentina’s burgeoning popular scientific print culture. Importantly, however, I argue that such neat teleological time is also disrupted in these films by nationalist anxieties stemming from the xenophobic rejection of immigrants in the aftermath of the 1918 influenza pandemic (The Dangers of the Fly) and the anti-imperialist desire to assert Argentine control over its Antarctic territory in the face of British intervention (Between the Ice of the Orkney Islands). By rectifying the previous failure to engage closely with the presence of non-human animals in these films—including flies, seals, penguins and dogs—and drawing on animal theorist Nicole Shukin’s (2009) argument that animal life operates dually as a ‘material and symbolic resource for the nation’, I show how these films are structured by an inherently biopolitical temporality. Using forms such as microphotography, superimposition and alarmist population graphs, these films present the future of the modern nation as under threat and propose the scientific control over various forms of human and non-human life in the present as the solution.

Panel 7: Materials, Instruments, Technologies (13.45-15.15)

Chair: Erin Stout

“‘The Living Book of Knowledge’: The Encyclopaedia Cinematographica between Moving-Image and Textual Media”, Oliver Gaycken

The Encyclopaedia Cinematographica, a West-German, postwar project, aimed to create an archive of representative movements in the fields of biology, ethnography, and the technical sciences. This talk will consider the manifold interactions between the project’s core products—short, 16mm records of movements—and the printed word. Eschewing the conventions of integrating text that had been developed by entertainment cinema (intertitles and voice-over narration) the EC required each film be accompanied by a pamphlet (Begleitveröffentlichung) that aided the film’s interpretation. The EC also published a journal, Research Film, and regular special publications that celebrated the project’s progress. Finally, the project’s foundational metaphor indicates a complex intermedial relationship with print culture. This talk will detail these various areas of intermedial intersection with an eye toward answering an overarching question: Why has the print encyclopedia been so much more successful than this attempt to create its analogue in the medium of the moving image?

“‘Industrial Vision’ and the Intermedial Instrument: 3-D for Ocular Repair”, Patrick Ellis 

Stereoscopic innovations originally developed for military use during the Second World War were  incorporated into Hollywood production practice in the early 1950s, producing a brief but intense vogue for  3-D cinema. Suddenly, American audiences were widely wearing non-prescription cinema lenses, polaroid or  anaglyphic (the prototypical red/blue-lensed disposable glasses), and many complained of symptoms of eye  strain. For some in the ocular sciences, this was a crisis to be remedied by improved technology, and  ophthalmologists set up shop in Hollywood, advising studios and designing stereoscopic systems for movie  theaters. For others, such as the large New York optical company Bausch & Lomb, the audiences’ ocular  complaints were a windfall of data: an unintended eye test for the nation. Bausch & Lomb scientists  maintained that spectators who suffered from 3-D eye strain in fact had pre-existing defects of the eye;  defects that could be treated, counter-intuitively, with a more concerted use of stereoscopic lenses. In Bausch  & Lomb’s “Industrial Vision Program,” an ambitious initiative implemented in American workplaces in the  1950s, stereoscopic lenses were used in an attempt to strengthen the eyes of workers. My paper recounts the  history of Industrial Vision for the first time, illuminating at once the impact of the cinema on the ocular  sciences, and vice versa. Premised upon new access to Bausch & Lomb’s corporate archives, as well as recently digitized ophthalmic periodicals and Hollywood trade publications, I argue that commonplace stereoscopic lenses—the colloquial “3-D glasses”— were an intermedial instrument, at once a cinematic apparatus and laboratory device, used not simply for  purposes of spectacle, but in a concerted attempt to scientifically retrain the eye.

“Continuously Flowing Through Media. Reuses of a Flow Film”, Sarine Waltenspül & Mario Schulze

In our joint presentation we will give an overview of the manifold media transfers of one scientific film  made by Ludwig Prandtl and Oscar Tietjens at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Fluid Dynamic Research  in 1927: Production of Vortices of Bodies Travelling in Water (fig. left). Since its production the film  has been reused numerous times: It was presented at conferences, it was reedited as an educational film,  it served as found footage, it was programmed in the context of the arts, it was reanalyzed with data  visualization tools and it is going to be exhibited in science museums. Most of these reuses were  accompanied with transfers to other media: diagrams based on the film were created for the conference  proceedings, book covers translate the moving images into aesthetically pleasing graphics (fig. right),  or a computer-based data analysis was superimposed over the historical film.  

By focusing on the reuses of the flow film in  other disciplines and on the concomitant transfers of the film into other media (or in its media alliances)  we aim to come closer to the specific epistemic, political, and aesthetic functions of scientific films:  For example, the translatability into a cover illustration reveals the graphic flatness of Prandtl’s film, which in turn may have contributed to its   persuasiveness in content. The analysis of inter- and transmedial processes offers a tool to depict science in its interplay with fields like pop culture or the arts. This leads to the central question of our presentation: What can an historical epistemology learn from one film that renewed itself over the years in different disciplines and media. 

