KINO EYE is a yearly two-day event taking place at M HKA (Museum for Contemporary Art Antwerp) uniting academics, artists and critics on a topic related to visual culture. The 10th edition is co-produced with the Research Centre of Visual Poetics of the University of Antwerp's department of Theatre and Film Studies.
Keynote speakers are Tom Gunning and W.J.T. Mitchell; other speakers include Edwin Carels, Ellen Esrock, Mervyn Heard, Anneleen Masschelein, Luca Scarlini, Bram Van Oostveldt, Stijn Bussels & Thomas Weynants. Installations and performances of CREW, Mervyn Heard, Kurt D'Haeseleer, Julien Maire, Alda Snopek and Zoe Beloff are on view.
The central topic of KINO EYE#10 is the phantasmagoria: a hugely popular spectacle taking place in nineteenth century capitals of modernity such as Paris and London. Using magic lanterns and other new technologies of the visible, these impressive events both incorporated Victorian modes of theatrical staging and looked ahead to more modern forms of the projected image. They marked a time when the ontological status of the image was radically uncertain: while these exhibitions of visual technology were explicitly presented as trickery, as the product of man-driven machinery, contemporary documents testify to audience insecurity as to the status of these spectral illusions.
Moreover, phantasmagorias were staged as mock-séances or spiritist gatherings during which ghosts of the past were conjured up as vivid manifestations. According to Tom Gunning, keynote speaker in KINO EYE#10, this paradox articulates what he notes as the ‘double consciousness’ of modernity: phantasmagorias explicate the desire for scientific control through technology but at the same time point to a predilection for what is unknowable, mystical, obscure.
This Kino Eye proposes a return to the phantasmagoria, ghostly spectacles much in fashion in the nineteenth century, as both a practice and a concept crucial for our understanding of what it means to be modern. There was a time when promoters of the phantasmagoria offered the superstitions of a supposedly past Romantic era as a novel experience to an audience seeking to define their modernity. Whereas the manipulation of the senses through technology (magic lantern) producing spectral images involved belief, the key aspect of the show itself cast doubt upon the complete illusion of the senses.
The aim of the conference, then, is twofold. First, we want to explore this paradoxical staging of spectral illusions as a specific means to come to terms with the ontology of new media of reproduction. Second, our interest in the ambiguity of modern experience goes beyond the iconography of the specter or ghost, as it circles back on spectrality as a theoretical figure to grasp our own relation to history. More specifically, we believe that the specter accretes new value as a tool for thinking through the ways in which artists today play with the ambiguity of space, embodiment and ontology. Their ambition to once again use interdisciplinary theatre as a critical medium to conjure up ghosts, as diverse as these are in technologies and effects, signals a return in the digital era of modern phantasms. What this might indicate is that our present modernity is, ultimately and dialectically, restaging the specters of its past.
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