Bodies Underwater

Franziska Strack
2021 Environmental Humanities  
This article engages with French filmmaker Jean Painlevé's experimental shorts on the physiognomy and behavior of marine animals. The article argues that Painlevé's films establish a corporeal and nonlinguistic mode of interspecies communication that draws upon the spectators' immediate emphatic and empathetic reactions to the animal creatures on-screen. By evoking affective responses below the visible and audible registers, the films place the human animal body both in proximity to and at a
more » ... tance from the nonhuman animal, revealing ontological ties as well as uncanny encounters with other ways of living. In doing so, the films inspire a plurality of ethico-political perspectives on species entanglement that all propose distinct responsibilities without making any organism the center of agentic events. To illuminate those perspectives, the article brings Painlevé's films into conversation with Massumi's animal politics, Deleuze and Guattari's idea of becoming-animal, and neuroscientific research. It thus shows how the cinematic medium can make palpable debates in environmental studies and political theory and installs communication as an interspecies phenomenon that involves human and nonhuman bodies in a shared affective space. Last, the article reclaims Painlevé for contemporary concerns, linking aesthetics to ethics and politics and bodily movement to care for the world.
doi:10.1215/22011919-8867263 fatcat:heuhfbl52jb5xecamf4gpqaute