Smog Signals, Dog Sirens: Jia Zhangke, Lacan, and the Anthropocene

Anthony Siu

Abstract


This study is a critique of two overlooked shorts of Jia Zhangke, a leading figure from the sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers: Smog Journeys (2015) and The Condition of Dogs (2001). Contemplating the imminent demise of human and animal lives represented, it argues that the looming ecological crises in the films stress biological finitude to such an extent that fear and pity disavow the truth about capitalist co-optation. To understand capitalism’s operation behind a catastrophic Anthropocene, I put the films into dialogues with Lacan’s “University Discourse” and “Hysteric’s Discourse”, formal structures that challenge and reshape the immediate identification of a narrative. With their attention to signifiers and affect, these formal structures enable us to understand how images and sounds focalize the viewers’ experience of fear and pity while unearthing the truth about the foreclosure of capitalist ideology. But instead of performing a strictly close-reading of each film, my critique elaborates more on the very psychoanalytic logic of Lacan’s two structures. My wish is that it allows us to see how complex visual and acoustic experience could be in shaping our identification beyond socio-cultural reflections and pure aesthetics.

How to cite this article: Siu, Anthony. "Smog Signals, Dog Sirens: Jia Zhangke, Lacan, and the Anthropocene." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies  25 (Septmeber 2021): 129-142. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i25.452

Article received: April 23, 2021; Article accepted: June 21, 2021; Published online: September 15, 2021; Original scholarly paper

 


Keywords


Jia Zhangke; Jacques Lacan; Anthropocene; psychoanalysis; capitalism.

Full Text:

PDF

References


Abbas, Ackbar. “Adorno and the Weather: Critical Theory in an Era of Climate Change.” Radical Philosophy 174 (July/August 2012): 7–13.

Aristotle, Poetics. Translated by Richard Janko. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.,1987.

Badiou, Alain. The Pornographic Age. Translated by A. J. Bartlett and Justin Clemens. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

Barclay, Leah. “Acoustic Ecology and Ecological Sound Art: Listening to Changing Ecosystems.” In Sound, Media, Ecology, edited by Milena Droumeva and Randolph Jordan. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Berry, Michael. Jia Zhangke’s Hometown Trilogy: Xiao Wu, Platform, Unknown Pleasures. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006.

Braun, Joannah, ed. Performing Hysteria: Contemporary Images and Imaginations of Hysteria. Leuven: Belgium University Press, 2020.

Bronfen, Elisabeth. The Knotted Subject: Hysteria and Its Discontent. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Burham, Clint and Paul Kingsbury, eds. Lacan and the Environment. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

Chen, Andrew. “Interview: Jia Zhangke.” Film Comment (March/April 2009). https://www.filmcomment.com/article/jia-zhangke-interview. Accessed on February 18, 2021.

Chow, Rey. “China as Documentary: Some Basic Questions (Inspired by Michael Antonioni and Jia Zhangke).” In The Poetics of Chinese Cinema, edited by Gary Bettinson, James Udden, 199–200. New York: Palgrave MacMillan US, 2016.

Compton IV, John H. “Creaturely Communal Ontology in Practice: John Zizioulas in Dialogue with Ritual Theory.” Religions 10, 9 (2019): 506. doi: 10.3390/rel10090506

Chu, Kiu-wai. “Screening Environmental Challenges in China: Three Modes of Ecocinema,” Journal of Chinese Governance 2, 4 (2017): 437-459. doi: 10.1080/23812346.2017.1382039.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 1: The Movement Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 111.

Denny, David. “The Documentary Form and Lacan’s Four Discourses.” Crisis and Critique 7, 2 (July 2020): 49–67.

Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am, translated by David Willis. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

Didi-Huberman, Georges. The Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of Salpêtrère, translated by Alisa Hartz. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2004.

Faraone, Christopher A. “Magical and Medical Approaches to the Wandering Womb in the Ancient Greek World,” Classical Antiquity 30, 1 (2011): 1-32. doi: 10.1525/CA.2011.30.1.1

Fay, Jennifer. Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Gruen, Lori, ed. Critical Terms for Animal Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Hui, Wang. “Jia Zhangke’s World and China’s Great Transformation: A Revised Version of a Speech Given at ‘The Still Life Symposium at Fenyang High School.’” Translated by Nathaniel Proctor, positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 19, 1 (2011): 217–28. doi: 10.1215/10679847-2010-030

Jameson, Fredric. Signatures of the Visible. London: Routledge, 1992.

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (Book XVII), trans. Russel Grigg. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.

Lertzman, Renee. Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Liu, Sheldon H. and Haomin Gong, eds. Ecology and Chinese-language Cinema: Reimagining a Field. New York: Routledge, 2021.

Liu, Xiao. Information Fantasies: Precarious Mediation in Postsocialist China. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.

Luo, Ting. “Neither Here nor There: The Representation of Post-Socialist Space in The World and Still Life and Jia Zhangke’s Transcendence of Realism.” Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies 15, 2, 2015: 149–71. doi: 10.21866/esjeas.2015.15.2.001

Massumi, Brian, ed. The Politics of Everyday Fear. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

McGrath, Declan. “The Films of Jia Zhangke: Poetic Realist of Globalization.” Cineaste (Fall 2016): 36–37.

Mello, Cecilia. The Cinema of Jia Zhangke: Realism and Memory in Chinese Films. London: Bloomsburg Publishing PLC, 2019.

Morton, Timothy. Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.

Quin, Amy. “In Fight to Ban Dog Meat, China’s Activists Find an Ally: The Coronavirus.” The New York Times. June 23, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/world/asia/china-dog-meat.html. Accessed on June 15, 2021.

Santner, Eric L. On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Siu, Anthony. “Review: Anat Pick’s Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 249 pp.” Film-Philosophy 19 (2015): 12–14. doi: 10.3366/film.2015.0023

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Traverso, Enzo. Left-wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2021.

Verhaeghe, Paul. “From Impossibility to Inability: Lacan’s Theory of the Four Discourses.” The Letter: Lacanian Perspectives on Psychoanalysis 3 (Spring 1995): 91–108.

Wong, Edward. “After Online Campaign, Chinese Dog Meat Festival Is Cancelled.” The New York Times, 29 Sept., 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/world/asia/dog-meat-festival-is-canceled-in-china.html. Accessed on June 15, 2021.

Žižek, Slavoj. Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectic Materialism. London: Verso, 2013.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25038/am.v0i25.452

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2021 AM Journal of Art and Media Studies

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

AM Journal of Art and Media Studies ISSN 2217-9666 - printed, ISSN 2406-1654 - online, UDK 7.01:316.774

Contact: amjournal@outlook.com

Publisher: Faculty of Media and Communications, Singidunum University, Belgrade, Serbia

Indexed in: ERIH PLUSEBSCODOAJ, and in The List of Scientific Journals Categorization of Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of Republic of Serbia (M51-2019). Beginning with No. 12 2017, AM is indexed, abstracted and covered in Clarivate Analytics service ESCI.