Talk Geometries: Towards Anime’s sensorial vocabularies

Supplement: fragments from Tranquil hills fragile apparatus

Verina Gfader, Malmö Art Academy/Lund University [About | Email]

Volume 20, Issue 3 (Discussion Paper 2 in 2020). First published in ejcjs on 14 December 2020.


Talk Geometries is a meditation on animation as an ‘animating force of any kind’ (Timothy Morton), that both establishes and maintains a peculiar relation to knowledge production in art due to its malleable character and dedication to reproduction and life-ness. The life-ness, reproductive capability, and inherent malleability reveal a resistance to structural coherence, hence generate a complex and challenging terrain for rationalising animation, that is, to formalise a persistent, linear vision. Specific forms of knowledge production, particularly the phenomena of idle talk or non-referential curiosity, link to animation in specific ways, and as such create the condition for ‘futuring’ animation’s geometries. Animation’s proximity to text and discursive constructions conditioned by specific politics of knowledge, social production, and the status of theory disclose what is at stake in the fundamental structural coherence between animation and forms of knowledge production as linked to socio-politically unsettling times.

Tranquil hills initiates a double actualisation—conceptual, concrete—of film and/ as revolution taking account of three interrelated subjects: the relation between visual homogeneity and heterogeneous thought; the mapping of non–histories and apparatuses; the status of the collective character of a particular landscaping of film. Identifying these dynamics in two geopolitically distinct film works from 1969 and 1982, the diagrammatic meditations enact the definition of a time-space-politics, disclosing a material connection to quests for experimental analytical models—a future form of text.   

Tranquil hills links to the phenomenon of strategies in art to appropriate and subsume ‘the political’ without embedding its flattened understandings. The study aims to grasp a de-political moment in this saturation (overwhelming amount of political art and fictional collectives) with an economy of ‘withdrawal by accumulation’—political shrinking. Two dynamics are at play: a politics of revitalisation without return, therefore a statement on historicity and its status in how we relate to linear time; a de-political moment which populates artistic practice. The exploration is dedicated to early landscape film as material agent in this process.

This two-fold discussion paper traces research on ‘futuring animation’ presented at the Kinema Club Conference for Film and Moving Images from Japan XIII, January 17–18, 2014, Reischauer Institute, Harvard University, with a supplement on (Japanese) landscape film–theory, migrational subjects, and diagrams of power,’ on the basis of a talk ay The Art Theatre Guild of Japan: Spaces for Intercultural and Intermedial Cinema symposium, July 30–1, 2011, Birkbeck College, London.

Keywords: Animation, visual homogeneity, heterogeneous thought

Talk Geometries: Towards Anime’s sensorial vocabularies [1]

I wish to put before you a scheme which for some time has occupied my intellectual endeavours. Briefly, the concern is that animation [2] both establishes and maintains a peculiar relation to knowledge production (in art) due to its malleable character and dedication to reproduction and life-ness.
The life-ness, reproductive capability, and inherent malleability reveal a resistance to structural coherence, and these things, realities we might say, are best known to the writer who pursues to rationalise animation, that is, to formalise a persistent, linear vision. If there are specific forms of knowledge production hinted at here, I am referring to the current phenomena of idle talk or non-referential curiosity, which can be linked to animation in specific ways. To this line of questions I have devoted the following paper, a largely theoretical exposition in the format of extended image captions.
A first reference is to Chris Kraus’ (2011) essay ‘Indelible Video’ where she describes the current state of art as being entirely corrupted by the market and this art being conceptual by nature. In her critical reflection on how the once unique video image has migrated and vanished into the larger category of any-artwork-whatever, the film’s only place and context is now that within the art world. By giving up its agency of autonomy, the video or film (documentary, experimental, activist, or any other form) is “like an artifact, a branded product, viewed through the career of the artist” (Kraus, ibid.). This two-fold displacement of the moving image—displacement of place and of content—two dimensions which as such cannot be singularised as separate fields of enquiry—from its first, so-called authentic and originary context, into a second, text-infused context, clearly follows the logics of conceptual art. From the image (art work, object) as such to the image that is ambiguously, and parasitically intertwined with text and discourse. Kraus (ibid.) reminds us that “The fact of the disappeared object is key to conceptual art, a term that is oxymoronic: all art now, is conceptual, deriving its value only through context, at a second remove.”

