Media Art Histories 2013: RENEW

The highlight of my research and writing in 2013 was my paper for the  MEDIA ART HISTORIES 2013: RENEW conference. The 5th edition of the International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology took place in Riga, Latvia, October 2013. The venue for the conference was in the art nouveau district, at walking distance from the old city centre.

Strelnieku Iela

In my paper I specifically discussed cylindrical anamorphosis. I focussed on how it differs from the perspectival type of anamorphosis, and in a layered approach I outlined why it is of a completely different order. My paper was accepted for the Media Archaeology theme, and my session would be chaired by Erkki Huhtamo, also the keynote speaker opening the conference. I really looked forward meeting this renowned media archaeology theorist, of whom I’ve read quite a bit, for example the excellent  Media Archaeology. Approaches, Applications, and Implications that he co-edited with Jussi Parikka. Erkki Huhtamo’s feedback on my presentation was stimulating: he thought it was a very deep and thorough approach of a subject that is often treated in a very shallow and superficial way.

The abstract of my presentation:

Cylindrical anamorphosis: thaumaturgical origins and contemporary workings

In this paper, I will trace the origins of cylindrical anamorphosis and analyse why, also today, it manages to weave its uncanny magic. The relationship between anamorphosis and linear perspective is considered indisputable, although it ranges from anamorphosis being a logical consequence of the rules of linear perspective to anamorphosis being a corruption of these rules. Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ is the archetypical example of perspectival anamorphosis—where the distorted image can be viewed correctly from a particular vantage point. Often, anamorphosis is equated with perspectival anamorphosis, and the group of catoptrical anamorphosis—where the reconstituted image can be seen in the reflection from a cylindrical of conical mirror—is usually mentioned as just another type of perspectival anamorphosis.
I will argue that cylindrical anamorphosis, as one type of catoptrical anamorphosis, is of a completely different order than perspectival anamorphosis for a number of reasons: its ghost-conjuring lineage from artificial magic or thaumaturgy through the phantasmagoria (Niceron 1638; Baltrušaitis 1977; Gunning 2009); its being based, not on linear perspective, but on the transformation of data from one coordinate system to another (Holländer 1984); its double visual order (Stafford 2001; Clark 2007); its adherence to the scopic regime of the baroque (Buci-Glucksmann 1986; Jay 1994).
This layering of meanings might help explain the almost natural integration of cylindrical anamorphosis in a contemporary black box media-environment with multiple projections of moving images, an environment where the phantasmagoria becomes part of a contemporary technoaesthetics (Buck-Morss 1992).


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