Special effects…are coup de théatres, thunderclaps that shock you: a burst; an eruption; something small, like an insect down your back; a wall dissolving suddenly.—from The Vatican to Vegas
A richly illustrated journey through five centuries of optical illusions and other wonders. A guided tour through special-effects environments from 1550 to the present, Norman Klein’s The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects demonstrates how Renaissance and early Baroque artists pioneered interactive, cinematic, and even digital environments. As in our era, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century illusion serviced a global culture and even relied on “software” of a kind: solid geometry for architecture, optics, sculpture, painting and theater. As if from a cryonic thaw, these forms have reemerged very clearly in recent decades. And to manage all this friendly disaster, modern special effects have evolved a unique grammar as precise as the rules of film, theater, and music. Klein reviews this syntax and demonstrates how special effects are not only a barometer for politics, myths of identity and economic relations, but an instructive parallel for understanding where our civilization may be headed next.
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