Cosmic Zoom, Powers of Ten, and the Contested Politics of Sense

Spencer Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article develops a comparative analysis of Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten, and Eva Szasz and Robert Verrall’s Cosmic Zoom, seen through the lenses of Bergsonian and Deleuzo-Guttarian philosophy. The author claims that, despite similarities with respect to their subject matter and modes of production, there are significant stylistic differences between these films that are suggestive of divergent ontological, epistemological and political commitments. Of particular importance is the foregrounding of objectivity in the case of Powers of Ten and subjectivity in the case of Cosmic Zoom – a distinction that is reflected in their respectively quasi-indexical and expressive modes of representation. This fundamental tension similarly conditions their differently inflected approaches to time, space and measure, drawing attention to the strange intertwining of representation, abstraction and affect that is characteristic of much animated film. Ultimately, it is proposed that, in the context of Powers of Ten and Cosmic Zoom, animation’s capacities for abstraction and expression are differently distributed, resulting in a cosmopolitical opposition which can be aligned with the Deleuzo–Guattarian distinctions between major and minor language, and royal and nomadic science
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-151
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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