Kingdoms of Shadows: Towards an Archaeology of the Projected Image

Oxford Art History Lectures
History of Art Department Lecture Room - 16/17 St Ebbes Thursday March 6 at 5PM

Dr Pasi Valiaho (Senior Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London): ‘Kingdoms of Shadows: Towards an Archaeology of the Projected Image’

“Ever since the ‘invention’ of the magic lantern during the seventeenth century, technological conditions of visual production and experience emerged that necessitated viewing in a darkened space, challenging thus the common notion of light as the primary basis of the visible and the thinkable. Without dark surroundings, images projected by this device would not be visible. Consequently, shadow (as the absence of ambient light) became the ontological condition of the image, perception and thought. Later, in the late nineteenth century, cinema – a ‘kingdom of shadows’, as Maxim Gorky described it – industrialized this form of visuality and turned it into a source of mass spectacles. In this talk, I investigate the ‘archaeology’ of the projected image. Focusing especially on the early days of the magic lantern as well as its application in eighteenth-century phantasmagoria shows, my aim is to understand how technically manipulated ‘hollows in light’ and darkened spaces have become invested in networks of power and visuality in modernity.”

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