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Brian Jacobson: Pipeline Vision and the Essence of Power

Dec 6, 2019 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Don’t miss the brown bag discussion with Brian Jacobson earlier on Friday at noon in the Center for 21st Century Studies.

Join us for a lecture with Brian Jacobson (University of Toronto), who will be discussing “Pipeline Vision and the Essence of Power.”

This talk examines the critical role that visualization technologies—including aerial photography, microphotography, and undersea cinematography—played in the rapid expansion of the French petroleum industry after World War II. Though such technologies were used across the extraction process, especially in the early prospecting phase, Jacobson will focus on what he calls the “pipeline vision” needed to develop the transmission infrastructure that, as Timothy Mitchell has argued, helped ensure the oil industry’s triumph over coal in the years after World War II.

By the late 1950s, French petroleum companies, under increasing pressure to connect the massive oil and gas reserves discovered in North Africa to industrial and consumer markets in the French metropole and across Europe, developed plans for a trans-Mediterranean undersea pipeline. To complete this unprecedented project, they needed new forms of technological vision, and they turned to none other than French undersea explorer and film director Jacques-Yves Cousteau, whose work for British Petroleum in the Persian Gulf had shown the value that film might hold for petroleum producers. To convince the French public of the project’s value and likely success, even at the height of the decolonization struggle, they also relied upon the persuasive power of images and engaged industrial photographers to give the project visual form. Analyzing Cousteau’s work and the technologies he used alongside the photographs taken to document the pipeline’s preliminary construction, Jacobson will highlight the epistemological and discursive means through which media technologies helped both to create and to define an oil-powered world—and what French leaders hoped would be the essence of their new power—in the second half of the twentieth century.

There will be a reception with light refreshments in the Center for 21st Century Studies (CRT 939) following this event.

Brian Jacobson photo

About the Speaker

Brian R. Jacobson is Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and History at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Studios Before the System: Architecture, Technology, and the Emergence of Cinematic Space (Columbia UP, 2015), editor of In the Studio: Visual Creation and Its Material Environments (University of California Press, forthcoming, 2020), and has also published in Cinema Journal, Screen, Environmental History, Film Quarterly, Film History, Framework, and numerous anthologies. He also writes criticism, including articles in The Atlantic, the Literary Review of Canada, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Dec 6, 2019
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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