Panel 8: Animating Science (15.30-17.00)

Chair: Miles Kempton

“‘Motion symbols’: Useful animation and the intermedial exchange of  graphic forms”, Malcolm Cook 

This paper will explore the role of animation in British ‘useful cinema’ (Acland and  Wasson 2011) prior to the Second World War. It will demonstrate the way graphic  representational methods, especially those from scientific fields, transferred between  disciplines and media and were enlivened by the movement offered by animation  techniques. 

The film Unemployment and Money (1938/1940) provides an exemplary case  study here. It was directed by Mary Field and includes extensive animated  diagrammatic work by Reginald Jeffryes to present the economic theories of Hungarian  émigré Michael Polanyi. Field and Jeffryes had previously worked on numerous  science films, while Polanyi was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of  Manchester. This scientific background is clearly evident in Polanyi’s economic  theories and the way they are presented in the film, influenced by methods to measure,  understand, experiment, and control physical systems from chemistry, biology, and  hydrostatics. Unemployment and Money saw these methods being transformed and  applied to the social and political organisation of the flow of money. A way of thinking  from one discipline was applied to another field, generating a new understanding and  way of looking at the world. Furthermore, the visual methods of representation from  those physical sciences were likewise transferred and put into motion, not only offering  a convenient way to represent existing knowledge, but also generating new insights. Economic processes were posited as a rational system that could be scientifically  investigated and managed using animation as a dynamic tool, prefiguring present day  data and process visualisation. 

“Animation and Scientific Illustration”, Scott Curtis

What has been the historical relationship between scientific illustration and animation? We could discuss common iconography, common practices, and common conventions, but another approach might be to examine how animated science films have used scientific illustration. For example, in films that use both live-action and animation, such as Disney’s Defense against Invasion (1945), the scientific drawing sits at the boundary of the two forms as the camera tracks in from the live-action setting to a drawing, then dissolves from that drawing to an animated sequence. In films that are primarily animated, such as Diagnosis and Treatment of Infections of the Hand (American College of Surgeons, 1926), the scientific illustration of the circulatory system of the hand fades to the background as the overlayed animation commences. In Care of the Skin (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946), the animation develops out of the illustration via a dissolve. That is, before the rise of computer animation, animated science films often treated scientific illustration as the basis of their educational mission and as the intermediary for any animated effects. This paper will present this pattern and venture an explanation based on the historical concerns of the scientific community about the potential dangers of animation: not only were its associations with childish entertainment considered a liability, but it was often perceived to blur the sacred boundary between what is legitimately known and what is purely theoretical, a problem all scientific illustration had to contend with. This presentation will chart this set of concerns, proposing the dissolve as a trope that figures and cautiously negotiates this intermedial history. 

“Chemical Synthesis, Color Animation, and the Production of Molecular Media in China”, Jinying Li

This paper studies the material and historical relations between chemical synthesis and color animation in contemporary China, examining how such relations mobilized, and were mobilized by, the mass production of color, or “color consciousness,” as the result of the fast development and expansion of industrial chemistry. The focus of the study is the production of China’s first color animation, Why is the Crow Black?, at Shanghai Animation Film Studio in 1956. For this film, Chinese animation artists developed a specialized color paint by synthesizing a benzoate-based chemical medium. The chemical formula of this medium led to the flourishment of color animations in China,  as well as to the development of the ink-wash animation that combines Chinese traditional art styles with opto-chemical emulsion and cinematic motion, which eventually became the so-called “national style” of Chinese animation. Examining this historical conjuncture between industrial chemistry and color animation, my approach highlights two notions: synthesis and molecular media. I map the ways in which the technological concept of synthesis and its scientific logics in chemistry were integrated into the social, cultural, and political discourses of a utopian imagination of transformative “coming-together” — first of a modern nation and then of a global market. Exploring the political potential and limitation of the chemistry of being and becoming, this project takes the notion of “molecular media” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988) in a literal and materialist fashion by taking molecular encounters as media events, and examines how the production and mechanism of molecular media generate cultural signs. 

Keynote: Tim Boon (17.30-19.00)

Tim Boon’s keynote talk is entitled “Intermediality: Modes of Science Film Research Between the Museum and the Cinema“.

Introduced and chaired by Max Long

Please note: Tim Boon’s keynote speech will be run as a hybrid event. All panellists and attendees who have booked a ticket for the main workshop will be able to access the Keynote by simply clicking on the link for Day 3. At the end of the keynote, there will be a live Q&A. Unlike during the rest of the workshop, online audience members are asked to only ask questions in the chat during the Q&A, which will be read out to Tim by one of the organisers in the room.

For anyone wishing to attend in person, Tim Boon will also be simultaneously delivering his keynote speech in the Department for the History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge. If you want to attend the keynote in person, you must book a separate Eventbrite ticket, which you can do by following this link. Tickets for this event are limited, and we expect them to sell out. 

We ask that in-person attendees respect social distancing norms, and strongly recommend that everyone wear facemasks.