If there are video works that escape this strange insistence on a present temporality linked to concept and market value—being hot, hot works, so to speak—they must be found on the basis of giving up their ‘video-ness.’ But the market is not the only measurement of defining the video’s hotness. More importantly, video and electronic media more generally notoriously imply a presence in terms of living time. And it is precisely here where a less reductive analysis reveals and propels other forms of moving image work acting against being forgotten, virtual, overlooked, dead or insignificant.
That is to say, working against being interpreted and ‘valued’ by its value as a concept in or for the art market only. As soon as one slips into the presence, the living time of a more remote part of the world (Indonesia or Albania, for example), the moving image work cannot be disconnected from the dynamics and force of cultural difference, it cannot be un-connected from the various and manifold experiences of time, time zones, living time [3]. And it is precisely on the basis of these second, far more discreet present temporalities, Kraus argues, where video or film work can form resistance, perhaps on a microscopic level but nonetheless, resistance to digital disembodiment and the hegemony of the entertainment/media/culture industry. Along these lines, integral to discussing the image/video is not only a concern with the medium and categorisations, but with the shifting and manifold representations of cultural difference and phenomena around what is called the transcultural, which in turn allow to re-imagine social and geopolitical relations and their transforming connection with knowledge space or discursive constructions.
Early anime (making use of limited animation specific to Japanese animation) [4] is capable of formulating similar processes of inversion between modes of analysing, interpreting, speculating with regard to the market—sometimes more, sometimes less institutionalised. Osamu Tezuka’s 1963 ‘TV manga’ Mighty Atom (Tetsuwan Atomu; imported to the US as Astroboy), for example, is shot through with economies of movement and motion in terms of image, concept, and its ‘environment.’ Atom animated: lines out of sync, consciously flat image environment, abstracted cityscape, lack of integrity in terms of animate and inanimate (that is, between perceptually stilled and perceptually and experientially brought to motion, and expressing a lively or living quality), lightness, speed, dispersion.
On a side note, but relevant and significant in relation to the urban image in film/moving image, abstracted cityscape (such as we have with Mighty Atom) and landscape, but specifically landscape film and landscape theory—fûkeiron—which developed in Japan only a little bit later, at the end of the 1960s, one is reminded here of the distinctive Japanese understanding of the nature of landscape and also of cultural theorist Matsuda Masao’s essay ‘City as Landscape’ (1970). At the time he proposes this scheme alongside making the film Ryakushô: renzoku shasatsuma / A.K.A. Serial Killer together with Atachi Masao and Sasaki Mamoru, the “landscape” in the context of Japan was also informed by Western traditions of perspective and pictorial and philosophical legacies–imported to Japan in the late nineteenth century in the era of industrial and cultural modernisation–which may be significant in terms of the transnational space it opened up across creative practices—including anime potentially; the new knowledge space it produced; and the possible distortions of “landscape” on a more general level. A subject–object discourse cannot be excluded from these considerations. Critic Karatani Kôjin (1993: 34) in Origins of Modern Japanese Literature notes on a certain ordering, even hierarchical principle, that is, a dynamic of inversion, inherent in the relation between ‘landscape’ and subject/object: “The philosophical standpoint that distinguishes between subject and object came into existence within what I refer to as ‘landscape.’ Rather than existing prior to landscape, subject and object emerge from within it.” [5]
But let us return to drawing and animated space. Atom’s reproducibility and proliferating narrative constructions are inherent to this child size thing. Atom represents an epitome of a post fictional state of creation on which Stephen Wilson (2011: 166) notes: “He[It] is implicitly diagrammed and visually experienced as a subject that is continually integrated into Japanese society from the outset, unlike Pinocchio.” Not only on an abstract but also on a very concrete level: becoming a commodity or having been designed as a commodity and product of circulation and growth, Atom is in a way collapsed or folded into a serialised mode of production and also into a fragmented historical and cultural space (more as follows). His/its liveliness and image are bound with and depend on his reproducible capabilities as character commodity, “based on a series of trans-media migrations of the Astro image and poses,” according to Marc Steinberg (2006: 201), hence somewhat exclusive to the art market, which may have re-appropriated Atom some years later—an interesting phenomenon as such.
Let us consider some of the consequences of this serialised mode of production and how it affects processes of rationalising the image, and the investment of rationalisation.
What I would like to describe here as a “state of ignorance” towards a unified, singular image (schizophrenically preserved in a single media form created at a particular moment) catapults the ‘post fictional character’ as a transferable and vital body into an enlarged, contested, and borderless space, a space potentially too abstract and diagrammatic to be pinned down or only spatially described—the elsewhere, any-space-time-whatever, without utopian or dystopian associations. Perhaps the reality of Tezuka’s invention then, if there is any, happens on two levels: first, it can be read in relation to a dedication to spatial or environmental abstraction beyond Atom’s abstract-ability in terms of the in/animated image. Second, as being concerned with anime’s tendency to heterogeneity as an image and product, as both material and immaterial entity, which leads directly to the conception of a suitable geometric ‘tool’ and ‘device’ for crafting the promise of an infinitely re-writable body.
With a view to gathering evidence bearing on the idea of animation’s structural incoherence in relation to historical continuity and thought processes, it became apparent that the emergence of a discourse of decentralisation corresponds to these concerns—implicit in the lines above.
My last paragraphs of the paper intend to pick up on the way cultural movements literally take place side by side (in an expanded knowledge space), possibly ignorant of, or invisible to, each other. The question of side-products is imagined as a question around the visibility or transparency of relations and in what way this visibility or transparency is at stake. Connected to this observation is the issue of the constitution or lack of constitution of a united intellectual consciousness or communal spirit among artists, writers, and scientists. [6]
My idea is to think about how Atom (Atom world) and similar characters become a vanishing point as symptoms of the society in which they are generated and which they generate [7], so to address the relation between a central fictional character and (virtual) subjectivity such as Atom, and decentralisation and disappearance; Atom’s structural coherence in terms of his/its being as a product and media economy integrity versus his/its unstable image as one cultural entity among others and as a discursive construction. As a reminder, this is set within the period of the large-scale conversion of the postwar Japanese economy from a secondary to a tertiary economy, including the transformation of consumption which this transition presupposes  (Kusakawa, Steinberg) [8].
The examples which follow are intended to create a common ground for thinking “currency” across diverse cultural movements, from anime to Japanese political cinema of the 1960s, where independent filmmakers, activists, and other cultural agents explored various forms of filmmaking trying to express the precarious sociopolitical climate at that time; and further to artistic practice around 1963 with its shared vocabulary situated in the everyday world, politics, and possibilities for action—resulting in conflicts with museum officials and the state.
The link is intended to recognise the intense and vital moment of a multilayered cultural investment at the time, which is also evident in printed form, writing and discourse, and in decentralised production of print media. If Tezuka’s work (arguably alongside Disney’s work) has been exploited to the point of becoming banal, my citation here aims at reorienting the audience to concurrent cultural production in Japan. Ultimately, relevant here is the impulse for giving up ‘centring,’ something that also underlies the motivations of cultural workers during the 1960s, as Adachi Masao and Sakai Takashi emphasise in their conversation on the collapse of perspectives and concentric pattern of thinking (individual, family, tribe, society, state) beyond the collapse of geographic senses [9].
The Yamanote event in 1962 took place in Tokyo’s central circular subway line, the Yamanote, where artists in white face paint, carrying strange art objets, performed ritualistic happenings,

dramatising a key everyday space with their artistic critique and practice. Subsequent to the performance, discussions with [artist Genpei] Akasegawa and the editors of a radical art magazine Keisho (Image) led to the theoretical foregrounding of the concept of direct action in their artistic practice, or rather the thinking through of the possible relation between the radical political concept of direct action and art—a focus that encompassed Akasegawa’s [project 1,000-Yen Note Incident] [10].

