“….a history of vision (if such is even possible) depends on far more than an account of shifts in representational practices. [It]…is not the empirical data of artworks or the ultimately idealist notion of an isolable “perception,” but instead the less problematic phenomenon of the observer. For the problem of the observer is the field on which vision in history can be said to materialise, to become itself visible.”
(Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, p5)
Jonathan Crary’s probing examination of the observer’s stance in nineteenth century European culture confronts the long-held assumption that modern forms of representation constitute part of a continuous “unfolding of a Renaissance-based mode of vision in which photography, and eventually cinema, are simply later instances of an ongoing deployment of perspectival space and perception.” In this symposium eminent academics in the fields of optics, linear perspective, art criticism/history, photography, cinema and digital media tackle this challenging issue.
The symposium aims to debate the nature and meaning of a ‘passive’ onlooker in visual culture, and to what degree the radical abstraction and reconstruction of optical experience in the mass visual culture of modernity represented a quantum shift from ‘embodied’ (situational) notions of vision that pervaded late Medieval and early Renaissance perspectives.
The event forms part of a British Academy funded project: ‘Lorenzo Ghiberti’s 3rd Commentary: Translation and Outline’ by Professor Nicholas Temple and Professor Cecilia Panti.