Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History Of Modern Art And Media

Hardcover | May 30, 2016

byNoam M. Elcott

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Darkness has a history and a uniquely modern form. Distinct from night, shadows, and artificial light, “artificial darkness” has been overlooked—until now. In fact, controlled darkness was essential to the rise of photography and cinema, science and spectacle, and a century of advanced art and film. Artificial Darkness is the first book to historicize and theorize this phenomenon and map its applications across a range of media and art forms.

In exploring how artificial darkness shaped modern art, film, and media, Noam M. Elcott addresses seminal and obscure works alongside their sites of production—such as photography darkrooms, film studios, and laboratories—and their sites of reception, including theaters, cinemas, and exhibitions. He argues that artists, scientists, and entertainers like Étienne-Jules Marey, Richard Wagner, Georges Méliès, and Oskar Schlemmer revolutionized not only images but also everything surrounding them: the screen, the darkness, and the experience of bodies and space. At the heart of the book is “the black screen,” a technology of darkness that spawned today’s blue and green screens and has undergirded numerous advanced art and film practices to this day.

Turning familiar art and film narratives on their heads, Artificial Darkness is a revolutionary treatment of an elusive, yet fundamental, aspect of art and media history.

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From the Publisher

Darkness has a history and a uniquely modern form. Distinct from night, shadows, and artificial light, “artificial darkness” has been overlooked—until now. In fact, controlled darkness was essential to the rise of photography and cinema, science and spectacle, and a century of advanced art and film. Artificial Darkness is the first boo...

Noam M. Elcott is associate professor of art history and archaeology at Columbia University and an editor of the journal Grey Room.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:312 pages, 9.5 × 6.5 × 1.1 inPublished:May 30, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022632897X

ISBN - 13:9780226328973

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

1. Artificial Darkness
2. Dark Theaters
3. Black Screens
4. The Black Art of Georges Méliès
5. Spaceless Play: Oskar Schlemmer’s Dance against Enlightenment

Coda: Historical Darknesses

Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Breaking down the barriers between disciplines and mediums, Artificial Darkness constructs and questions an object that had never really been detected before: modern controlled darkness. Spanning photography, cinema, theater, and entertainment, this is a deep read and highly enlightening transdisciplinary journey into early modernist artistic practices.”