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Reviewed by:
  • Art of Projection
  • Wendy Haslem
Art of Projection edited by Stan Douglas and Christopher Eamon. Hatje Cantz Verlag (Ostfildern, Germany) 2009. Out of print. 192 pages

Art of Projection collects ten diverse essays on projection, exhibition, and the moving image. The anthology emerges from a series of papers presented at, and some inspired by, a 2006 public forum held at Arsenal Kino in Berlin titled "The Art of Projection: A Symposium on the Cinematographic and Art." This symposium brought together film historians, theorists, visual artists, and curators to consider the history of exhibition, contemporary issues, and innovative practices in projection. The symposium surrounded a moving-image exhibition titled Beyond Cinema: The Art of Projection, which featured twenty-five moving-image installations that had been created between 1965 and 2005. The central force of this anthology is its expansive approach, foregrounding a media archaeology that reveals dynamic diachronic links between the earliest flickering impressions of the moving image and postmillennial digital projections. Art of Projection explores intersections of precinema, film, video, installation work, and avant-garde art, while also considering multimedia and performance as rupturing, interventionist practices.

Images reproduced alongside the text allow the book to avoid the traditional problem of capturing the ephemeral moment of exhibition, particularly for time-based imagery and space-specific projections. While they might be archived, these projections require specific architecture, spatial dimensions, and design based on the black cube, and often multiple screens—all elements that are impossible to reproduce in print. Both color and black-and-white stills illustrate the ideas, allowing dynamic impressions to emerge from the combination of image and text.

Art of Projection begins with a foreword by the editors of the anthology, the visual artist Stan Douglas and the curator Christopher Eamon. The foreword focuses on the exposure and exhibition of the first photograph of human beings, Louis Daguerre's Boulevard du temple, which was exhibited in the window of Louis Jacques-Monde's studio in Paris around 1839.1 The discussion points to a detail at the curve of the boulevard, [End Page 176] something that Douglas and Eamon suggest is possibly the first blurred impression of movement in a still image.2 With a long exposure time, this daguerreotype reveals the solid figure of a person who stands to have his shoes shined, in front of a misty impression of a shoe shiner, a grayish haze depicting his movement as the image is imprinted onto the silver plate of its copper surface. Such a projection of movement, time, and kinetics facilitated by the development of cinematic technologies is an early indication of the central force connecting the myriad chapters that compose this book.

The foreword is followed by a conversation between Stan Douglas and Christopher Eamon, which is discursive and thoughtful in its interrogation of some of the challenges of producing, curating, and projecting the moving image "beyond illusion."3 Ideas addressed include the white cube-black box dichotomy, the migration of the avant-garde into the mainstream, the notion of "artisanal cinema," and the value of the intersections between historical and contemporary works. Film historian Tom Gunning contributes the next chapter, "The Long and Short of It: Centuries of Projecting Shadows, from Natural Magic to the Avant-Garde," an informed and wide-ranging consideration of how light structures and creates its own world, and specifically of how projection throws light and shadow forward onto a surface or a screen. Gunning traces the origins of projection back to Étienne-Gaspard Robertson's phantasmagorias which were exhibited in Paris at the end of the eighteenth century. The phantasmagorias are described as precursors to contemporary, magical illusions that use technology to rupture a seamless projection of ideology, particularly in those uncanny projections onto familiar surfaces created by Judith Barry.

Other outstanding chapters include Beatriz Colomina's exploration of experiments with multiscreen film by Charles and Ray Eames, works designed to provoke visceral responses and to communicate intuitively. Colomina illustrates how multimedia works like A Rough Sketch for a Sample Lesson for a Hypothetical Course (1953) use perspective, multiple screens, a rapid editing style, and the projection of sound vibrations to extend the viewing experience and to provoke, as...


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pp. 176-178
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