Junnan Chen, *24

Department of East Asian Studies

Expressing Time: Cybernetic Aesthetics and Cold War Japan



My dissertation is driven by the desire to understand time in the era of hypermediation, when images are no longer mimesis but the driving force for reality. Exploring Japanese cinema, photography, and critical thoughts from the 1960s to 1980s as well as the philosophy of time in the long 20th century, I theorize expressing time as a critical phenomenology of time that generates the affect of resistance to confront the technological maneuver of space-time, from the inception of storage media to the Cold War paradigm of cybernetics and system thinking. The dissertation begins by investigating Bergson’s philosophy of time and his debate with Einstein in the early 20th century from a media studies perspective, moves to analyze the understudied movement Ausdruckskunde (Studies of Expression) via Ludwig Klages’s writings, and ends with Jacques Derrida’s remark on the “present.” I trace how the heated debate on the nature of time at the height of industrial capitalism is entwined with the persistent lure of image—not as representations but tokens of vibrant life await archeological investigations. The dynamic time-image relation, contextualized in a moment when the revolution of transmission regime converged with the innovation of visual forms such as the birth of the avant-garde cinema, produces critical questions to understand Japan’s Cold War media milieu, within which geopolitical and material transformations took place in accordance with the global cybernetic craze and the subterranean “system thinking,” which engineer new temporal politics. In Chapter 2 to Chapter 4, I situate a set of visual, literary, and time-based media, from the photography and writings of Taki Kōji, films of Yoshida Kijū, Ōshima Nagisa, Hara Kazuo, Chris Marker, and Andrei Tarkovsky in the genealogy of thinking time and probes new ways to understand the underlying logic of industrial modernity, neoliberal capitalism, and the contemporary regime of new media. This spatial and temporal “leap” from European modernity to Japan’s high-growth capitalism hopes to challenge the East-West binary while approaching the geopolitical imagination of Japan not as a spatial territory but as a part of the transforming global condition of time. 

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