The Autonomy Of Appearance

The impact of technology on vision has been a widely shared concern for artists and intellectuals since Baudelaire, but the current sense of a new visual condition of culture is generally associated with the particular intellectual and cultural environment of post-war France. Within this context, the broader interest in the technological reproduction of images and the organization of sight by optical technologies takes on its own tenor and inflection, and not only in purely visual terms. While...

Eye And Mind

What makes Descartes' understanding of vision modern in the broadest sense is not so much the securing of a mathematically predictable world indeed, such a world will prove anathema to certain strands within modern thought and culture but the separation of the rational operation of consciousness and visual experience. For Descartes, the question of knowledge and the question of vision may be related, but they are not the same that is, knowledge cannot be directly extrapolated from visual...

Logics Of Reintegration

Like Jameson, Virilio addresses vision in terms of its spatio-temporal conditions, and therefore he also sees the fate of visual experience in terms of a growing disparity between an inherited configuration of vision and the technological reformulation of the phenomenal world. However, Virilio does not structure his analysis around an account of the historical transformation of the aesthetic nor a conception of reification, but maps technological developments directly onto the organization of...

Cat And Mouse

The commercial dominance achieved by the Disney studios in the late 1930s makes it tempting to see the development of animation as leading ineluctably towards an increasingly 'realistic' animation. In these terms, the history of animation traces a halting progression towards the simulation of live-action shot construction and match cutting, and the adoption of a 'personality animation' which focuses narrative action on individualized and consistent characters (see, for example, Maltin, 1987)....

Certainty And Doubt

Cartesian philosophy has come to be understood as an inaugural moment within modern conceptions of vision, and yet the status of this location may seem equivocal. For Martin Jay, Descartes stands as a pivotal figure within a tradition of 'ocularcentrism', against which much recent French thought has directed its criticism but for Maurice Merleau-Ponty and an earlier moment of twentieth-century French thought, Cartesian philosophy is most notable for its hostility to vision and the visual...

Technology And Form

If the philosophical critique of phenomenology in the 1960s involved a fundamental questioning of the concept of form, the adequacy of form as a category for addressing visual experience had in fact already been put in question by technological developments dating back to the nineteenth century. As we saw in chapter one, Baudelaire's hostility to photography stemmed from his appreciation of the threat to the unity of aesthetic form posed by the photograph's inclusion of contingency....

The Optic Of Technology

Benjamin's rearticulation of Riegl's 'near-sight' provides a crucial conceptual language for his analyses of mass society and the technical reproducibility of images, which together 'bring things closer'. Equally, its corollary in 'far-sight' underlies his account of the 'aura' of an object, as 'the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be', although Benjamin will argue that such 'far-seeing' in fact marks the recurrence of myth in modernity. Yet, Benjamin's tactical alignment...

The Eyes Of The Poor

As Baudelaire had realized, albeit uneasily, technology has a profound impact on vision. Whether thought of in terms of new optical instruments, new capacities for image reproduction and circulation, or more broadly in its recasting of the sensible world, technology reformulates the spatio-temporal conditions of appearance, and so provides new contexts for visual experience. Contemporary cultural theory has sought to radicalize this awareness, and sees the emergence of a technological condition...

Varieties Of Perception

One of the most striking features of recent theoretical accounts of contemporary culture has been the pervasive concern with the impact of technology on vision and the visual. Since the 1960s, a range of critics, including most prominently Guy Debord, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and Frederic Jameson, have argued that technology not only reinvents visual culture, but that the new predominance of the visual changes the nature of culture itself. Technology's capacity to reproduce and circulate...