This work consisted of single-sided monochrome prints of the 1,000–yen note, and invested “currency as an outpost for hidden forms of domination” [11] It also touched on issues of artistic originality and mechanical reproduction.
To conclude, the discontinuity and discomfort, perhaps irrationality, of integrating animation-anime in the expanded context of art (and knowledge production in art), creates the condition for ‘futuring’ animation’s geometries. I have touched upon animation’s proximity to text and discursive constructions conditioned by specific politics of knowledge, social production and the status of theory—the prevalence of discourse—and have traced the structural coherence between animation and forms of knowledge production linked to a socio-politically unsettling time. If animation’s growing and proliferating vocabularies and narratives re-write historical sense, perhaps it is this reproductive force [12] which calls for experimental analytical models. Or more particularly, the simultaneous refusal, necessity, and drive for these models—which produce an imaginary realm for such undertakings.
I end with a quote by Paolo Virno (2004) who writes on how the “special places” of discourse are dissolving and are replaced by “common places,” or “by generic logical–linguistic forms which establish the pattern for all forms of discourse” (Virno, ibid. 36–7). The latter offer us a standard for orientation—some sort of refuge from the direction the world is going. And on the basis of these new places for intellect we find: “Curiosity resembl[ing] a flying carpet which, eluding the force of gravity, circles around at low altitude above phenomena (without taking root in them)” (Virno, ibid. 92).

Supplement: fragments from Tranquil hills fragile apparatus

Affects of immanent power relations

The landscape [or cityscape] of my interest [13] involves the production of various cinematic image regimes which sometimes contradict each other, emerges with different apparatuses of governing, and lacks a specific formal affinity [14]. Landscape is used to describe modes of inventing (concepts of new encounters), resisting (definite categorisation), and seeing/reading (in the landscape we see/read time).
It is the featureless and diagrammatic landscape that forms the visual content of two films, A.K.A. Serial Killer (Ryakushô: renzoku shasatsuma), and Too Early, Too Late (Trop tôt, trop tard) [15], which, although twelve years apart in their production and geopolitically separate, share a close proximity to certain themes emerging here. A.K.A. Serial Killer is a Japanese film from 1969, made collectively by filmmaker Adachi Masao, anarchist film critic Matsuda Masao (also a former Marxist revolutionary), and the scriptwriter Sasaki Mamoru, during heights of political upheaval and the emergence of fûkeiron, a theory of landscape, at the end of the 1960s. The film belongs to the Movement Films as part of Japanese political cinema developing from the late 1960s, where independent filmmakers or activists and other cultural agents explored various forms of filmmaking that tried to grasp and express the socio-political climate at that time: student revolutions, social and class struggle, precarity, migration, post-war climate, political change, cultural shifts. Radically dislocating a political document on film, associated with presenting actual dramatic scenes of protests, violence, and people’s resistance, the “document” of A.K.A. Serial Killer instead consists of creating an imaginary narrative by re-visiting the journey of Nagayama Norio [16].
Following the migratory footsteps of this 19-year old serial killer, who committed four murders in four cities in the fall of 1968 and was arrested in the spring of 1969, the filmmakers undertook a four month trip around the Japanese archipelago, tracing various stages and times of Nagayama’s life. The journey took them from Abashiri City in Hokkaido to Hakodate, Yamagata, Shibuya in Tokyo, Nagoya, Hong Kong, Moriguchi, Kobe, Ikebukuro, Kyoto, and Harajuku, among other locations. A male voice-over sometimes describes facts of Nagayama’s movements and journey; otherwise, the soundtrack is free jazz. What the filmmakers noticed in tracing these seemingly distinctive rural and urban places and environments, was, however, a certain flattening of the land- or cityscapes, where everything appeared similar to the point of the specific places becoming virtually interchangeable with each other. This is perhaps comparable to the current image (without the corporate entities and celebration park quality) of a drive for globalisation; that is, flexibly to internalise difference; the emerging landscape was plain, banal and featureless—it had an everyday quality. There was an unexpected uniformity, and a certain familiarity revealed in unfamiliar places that struck the filmmakers as being a new “image” or strategy laid out in front of them [17]. And importantly, the homogeneity they encountered was precisely found in the filmmakers’ looking for an alternative vision of Japan at the time, one that was conditioned by a rigid class system, mass production, and commodification, which needed to be overturned. As Matsuda describes, they sought to follow the “footsteps of a member of the masses who grew up in the lower-class strata of society, and who had to form his own class position through constant vagrancy as his only state of being; surprisingly or not surprisingly, we ended up discovering a common element that cannot be called anything but landscape, which existed like the end points of a segment of a line” [18]. The diagram or relation to mapping is such that it appears at the moment of recognising a concrete and real homogenous topology, a shared uniform landscape or socio-political formation and mechanism; and subsequently realising one’s vision of a potential, but non-existent alternative—in this case, confronting the lack of heterogeneity or difference [19]. At stake perhaps in this encounter is a question around the production and reconfiguration of subjectivity—even or necessarily on a speculative level—in relation to a spatially extended and socio-political imaginary; therefore, the status of imagination and its “correct,” that is to say “correcting,” translation into, and articulation as, a particular arrangement of images. Whatever claims there are, these must be embedded in the self-conscious dynamic of the multiple socio-political and cultural regimes by necessity.
For Matsuda it was clear that this was a shift not only in terms of topological and conceptual description—from “situation (jōkyō)” to “landscape”—but in the very understanding of the nature of landscape itself. At the time the film was made and he proposed this, the ‘landscape’ in the context of Japan was clearly informed by western perspectival traditions and pictorial and philosophical legacies (imported to Japan in the late nineteenth century in the era of industrial and cultural modernisation), which is significant in terms of the transnational space it opened up across creative practices; the knowledge and new knowledge space it produced; and the possible distortions of “landscape” [20]. From a philosophical point of view, this ‘landscape’ provided the means to make a distinction between subject and object, which in the light of collective and minority film making (A.K.A. Serial Killer can be seen as emblematic here), becomes particularly relevant regarding the subject/multitude of resistance (more below). Interestingly, in Adachi’s (2009) view, the relation between his incapacity of categorising, merging with the collapse of perspectives and concentric pattern of thinking (individual, family, tribe, society, state) and the collapse of geographic senses, produced the individual itself as a movement. This was a difficulty to be faced precisely within collective filmmaking at the time.
For Matsuda, this landscape which replaced situation could no longer be replaced by nature or climate, terms which in our post-industrial and capitalist era have also evidently taken on new meanings and connotations. Without doubt there are deviations and various kinds of proliferations of a so-called “primary nature,” and these are in one way or the other affected by culture and human agency to the extent of culture replacing nature [21]. Late 1960s Japanese landscape film in that sense provides an interesting image to indicate such a shift, and fûkeiron developed precisely from this moment when the landscape became recognised as a concept and discourse.
Turning the focus to the recording of homogeneous, blank landscapes, they were seen as a product of immanent relations of power—power synonymous with transportation, mobilisation, and infrastructure. The very structure of state power, in this case the state power defending the emperor system, is mapped in the non-descriptiveness of a landscape or socio-political formation which became the enemy and needed to be destroyed. Rather than confronting an entity (situation) the confrontation was uncannily directed to a mechanism and apparatus (landscape). More precisely, the shift from a primacy of aesthetics to another form of encountering the image/ visuality is found in the dominance of a new formation of power structure which is relational and a mechanism. The visual homogeneity in A.K.A. Serial Killer articulates a function rather than represents; it is supposed to make one see; it distributes and disperses the core event on which a narrative is based into various possible occurrences (these are the layers, tectonics, strata and cracks of the image) [22] and it opposes a totality. As such the image embodies a stratigraphic quality, becomes diagrammatic in a Foucault/Deleuzian sense of exposing relations between forces and particular strategies inherent to a society [23].
To recapture a few essential points of Deleuze on the diagram and relevant cinematic aspects further discussed by Tom Conley: in Foucault, Deleuze (2006) delineates a new cartography which he develops in response to Foucault’s (1995 [1975]) writing on Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. In this book Foucault invests the so-called processes of ‘humanisation’ particularly at the beginning of the nineteenth century, including the transformation of the forms and methods, subsequently the conditions, of punishment; ; for example different forms of punishment and dealing with illegality and delinquency, or the disappearance of torture as a public spectacle: former public execution versus the latter time-table. A major part of the book is dedicated to discipline and the focus on the body in disciplinary practices, the body now being caught up in a system of constraints and privations, obligations and prohibitions. Further discussed are the panoptic structure, prison and clinic, and the institutional. Deleuze (2006: 21) in response highlights, for example, the ‘evidence of a new “sensibility in the art of punishment”.’ In a more general way, he (ibid. 22) maps out the relation between the social field and the emergence of a new understanding of power and the political investment of the body at the time.

