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Lecture Series: Sabine Lenk and Nele Wynants
April 25, 2016 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Sabine Lenk is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Antwerp (Research Centre For Visual Poetics) in the international project “A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slides Heritage in the Common European History of Learning” on popular visual culture and performativity in the 19th century. She worked for film and television archives in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, UK, and the Netherlands. From 1999-2007, she was the director of the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf (Germany). Together with Frank Kessler and Martin Loiperdinger she is a co-founder and co-editor of KINtop. Jahrbuch zur Erforschung des frühen Films, KINtop Schriften and KINtop – Studies in Early Cinema. She has widely published on film archiving, cinema museology and early cinema.
Digitizing magic lantern slides: problems, challenges, possibilities
In the EU financed research project “A Million Pictures” one of the objectives is to make available magic lantern slides through the database Lucerna. We scan slides held in collection of museums and archives such as the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MuHKA) in Antwerp which keeps the collection of Robert Vrielynck, a solicitor from Brugge and founder of the Belgisch Animatiefilm Centrum.
The scanning of slides and slide sets is challenging because a three dimensional object has to be transformed into two or more two-dimensional images to document it. In the presentation I will address the problems that the digitization of physical objects such as lantern slides, but also films pose. A digital file can’t replace the physical object but it opens ways of access that were inconceivable only fifteen years ago. Historians working with this material however will have to take into account the specific characteristics of digital documents and therefore need to understand how they have been produced. I will discuss possible procedures of source critic when working with such documents.
Nele Wynants is a postdoctoral researcher at the Université libre de Bruxelles (THEA Joint Research Group) and the University of Antwerp (Research Centre for Visual Poetics). She graduated in Art History, Performance and Media Arts (UGent) and obtained a PhD in Theatre studies and Intermediality (UAntwerp). Her current project “The Optics of Performance” aims to historicize concepts and practices of intermedial theatre by focusing on the interplay of performance, science and technology in theatre and media history. In 2015 she was a visiting scholar at Université Paris 3 (LIRA, Laboratoire International de Recherches en Arts) where she conducted archival research on scientific theatre in the 19th century. She is involved in “A Million Pictures”, a European project on the magic lantern as European cultural heritage, and she is a member of “Spectacular Astronomy”, a research network of theatre scholars and historians of science from Paris, Utrecht and Strasbourg. She is editor in chief of Forum+ For Research and Arts, and published several articles on contemporary artists working at the intersection of theater, film and media arts.
The Legacy of the Lantern. Artistic Reuse of an Old Apparatus
The magic lantern was the most important technology of visual entertainment and means of education across nineteenth-century Europe. Initially mainly used for scientific, educational and popular purposes, this early projection device quickly found its way into the theatre. This talk will discuss how the artistic reuse of old lanterns can today function as a creative tool to revive its important cultural heritage. More particularly in the context of the project A Million Pictures, we consider the digitization of a collection of magic lantern slides as a starting point for creative re-use of lantern slides for both artistic and educational purposes.
On the occasion of an upcoming workshop on this topic, organized by the Research Centre for Visual Poetics (27-39 October 2016), film artist Sarah Vanagt was invited to develop a project inspired by the magic lantern slides and projectors in the Vrielynck collection. Vanagt will set up an exhibition at the Antwerp Museum for Contemporary Art (M HKA), displaying original lanterns and slides next to her own contemporary lantern film, developed for the occasion. Instead of an explicit remake of this old apparatus or a historically informed re-enactment of a Galantee show, Van Agt opts for a more subtle, theatrical reuse of the magic lantern in which she reflects on media history, concepts of vision and the role of media in our contemporary moment. I will discuss how she thus proposes a media archaeological perspective on magic lantern shows. This archaeology is understood less as the discovery of a forgotten past than as the establishment of an active relationship between past and present.