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Hardcover | $35.00 Short | £27.95 | 368 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 51 b&w illus. | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036467
eBook | $24.00 Short | August 2017 | ISBN: 9780262341134
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Ecstatic Worlds

Media, Utopias, Ecologies


Postwar artists and architects have used photography, film, and other media to imagine and record the world as a wonder of collaborative entanglement—to translate the world for the world. In this book, Janine Marchessault examines a series of utopian media events that opened up and expanded the cosmos, creating ecstatic collective experiences for spectators and participants.

Marchessault shows that Edward Steichen’s 1955 “Family of Man” photography exhibition, for example, and Jacques Cousteau’s 1956 underwater film Le Monde du silence (The Silent World) both gave viewers a sense of the Earth as a shared ecology. The Festival of Britain (1951)—in particular its Telekinema (a combination of 3D film and television) and its Live Architecture exhibition—along with Expo 67’s cinema experiments and media city created an awareness of multiple worlds. Toronto’s alternative microcinema CineCycle, Agnès Varda’s 2000 film Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse, and Buckminster Fuller’s World Game (geoscope), representing ecologies of images and resources, encouraged planetary thinking. The transspecies communication platform, the Dolphin Embassy, devised by the Ant Farm architecture collaborative, extends this planetary perspective toward other species; and Finnish artist Erkki Kurenniemi’s “Death of the Planet” projects a postanthropocentric future.

Drawing on sources that range from the Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes to the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Marchessault argues that each of these media experiments represents an engagement with connectivity and collectivity through media that will help us imagine a new form of global humanism.

About the Author

Janine Marchessault is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the Department of Cinema and Media Arts at York University in Toronto.


“An unequalled historical sleuth and storyteller, Janine Marchessault shows that since the mid-twentieth century, experiments across audiovisual media have modeled a cosmic eco-consciousness both joyful and responsible. In the networks of inspiration and support among inventors, artists, designers, philosophers, and the industries and institutions that supported them, Marchessault reveals ecosystems that are as deep, fascinating, and delicately intertwined as a coral reef.”
Laura Marks, Grant Strate University Professor, Simon Fraser University; author of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art and Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image
Ecstatic Worlds returns to Karl Mannheim’s utopian thought and Georges Bataille's ecological vision to multiply the potentials of Earth, globe, planet, and (crucially) the plurality of worlds that are imagined in the period following World War II. Marchessault offers compelling readings of experimental cinema and media artists from Jacques Cousteau to Buckminster Fuller whose world-making projects sharpen our understanding of images and media as key features of the current twenty-first century environment.”
Patrick Jagoda, Associate Professor, University of Chicago