Power is no longer centralised and localisable in the same way; rather there are relations between forces which constitute power (Deleuze, ibid. 31). The “diagram” is precisely the display of these relations between forces constituting power. As a map or cartography, this diagram displaying forces is not an abstraction or a kind of archive; it is ‘coextensive with the whole social field’ (Deleuze, ibid. 30). One can visualise this as a sort of networked entity, which proposes a certain formation, plots it out on a horizontal multi-layered plane or screen. Deleuze (ibid. 30) writes,

Foucault gives it the name of ‘“diagram,” that is to say a “functioning, abstracted from any obstacle… or friction [and which] must be detached from any specific use”… It is an abstract machine. It is defined by its informal functions and matter and in terms of form makes no distinction between content and expression, a discursive formation and a non-discursive formation. As a machine it is almost blind and mute, even though it makes others see and speak.’ And finally, ‘every society has its diagram(s) (Deleuze, ibid. 31).

So what Deleuze is proposing here is a mapping of relations indicating a particular social field, with its organising, unstable principle perpetually transforming. And the necessary link to visuality endows the diagram as an abstract machine with a complex, intertwined immaterial and material agency. The emphasis on visuality and speech—the “it makes on see and speak”—emphasises the asymmetrical relation between sensory apparatuses (human agency) and other apparatuses (non-human agency), while at the same time these become less differential, and one embedded in the other or each intertwined with another [24].
In ‘The Strategist and the Stratigrapher’, Conley (2010) elaborates on the “stratigraphic” image and analyses Deleuze’s sometimes disjunctive or diverting writings on the themes of strata, strategy and stratigraphic, notably through his work on the diagram and the cinema books. In these disjunctions, which the cinematic landscape inherits, he identifies a certain tactic in Deleuze’s approach (informed or effectively produced by the diagram) to the two distinct kinds of landscape—classical versus sedimentary, tectonic, diagrammatic landscape—that appear with the different conceptions of movement-image and time-image. A critique of history and continuum appears where the archive and non-archive are at play, the archive in the sense of an actual landscape or geological formation (relating to the durable, layered, tectonic, diagrammatic landscape); the archive in the sense of the historical, film history—the classical film landscape belongs to early cinema; and the non-archive of the diagram / the diagram as non-archive. To confront this ambivalence, a strange inversion takes place in Deleuze’s manoeuvre of returning to early cinema in order to distinguish the different kinds of images/ landscapes; Conley (2010. 205) notes,

A sense of “tactics” (and of tact and tactility, too) is manifest when he frames his observations about the tectonic landscape under the title of “components” in the contemporary world that reach back to the beginnings of cinema. Through a sublime irony, the project that would distinguish the movement-image [with its classical landscape] from the time-image [stratigraphic, diagrammatic landscape], presented as if it were a strategic operation, finds itself subverted by the tactics of his return to early cinema [25].

Implicit in this debate is how the diagrammatic (film) landscape as a concept and image reinforces a distributive, tactical, stratigraphic mode in order to write/ map it, that is to say, to become “knowledge” [26]. Along these lines, the relative autonomy this landscape assumes is based not primarily on logics of identity/alterity but of expressing creativity [27].
Returning to A.K.A. Serial Killer, by articulating immanent power relations and a shift from a non-diagrammatic toward a diagrammatic nature of the image, the visual homogeneity also marks a theoretical expansion. As the Japanese film theoretician Hirasawa Go (2005) notes, albeit on another landscape film from that time, Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War (Sekigun-P.F.L.P: Sekai sensô sengen): ‘If we trace the theoretical journey, this film turns from a theory of landscape to a theory of information-media’[28]. While Red Army/PFLP more explicitly presents and articulates the new media networks, information channels, and systems of discursive propaganda (different to A.K.A. Serial Killer [29]), the landscape film in its imagery, strategy, and content always includes—in various degrees and more or less transparently—the network, mediation, data transference, and a kind of relational aesthetics. In that sense visual homogeneity coming forth in A.K.A. Serial Killer proposes two interrelated turns, a visual and a conceptual. And as such the film expresses a dual strategy.
The relation between visual register and theory is, however, complex and needs further definition. In ‘Returning to actuality: fûkeiron and the landscape film’ Furuhata (2007: 18) points out that, ‘The films are not just documents, [they] are in fact part and parcel of the larger theoretical practice of analysing the relationship between cinematic visuality and historically specific diagrams of power.’ Here one finds again the duality of visibility/invisibility which appears in Deleuze’s regime of the cinematic, diagrammatic landscape as a discussion of archive and experimentation (see my reading of the relative autonomy of landscape), and more specifically in A.K.A. Serial Killer as the interplay between a photo-realistic “document” and the non-mimetic “diagram” (Furuhata 2007: 356). In fact, a cartographic quality has already been identified by Matsuda as he writes or maps his vision of an alternative Japan, later realised in creating a visual map. This visual map is a film (imaginary, symbolic realm) as a kind of secondary map or subtle protest map, which in this case emerges from recognising uniformity. Furuhata (2007: 355) writes,

The discovery of homogeneous landscapes, which exist like equidistant points of a line that constitutes an alternative “map” of Japanese archipelago, is therefore explained, at least in part, as an antistate cartographic endeavour[VG1] .

To underline the unresolved, elusive relation between the different kinds of visibility invisibility, a relation which possibly recurs in distorted ways in recent debates on regimes of visuality and knowledge production: if there is a claim for an intrinsic link between theory and the visual register in or with A.K.A. Serial Killer, it is seen by Furuhata as a confrontation between form (what is actually seen) and the discourse that in fact co-produces, envelops, and supports it. In order to see, that is, to understand the landscape film in its potential of a material agent, its encounter is essentially based on a reading/thinking, which involves diversion and re-orientation—and a sort of détournement [30]. The spatial dimension in Deleuze (1994: 245) is indicative; ‘disconnected, unlinked fragments of space’ that need another way of being approached by and perceived; ‘In short, what we call reading of the visual image is the stratigraphic condition [état stratigraphique]… To read is to relink instead of link; it is to turn, and turn round, [re-turning], instead of to follow on the right side: a new Analytic of the image.’ In other words, when thought is immersed in the moving image and vice versa as outlined here, it demands the very participation in creating the political film. This is where knowledge becomes a knowledge of the people, accumulative, relational, and decentralised. It happens in the image’s capacity to express its potential for creating a public space, where ideas are yet unformed and come into being through the people. The tendency towards forming a virtually new public and sociability [31], however illusory or real, in this different public sphere which keeps reinventing itself, is apparent when the images one encounters break with established ways of seeing/ reading, and, subsequently, thinking. This supposedly has taken, or takes, place with the cinematic diagrammatic landscape. In this logic visual homogeneity, heterogeneous thought, and knowledge as a field of forces, form a synthesis and are interdependent in this landscape film. They also indicate a passage or the movement of a becoming political [32].
I will now return to landscape film and conclude by way of a detour to the political scientist and theoretician, Maruyama Masao (1992) [33], who explores how significant socio-political change, in this case the modernisation process in Japan with the new Meiji government established in 1868, affects the individual consciousness in relation to understandings and forms of loyalty and rebellion. Elaborating on the inner tensions the country experienced during that period of extreme shifts and renewals, he discusses for example the extreme case of the Southwestern War, since the Meiji era the biggest and last Japanese civil war in 1877, as one instance of Japan’s modernisation process by which “feudal loyalty” and its basis were dissolved, simultaneously dissolving the dynamic of “rebellion” intrinsic to it (Maruyama 1997: 56). The first attempt to invest the meaning and implications of these experiences from a paradigmatic point of view, whereby the traditional categories of loyalty and rebellion were rationalised and discussed, was undertaken by Meirokusha, Japan’s first modern group of intellectuals founded in 1873 (Maruyama, ibid. 56–7) [34]. Further topics include the influence of religion on mobilising loyalty for secular power; the relation between political and religious authority in Japan in comparison with Europe and its constitution of state and state loyalty (Staatsloyalität) which finally gained its domineering position in real life in the nineteenth century; or the different viewpoints on the question by various intellectuals and writers.
More particularly, Maruyama traces the individual’s behaviour when confronted with transforming, objective principles during a major period of change, and highlights the increasing conflictual dimension on the level of the “I” that leads to a displacement of loyalty. Especially when confronted with a pluralistic choice for loyalty, the “I” experiences a major inner tension. Importantly, from his point of view, loyalty and rebellion are contraries, but not contradictions. Rebellion is a particular form of expression of non-loyalty. For Maruyama however what becomes most unsettling is not a concentration on either loyalty or rebellion or their relativity—first suggested by the Japanese author, critic educator and publisher Fukuzawa Yukichi—but the phenomenon of political apathy in Japan’s modern history, which can possibly also be transferred to present problems within so-called democratic societies. Analogous to Maruyama (1992) then, the question is not to affirm or criticise the historicised categories and terms of loyalty and rebellion (a photographic Negativ), but to read them in today’s actions, responsibilities, and artistic practices, as a Positiv, as a condition and prophecy. The landscape film, such as A.K.A Serial Killer [and Too Early Too Late], empowers its images to be encountered as documents that point to this process.


