Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Dam and Us

, Here is roughly what I am going to talk about at a conference in Wuhan, China, the day after tomorrow.

Two recent Chinese films deal with the Three Gorges Dam. I am off to that area tomorrow. I first watched Lee Yifan and Yan Yu’s very interesting documentary film Before the Flood (2004), then Jia Zhang-Ke’s critically acclaimed Still Life (2006). These films called my renewed attention to the colossal project of building a dam and its consequences.

In Japan, there is an interesting case of the Tokuyama Dam in central Japan, completed this year, that produced the largest dam lake in this country. Hidden under the water today is the old, small village called Tokuyama Mura. By the time the village was officially abandoned in 1987, an elderly woman named Tazuko Masuyama had taken 70,000 photographs to record the daily life of her community and their ancestral land. This constitutes an archive of a lifestyle that is now forever lost.

Another example. “The Ship Rides on the Mountain” is a very interesting art project that took more than a decade to complete. When it was decided to submerge a rural area in western Japan under water for the new Haizuka Dam, a group of artists and architects together with the local community united to build a 60-meter long raft using local timbers. When the dam was finally completed, and as the level of water rose, the raft began its move toward the top of a hill and eventually stayed there like an ark on Mt. Ararat. A documentary film of the same title, directed by Takayoshi Honda, was released last year (2007). It invites us once again to think about the dam.

The impact that a dam gives to the water system and environments are variously stated. Photographer Kazutoshi Hieda, for example, talks about the threatening recent change at the bottom of a Hokkaido river where various fishes come up regularly to lay eggs. Now the bottom is covered with a layer of mud because the natural supply of pebble has been hindered by a series of dams. Still keeping a very high quality of clear, uncontaminated water, the river is now turning into a zone not fit for fish. But a new trend is currently being set by the case of partial demolition of a dam in Gunma. Will this open an utterly new way to restore regional biodiversity?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It's historical, really. Let's see which direction the US will swerve to.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Here is a bit of Simone Weil:

Décréation: faire passer du créé dans l'incréé.
Destruction: faire passer du créé dans le néant.

"La pesanteur et la grâce" was first published in 1947. Derrida must have known it at the time of publication or soon after (when he was still a teenager in Algiers).

Déconstruction, rather than Ab-bau, seems to me to be décréation itself.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Novembering, or remembering de novo

Haven't written on this blog for a while; now I am trying to start anew. With only a couple of more days to prepare for my trip to China, it's hectic all over... . Maybe I'll stick to quotations here.

Here is a nice one from Anthony Kerrigan in his preface to Borges' Ficciones:

"Borges restates, in a few allegorical pages, the circular, ceremonial direction of our curious, groping, thrilling and atrocious ignorance."

Oh, our ATROCIOUS IGNORANCE... how sweet the sound! It is the very source of our quest into the verbal signs left behind by those who have passed before us on the surface of this planet. I don't mean humans, but everything, and all events.