Paul Roquet’s wonderful new book begins with an offering of jellyfish and proceeds to teach us how to read the air. Ambient Media: Japanese...

Paul Roquet’s wonderful new book begins with an offering of jellyfish and proceeds to teach us how to read the air. Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) looks carefully at the phenomenon of ambient subjectivication or, the emergence of self with and through ambient media in modern Japan. Beginning in the 1970s, atmosphere was becoming ambient, according to Roquet, and the emergence and proliferation of new techniques of ambient subjectivication reflected a shift in how the person was understood, away from collective self-understanding and toward a model rooted in a liberal ideal of autonomy and self-determination.

Each chapter of the book looks at some specific way that music, film, video, and literature from the 1970s onward have incorporated forms of ambient subjectivication, from the Erik Satie boom and the birth of environmental music of the late 1970s to the music of artists like Hatakeyama Chihei (whose 2006 Minima Moralia I highly recommend!), to films like Ichikawa Jun’s Tony Takitani, and much much more. The book is also a gateway into a world of arresting and inspiring electronic media, and I recommend reading with an internet connection at hand to explore experiences like Ryoichi Kurokawa’s rheo: 5 horizons, Tsuchiya Takafumis’ Apoptosis, and Ise Shoko’s Noema while you work through Roquet’s text.

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