1. This discussion paper is a slightly edited transcript of a paper, ‘Talk Geometries: Towards Anime’s Sensorial Vocabularies,’ presented at the Kinema Club Conference for Film and Moving Images from Japan XIII, January 17–18, 2014, Reischauer Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Images presented as part of the talk are excluded here to maintain the spirit of this earlier performance lecture.

Additional parts discussing landscape film at large, have been added, as a ‘supplement.’ The supplement expands on the urban image in film/moving image, abstracted cityscape and landscape as hinted at in ‘Talk Geometries.’ This research developed from a talk, ‘Tranquil hills fragile apparatus: Landscape film, migrational subjects, and diagrams of power,’ at The Art Theatre Guild of Japan: Spaces for Intercultural and Intermedial Cinema symposium, July 30–1,2011, Birkbeck College, London.

2. My reflections on animation, and in particular art animation, refer to the status quo of animation around 2014. To preserve the timeliness of that very particular moment in time, the paper is intentionally not updated according to what one can call the ‘Now.’ It is a time document echoing something what no longer is. However the editing process is done through the lens of today whereby the thinking of animation as an ‘animating force of any kind’ (Timothy Morton, 2013: 54) cannot be ignored; and is deeply embraced and engrained.

3. See also Yuriko Furuhata’s (2007) debate around ‘sensations of actuality.’

4. Anime is read in my text as a term that stands for Japanese animation in general; this approach relates to the original understanding and translation of anime as a Japanese abbreviation for all kinds of animation. In an email to the author Joon Yang Kim notes: ‘Since the mid-1990s, the West began to pay attention to Japanese popular animation, calling it “Anime”; the Japanese governmental organisations took a political response to that, collaborating on the “Anime” discourses of the West, in order to develop it towards a new national industry, for example, through holding the Tokyo Anime Fair. This climate has added an implication of Otaku [people obsessively interested in “manga” or “anime”], as a big group of consumers rather than as audiences, to the once-neutral word Anime in the country. There is an antipathy to the word found among animation-related people who however tend to distinguish their own activities and interests from commercially-oriented animation. The Japanese society has a strong tendency of discerning commercial (shogyo) from art (geijutsu) in many cultural fields as well as in animation. Such cultural tendency might not be enough known to the Western readers, and is a complicated issue in understanding contemporary Japanese culture.’
I am grateful to animation critic and scholar Joon Yang Kim, who kindly forwarded these details in 2011 (when writing Adventure-Landing, 2011) and also recommended reading Nihon no shisô by Masao Maruyama on this topic. (see footnote 6 and supplement)
Manga are comics and print cartoons in Japanese language and style developed in Japan in the late nineteenth century.

5. See Furuhata (2007: 353), and her note 24, with this quote by Kôjin. And see supplement below for more on the landscape film.

6. An essential source to understand the complex relation of the Japanese to historical continuity and establishing a structural coherence between different historical fragments and thought processes, both in premodern and modern times, is Denken in Japan (Nihon no shisô) by the political scientist and political theorist Masao Maruyama (1988). In ‘Die japanischen Intellektuellen’ (Kindai Nihon no chishikijin), the second essay of Denken in Japan, Maruyama discusses the question of the separate groups of intellectuals in Japan and the difficulty of considering them as one social group; he points out a certain lack of a constitution of a united intellectual consciousness or communal spirit among scientists, writers and artists, which is also interesting in relation to the social and institutional development and status of Japanese animation.

7. Similar to Tintin possibly, also in relation to aesthetics—the image. Tom McCarthy (2006) in his reading of Tintin as a sign, notes that, “Tintin means, literally, ‘Nothing’. His face, round as an O with two pinpricks for eyes, is what [his creator] Hergé himself described as ‘the degree zero of typeage’—a typographic vanishing point. Tintin is also the degree zero of personage. He has no past, no sexual identity, no complexities.”

8. Steinberg (2006), p. 205, endnote 16: “Kusakawa argues that Astroboy ‘is a symbol of the large-scale conversion of the postwar Japanese economy’ from a secondary to a tertiary economy, along with the attendant emphasis on and transformation of consumption which this transition presupposes (Kusakawa, 1981: 30–2).”

9. Precursor of Bigakko (alternative art school). See Yoshiko Shimada (2015) and Anti-Academy symposium, John Hansard Gallery, UK, November 23, 2013.
Art & Education, (accessed September 2020).

10. William Marotti (2013) Money, Trains, and Guillotines: Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan. Durham, NC 27701: Duke University Press, pp. 194–5.

