Photochemical Smog as New Media

Perhaps photochemical smog is the only true new visual media of post World War II technological culture. It represents the high achievements in science and technology, combined with (synthetic) chemistry and sunlight. It modulates the light like advanced visual media should and embeds us in its augmented reality as we suck it into our lungs.

smog460x276It encapsulates the mediatic cities of Los Angeles and Beijing, as encompassing surely as Hollywood’s machinery. Just like the material basis of technical media of more conventional kind – such as photography and film – it is chemical based. It is media the same as any photochemical process is about how light gets absorbed on our planet’s atoms and molecules.

But it’s new media, particular to the modern industrial age and the chemical reactions of more recent history. It feeds of industrial pollution and modern transport. It is about the screen as well – how the sunlight is offered this massive living chemical molecular screen on which to project its energetic images. A molecular aesthetics of an ecology of a dying planet.


  1. February 24, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Surely the production of ‘our screen’ photochemical smog is only one of many screens that have existed through the eons. It is just another screen for the sun, that has included dust clouds from tempestuous volcanoes to massive sand storms and the London Smogs of the industrial era too.

    Like the ones from nature our screens will pass and the planet will most probably not die but live ‘happily on’ without us, or just maybe with us if we begin to adjust to live in harmony with the planet.

    • February 24, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      exactly, Andrew. This is also the grim teaching of Gaia (in the fashion read by Lynn Margulis). She reminds how it is far from a cuddly nice organism…instead “Gaia is a tough bitch — a system that has worked for over three billion years without people. This planet’s surface and its atmosphere and environment will continue to evolve long after people and prejudice are gone.” I guess that’s our temporal horizon in many ways; not necessarily a Heideggerian mourning but remembering of the multiplicity of life.

  2. February 24, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Just a thought between, putting dots and squiggles on a canvas in my studio this evening, (something I still can’t resist doing between my larger digital projection works), is our really big screen, our big canvas, is the planet itself and the trace of lights, both incandescent and digital now, that marks our cities and towns and the roads, highways and byways that trace the links between them of a night; and how this picture moves across the planet as day moves to night, as night moves to day, as we rotate around the sun.

  3. February 24, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    somehow I am left thinking after your words about the film Nostalgia for the LIght…

  4. February 26, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Great piece, Jussi. I wonder if there’s a possible history of wider scope. What about the ash that engulfed London during the Industrial Rev? Or for that matter the ash that presumably enveloped Pompeii in another age, or the smoke that occasionally engufled cities under siege during the Peloponnesian war? I think these kinds of visions of enveloping smoke and fumes are enduring figures within factual and mythological histories. I wonder if your fine historical and analytical comments might be located with a longer archaelogy of smoke and earthly violence, and the mutations of these hell-ish images from moments of strife to everyday experience…

  1. March 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm
  2. June 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm

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