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Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History of Modern Art and by Noam M. Elcott

By Noam M. Elcott

Darkness has a historical past and a uniquely glossy shape. precise from evening, shadows, and synthetic mild, “artificial darkness” has been overlooked—until now. actually, managed darkness used to be necessary to the increase of images and cinema, technological know-how and spectacle, and a century of complicated paintings and movie. Artificial Darkness is the 1st ebook to historicize and theorize this phenomenon and map its functions throughout more than a few media and artwork forms.

In exploring how man made darkness formed smooth paintings, movie, and media, Noam M. Elcott addresses seminal and imprecise works along their websites of production—such as images darkrooms, movie studios, and laboratories—and their websites of reception, together with theaters, cinemas, and exhibitions. He argues that artists, scientists, and entertainers like Étienne-Jules Marey, Richard Wagner, Georges Méliès, and Oskar Schlemmer revolutionized not just photos but in addition every thing surrounding them: the reveal, the darkness, and the adventure of our bodies and house. on the middle of the booklet is “the black screen,” a expertise of darkness that spawned today’s blue and eco-friendly monitors and has undergirded a variety of complex artwork and movie practices to this day.

Turning standard artwork and picture narratives on their heads, Artificial Darkness is a progressive remedy of an elusive, but basic, element of artwork and media history.

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The designation “Chevreul’s black” inextricably linked late nineteenthcentury technologies of darkness to early nineteenth-century physiology. At first blush, it is not hard to imagine why Marey would have credited Chevreul with the discovery of absolute black. By the 1880s, Chevreul was 28 \ chaptEr oNE renowned on at least three separate counts. 40 Chevreul determined that the law of simultaneous contrast—a physiological phenomenon akin to afterimages, the retention of a visual image after the stimulus has ceased—held so long as the contrast occurred between colored and blackened pieces of paper.

Behind the camera lay the darkroom. All but uniquely among photographic and cinematic studios, the entire structure was mounted on rails, allowing it to turn on its axis and receive proper sunlight throughout the day. Also dissimilar to most photographic studios, the camera faced a second dark cavity, later described by Dickson as a “black tunnel”111 (fig. 13). As Dickson soon noted: “It obeys no architectural rules, it embraces no conventional materials 40 \ chaptEr oNE FIg . 1 . 12. The earliest known photograph of the Black Maria, March 1894.

8 Marey’s black screen gave form to this scientific drive. Marey’s Physiological Station has generally been understood as a site arranged for the production of visibility. François Dagognet anchors his study of Marey precisely in the victory of light over darkness. “No one was as successful at making visible what kept to the shadows. How were these dark areas to be lighted? ”9 At the Physiological Station, however, metaphors of light and visibility rested upon technologies of 19 \ ar t I F I c I al Dar k N E S S darkness and invisibility.

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