11. Marotti, ibid. p. 5.

12. Thomas LaMarre (2002: 188) refers to an internal limit within anime when exploring “how perceived and institutionalised differences between cinema, animation and anime do not only construct external boundaries but also come to function as a kind of internal limit within anime, one that allows for divergent series of distinctly anime-ic expression and experience” as he looks at “how the internal limits of anime can  come to  imply a specific constellation of relations, which constructs specific ways of imaging history, genre and gender.”

13. This supplement is part 2, an extract from a longer debate on landscape film as noted in footnote 1.   Preliminary notes; the landscape image under scrutiny is one where the camera wanders, registers inhabited sites, tracks minimal movements of and within a deserted landscape, slides along houses without reference to the actual location, and avoids interaction with people; it approaches environments, passengers, virtual characters, and social space randomly, zooms across city- and seascapes, traces fragments of various vehicles and devices for logistical transportation, trade, and mobility. The camera is never still but creates a still or static image, no action. This image however becomes increasingly thick, multi-layered, archaeological, architectural, tectonic, and distributed…

14. Who writes the emerging maps, diagrams, and mechanism if not an image? The image as material agent that forces us to think and re-orientate ourselves. The force of invention, inventing thought and ideas, through and with cinematic images (specific time and space constellations informed by their dispositifs) and my re-reading of landscape and landscape image goes hand in hand with some of John Rajchman’s (2010) points in his essay ‘Futures. Deleuze’s Time, or How the Cinematic Changes Our Idea of Art.’ The liberating idea of ‘fabricating concepts “in cinema” for uses outside of it … to free them from the sort of intrinsic or internalizing history’ (Rajchman 2010: 299) is one way to confront the power relations between moving images and our investments of rationalisation. In my elaboration this regards concepts of image material from a present western perspective.

15. Too Early, Too Late (Trop tôt, trop tard) by Danièlle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, France, 1982, is mentioned in this supplement but the long debate on the film is excluded in this context for consisteny.

16. On Japanese documentary or nonfiction cinema, with its preceding “protodocumentary,” and Prokino, with links to histories of documentary film in the western context, and with emphasising the continuities even through times of supposedly radical changes, see Abé Mark Nornes (2003) Japanese documentary film: the Meiji era through Hiroshima.

17. For Matsuda’s (1970) description of making A.K.A. Serial Killer, see an excerpt from his essay ‘City as Landscape’ published on the occasion of “Cinema & Revolution,” a screening of Adachi’s work, organised by Go Hirasawa.

18. Matsuda, quoted by Furuhata (2007: 352). In this essay, ‘Returning to actuality: fûkeiron and the landscape film,’ Furuhata refers to a number of Matsuda’s writing on the theme including the article ‘Waga rettô, waga fûkei’, in Fûkei no shimetsu, pp. 92–3, from which this quote is taken.

19. In Too Early, Too Late, the featureless, and more or less uniform landscape, will give rise to another vision of homogeneity. The next few sentences of the paragraph relate to both A.K.A. Serial Killer and Too Early, Too Late.

20.  See Karatani Kôjin quote in Talk Geometries and related footnote 5.
21.  Also bearing in mind Simon Schama’s (1995: 61) claim for an earlier shift in priorities, namely that, “[western] landscapes are culture before they are nature [and are] constructs of the imagination.” A few notes around a huge, here unexplored topic: the continuing earthquake disasters in Japan supposedly add to dimensions and shifting meanings of nature.  In the essay ‘Imaginary Agents—Flowers and the Common’ (2011: 269) I have discussed different orders of “nature” in addition to Catherine David’s proposition that, ‘nature in the post-industrial era is a secondary nature, a second-hand nature, a post-cultural nature—and a post-history nature, the “dopo storia” that Pasolini evokes in his texts in the 1970s—“ruins” (vacant lots, post-industrial wasteland, waste dumps, etc).’ David is also quoted in Tom Trevor’s essay ‘Three Ecologies’ (n.d.).
22.  As noted by Conley (2010: 194).
23.  Key reference is Deleuze’s Foucault (2006). Other relevant sources include Foucault’s ‘Panopticism’ (extract) (pp. 356–67) and ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’ (interview with Paul Rabinow) (pp. 367–79); and Deleuze’s ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’ (pp. 309–13) and ‘City/State’ (with Guattari) (pp. 313–16), re-published in Neil Leach (ed.) (1997) Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory.
24.  On the mutating relationship between human and non-human agency caught in an overall diagrammatic system and “forces” at play across disciplines in Deleuze (and Guattari), see Zdebik (2012).
25.  Film landscapes already emphasised the lack of a ‘single or unique landscape-function in early cinema [with] various functions [being] distributed along several paths.’(Costa, 2006: 263) The implicit archive function and analytical modes underlying the “trips around the world” theme in the first two decades of cinema, with its “universal” landscapes being a discursive production rather than pure reproduction, also force a methodological and strategic gaze to understand the meanings, and tactics of the institutionalization and legitimization around them.
26  In a section, ‘Archive and Diagram,’ in his earlier book Cartographic Cinema, Conley (2007: 10–15) already points to the link between diagram, cartographic tactics, maps within films, film as diagram, the diagram’s time—its complex relation between history and identity, and Deleuze’s writing being equivalent to a mapping.
27.  In chapter 7, ‘From One Image to Another? Deleuze and the Ages of cinema’ in Film Fables, Jacques Rancière (2006: 119) suggests a “fictive rupture” to take account of the rupture that structures the opposition between Deleuze’s movement-image and time-image associated with the classical and modern cinema. A final argument emphasizes the centrality of thought intrinsic to cinema as art with the subsequent dissolution of identitarian logics regarding the two cinemas, hence the transitory relation between them. In what way these notes evoke something on break and rupture, becomes more apparent in Too Early, Too Late, futurity, and its prophecy.
28.  Go Hirasawa (2005) ‘Underground Cinema and the Art Theatre Guild.’
Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War (Sekigun-P.F.L.P: Sekai sensô sengen) (1971) by Adachi and Kôji Wakamats is described by Hirasawa as a revolutionary news-film. Another landscape film from 1970, The Man Who Left His Will on Film (Tōkyō Sensō Sengo Hiwa), directed by Nagisa Oshima includes references to Noveau Roman, Godard, Rolling Stones, ‘Paint it black,’ and to the landscape, for example: ‘everything is landscape,’ ‘the landscape is our problem,’ ‘we have to destroy the landscape,’ ‘the Tokyo landscape battle,’ ‘the landscape make you feel dizzy,’ ‘caress the landscape,’ ‘penetrate the landscape,’ or ‘screw the landscape.’ Matsuda’s conceptualisation of fûkeiron was not necessarily acknowledged by other filmmakers at the time and is questionable in terms of its effects and proliferation in a wider cultural and political context. Aaron Gerow (2009) mentions a discussion with the Japanese film director and screenwriter Yoshida Kiju, pointing out once more the complex and ambivalent relation between emotion and thought fûkeiron puts forward. This question re-emerges significantly in narratives of activism, and the status of theory in actual forms of resistance. See also footnote 27.
29.  . . . but interestingly connected to Too Early, Too Late.

