New Czech titles

Now published in Czech, two closely connected books: the translation of What is Media Archaeology? (transl. Michal Šimůnek) and Martin Charvát’s book about my work Jussi Parikka: Od archeologie ke geologii médií (“Jussi Parikka: From Media Archaeology to Geology of Media”). Very excited and grateful to both of them for their work, insights, and careful attention.

The publisher is NAMU press.

Below a short glimpse of the interview we did with Martin for his book (note that the original English discussion has not been tidied so please excuse any minor language hiccups).

<M. C. As I see it, in your work there is a strong tendency present: from the analysis of „dark sides“ of digital culture to geology of media, to the (on the one hand) abstract but strictly material frameworks (or empirical conditions of possibilities) of contemporary digital culture based on using (in a sense of dependency) material from Earth, and to the (on the other hand) urgent need to look at these phenomena through (to put it in Deleuzean terms) “geology of morals”, which transcends a priori critique of technique, and thematizes the usage or cultural techniques emerging in contemporary society and connect them with geo-political climate.

J. P. I was originally trained in Cultural History (in Turku, Finland) which was great background education to consider the broader historical contexts of contemporary culture. It was also a context where I had to do extra work in figuring out how I can continue my theoretical interests while engaging in historical methods. One line of thought that cuts across those themes, those tendencies, is that I am interested in the anomalous, whether that is in relation to the dark sides and accidents of technological culture or in terms of the alternative methodological and conceptual angles that unfold a different perspective. The Deleuzean impact was early on really important for me – I still remember well the course on Deleuze (and a bit on Guattari) that professor Jukka Sihvonen gave in Turku and that I attended together with my friend, media scholar Pasi Väliaho. It was an eye-opener. I did not know how to place it exactly in terms of my other studies but it crept into some work I did in Finnish (including a book that was published in Finnish, Koneoppi) and then to some themes in Digital Contagions that was also my doctoral project that later turned into a book. Another influence was Friedrich Kittler, also introduced by Sihvonen, and whose work then became a different way of trying to start thinking questions of materiality which led into discussions also in new materialism from a much more material feminist position. Rosi Braidotti’s seminars in 2005 were another eye opener.

But in terms of the theme of the anomalous – it does not necessarily mean even marginal. Just that from Digital Contagions to later work, I was trying to come up with questions that are not necessarily at first obvious; conceptual twists that offer different perspectives while building on existing theoretical and scholarly traditions, but also rhetorically are able to frame a different way of understanding those conceptual entities inside “media studies” but also way outside it.

The geopolitical that includes Earth energies is far from marginal but I felt a necessary way to continue the link between conceptual work, extended media studies perspectives, and burning contemporary topics. I was trying to avoid it being merely a contribution to the Anthropocene debate about this new geological period defined by industrialism, synthetic chemistry and massive scale of agriculture, the nuclear age and mass exterminations of multiple kinds – including as many have pointed out, colonial time scales – and think of ways how the question of materiality can be placed in questions of ecology. Geology of morals turns into a Robert Smithson inspired large-scale, landscape-scale changes impacted by media and technological culture that also challenges models of agency and definitely forces non-anthropocentric perspectives both in analysis and in coming up with ethical solutions. To riff with Braidotti’s ideas: it was the ideal of the human in the modern Western humanism that got us into a lot of trouble with its colonial human (able-male) centric ways of organizing worldviews; now we are in the midst of a larger transformation where other questions have to be brought forward for a more radical sustainable future.


M. C. Currently you are the head of GAČR EXPRO project at Prague Famu. Could you elaborate please a little bit about the topic of the research? (Operational images)

J. P. Operational images is a concept that stems from the filmmaker Harun Farocki’s work and investigations. Already in his work in the 1980s and 1990s he mapped visual forms of measurement and rationalization of the world in relation to political history, violence, holocaust, and industrial scale violence although the concept emerges in a more articulated form in the Eye/Machine video series of installations between 2000-2003. While Farocki’s work is interesting as such – in how it articulates themes of proximity/distance, visuality/calculation, war/media – our project picks up on the concept itself: operational images as images that function primarily as part of a (technical) operation like in the case of self-guided missile systems, machine vision systems, robotics, etc. The concept has had a vivid afterlife following Farocki and it pops up in use by theorists and artists such as Hito Steyerl and Trevor Paglen, as well as in works by many of the colleagues in media studies etc., but we are interested both in how to use it as a concept to outline alternative histories of photography and visual culture and to open up new questions in contemporary contexts of art and visual theory.

For example, I am working with Abelardo Gil-Fournier on outlining questions of vegetal materiality and visual culture, from late 19th century plant physiology and framing of photosynthesis to broader scales such as in Vladimir Vernadsky’s take on the planetary biosphere. We are interested in how from questions of photography and visual culture we can outline a take on operational images in scientific contexts, planetary scales of plants and agriculture, and this refurbishing of the planet by way of terraforming that has taken place for example indeed in agriculture.

Of course the project incorporates more than that. Tomas Dvorak’s investigations into photography as measurement is one insightful way of dealing with the overlap between methods in history of science and media; previously, our conference theme was on Expert-Readable Images expanding the idea of machinic agency of images (Machine-Readable) to the work of experts and specialist practices too. Also our book Photography off the Scale that came out in 2021 with Edinburgh University Press included contributions from our project team on the question of measure, scale, and quantity in photographic culture.

The book Operational Images. From the Visual to the Invisual is forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press in 2023.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: