Silent running sos 2

Irene Kim

PhD candidate in English, Northwestern University

Silent Running— Seed time: Classic climate sci-fi

Though an underseen 1970s climate sci-fi, Silent Running provides fertile grounds for thinking expansively about ever-pressing issues, including plant conservation, designed environments, AI technologies, and life amid ecological crisis.

Following the screening, Irene Kim will draw on the fascinating histories of the geodesic greenhouse spaceship featured in the film and the "dome" more generally as a political and cultural form in the U.S. after 1970, with keen attention to histories of architecture and design imperiled by ecological crises. Kim’s introduction will glean the influences of the Atomic Age and nuclear destruction, Cold War life science (especially botany), and, importantly, the contemporaneous war in Vietnam to help illuminate a longer history of plant conservation, the American mythos of "the frontier," modernist technoscience, and the militarization of environment after Civil Rights.

Block Cinema: Northwestern University Evanston, IL

Film Synopsis

In a future where all flora is extinct on Earth, an astronaut is given orders to destroy the last of Earth's botany, kept in a greenhouse aboard a spacecraft.

    After the end of all botanical life on Earth, ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) maintains a greenhouse on a space station in order to preserve various plants for future generations. Assisted by three robots and a small human crew, Lowell rebels when he is ordered to destroy the greenhouse in favor of carrying cargo, a decision that puts him at odds with everyone but his mechanical companions. Lowell and his robots are forced to do anything necessary to keep their invaluable greenery alive.

    Photo credit: Universal Pictures

    About the Speaker

    Irene Kim is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northwestern. Her research focuses on figurations of air in post-1960s visual culture, literary works, architecture, art, and design, with an emphasis on Asian American cultural production.