30.  The reference to Situationist tactics of dérive and détournement is not to subsume the landscape film and landscape theory within this historicised material. Rather it provokes a link to a more recent example, discussed by Eyal Weizman (2006) in ‘The Art of War’ where the late 1960s theories of Deleuze, Guattari and Guy Debord are closely tight to spatial practices, questions of land, territories, and the military which claims to criticise and reinvent itself through theory. A different situation can be found in looking to Italy in the 1960s. In my interview with Antonio Negri (2013) on the Real Radical we discussed the “magazine movement” as a unique joining of actions (workers, intellectuals), print media and theory. Negri (2013: 202) describes how ‘the magazine became a point of reference where the different ways of action and intervention were analysed.’ The material agency is here at the same time human agency (labour power, thought). Theory and critic in that sense developed with action/non-action and print media. On the question of re-formatting the perception of the past through art and the people, to affirm ‘the multitude of possible pasts,’ see Nicholas Warner (2012) on A.K.A. Serial Killer in an exhibition context.
31.  See Rajchman’s discussion (2010: 301–2) on this (new) image-thought relationship, and its calling into being of a virtual audience and new sociability. Serge Daney’s notion of critical “supplement,” alluded to by Rajchman, may be similar to the kind of knowledge discussed here, but perhaps one can also interpret it more as a surplus in the sense of its extra mode of production and distribution.
32.  An extensive part of the source essay is excluded in the following for the sake of word limit.
33.  Wolfgang Schamoni and Wolfgang Seifert (eds) (1997) Masao Maruyama, Loyalität und Rebellion. I am primarily referring to Schamoni and Seifert’s ‘Vorwort’ (pp. 7–12), Maruyama’s ‘Zur Eingrenzung der Fragestellung’ (pp. 13–5) and ‘Was danach kommt—ein Ausblick’ (pp. 155–63). In ‘Die japanischen Intellektuellen’ (Kindai Nihon no chishikijin), the second essay in Denken in Japan, Maruyama (1988: pp. 89–134) takes account of the complex relation of the Japanese to historical continuity and establishing a structural coherence between different historical fragments and thought processes in pre-modern and modern times. The phenomena of the separate groups of intellectuals in Japan without forming one social group alludes to the lack of a constitution of a united intellectual consciousness or communal spirit among scientists, writers and artists, a question that reappears interestingly in relation to fûkeiron and the collective character of the landscape film (besides other artistic practices).
34.  The group consisted of approximately 30 intellectuals nearly all of them who have studied outside of Japan. Working in line with the Meiji government they supported this government’s initial aim of or direction for introducing western institutions with their publications. Members included the writer and educator Nishimura Shigeki (1828–1902) and critic Fukuzawa Yukichi (1834–1901) among others. In 1874/75 Meirokusha published the first highly critical journal Meiroku zasshi. In this journal Yukichi published the essay ‘Űber die Pflichten des Gelehrten’ (Gakusha shokubun ron), dealing with the question: Should the intellectual serve the government or remain outside official institutions? Details in Loyalität und Rebellion (p. 171) and Denken in Japan (p. 103). In the context of 1960s Japan, various creative avant-garde practices, including film, performance, fine art or print, together with their theoretical propositions announced and discussed in journals, invested the relation between art and direct action as a political concept. Salon gatherings at the VAN Film Science Research Centre (Van kagaku eiga kenkyujo) brought together activist artists and filmmakers in Tokyo around 1963, and publications such Akasegawa Genpei’s postcard journal, Raging Picture Prison Mail Newsletter, which was sent only to imprisoned activists, or the radical art magazine Keisho (Image) nourished the saturated activist-artistic-discursive landscape at the time. See William Marotti (2013) Money, Trains, and Guillotines.


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About the Author

Verina Gfader is an artist, researcher, occasional poet, Professor of Fine Arts and Knowledge Production at Malmö Art Academy/Lund University, and is concluding research with the City University of Hong Kong. She is Creative Director of EP, a book series across art, architecture and design, from Sternberg Press, Berlin; and Co-Director of Animate Assembly (with Esther Leslie, Edgar Schmitz, Anke Hennig). Her recent postdoctoral fellowship on The Contemporary Condition at Aarhus University, Denmark, follows from doctoral studies at Central Saint Martins, London, and a prior research residency at Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai). Her expertise covers two fields: Publishing and Fine art animation/time-based media (including performance). As an artist, she orchestrates her practice as organised fields of research aided by drawing and animation, printed matter, text performance and fabulations, and fictional institutions.

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