This essay explores a critical dialogue between methods and conceptions of cultural techniques—the second wave of media archaeology—and a case in contemporary Chinese documentary. I examine filmmaker Mao Chenyu, who is also an organic farmer, a critical thinker and writer, and a film exhibitor. Mao provides an intriguing case of how ethnography, ecology, and cosmology intertwine; how media art can take the form of media activism by redefining its boundaries and exhibition space; and how media art can be rethought by replacing its usual focus on media as object with a focus on media as space, community, and social process. By engaging Mao's film practice and critical writings, I test the promise and limits of cultural techniques to reopen the question of culture and public sphere without privileging the a priori of technical operations as the programmability of society.
Archaeology of a Medium: The (Agri)Cultural Techniques of a Paddy Film Farm
Weihong Bao is associate professor of film and media at UC Berkeley. She is the author of Fiery Films: The Emergence of an Affective Medium in China, 1915–1945 and is currently working on a new book, “Background Matters: The Art of Environment in Modern China.” She coedits the Journal of Chinese Cinemas and the Film Theory in Media History book series published by Amsterdam University Press.
Weihong Bao; Archaeology of a Medium: The (Agri)Cultural Techniques of a Paddy Film Farm. boundary 2 1 February 2022; 49 (1): 25–69. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-9615389
Download citation file: