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Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, huge circular panoramas presented their audiences with resplendent representations that ranged from historic battles to exotic locations. Such panoramas were immersive but static. There were other panoramas that moved–hundreds, and probably thousands of them. Their history has been largely forgotten. In Illusions in Motion, Erkki Huhtamo excavates this neglected early manifestation of media culture in the making. The moving panorama was a long painting that unscrolled behind a “window” by means of a mechanical cranking system, accompanied by a lecture, music, and sometimes sound and light effects. Showmen exhibited such panoramas in venues that ranged from opera houses to church halls, creating a market for mediated realities in both city and country.

In the first history of this phenomenon, Huhtamo analyzes the moving panorama in all its complexity, investigating its relationship to other media and its role in the culture of its time. In his telling, the panorama becomes a window for observing media in operation. Huhtamo explores such topics as cultural forms that anticipated the moving panorama; theatrical panoramas; the diorama; the “panoramania” of the 1850s and the career of Albert Smith, the most successful showman of that era; competition with magic lantern shows; the final flowering of the panorama in the late nineteenth century; and the panorama’s afterlife as a topos, traced through its evocation in literature, journalism, science, philosophy, and propaganda.

About the Author

Erkki Huhtamo, media historian and pioneering media archaeologist, is Professor in the Department of Design Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the coeditor of Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications.

Text and Image via MIT PRESS

Architectonic · Paint/Illust./Mix-Media · Public Space · Social/Politics

The Kowloon Walled City panorama (with English annotations)

The Kowloon Walled City is famous for having been one of the few structures that defied any sense of reality and survived outside the rule of law. While it was demolished between 1993 and 1994, while it stood it was famous for unlicensed practice of medicine, prostitution and the rule of gangs. Despite its haphazard construction, however, there was some sense of order towards the latter part of its existence, with postal service and police rounds as well as a rudimentary sewage system. In 1987 there were apparently 33,000 inhabitants within its 6.5-acre confines (or about 120 times the density of New York City today).

The Kowloon Walled City. See a larger version HERE, and read the English translation by hovering your mice over the image/text.

Text and Images via Rioleo

Architectonic · Performativity · Sculpt/Install

Your Rainbow Panorama and Movement microscope

Olafur Eliasson ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’

Olafur Eliasson, Movement microscope, 2011
HDV, 16:9
Duration 14:15 min.
Supported by LUMA Foundation
© Olafur Eliasson, 2011