Tag Archives: phantasmagoria

Grau, O. (2007). Remember the Phantasmagoria: Illusion Politics of the Eighteenth Century and its Multimedia Afterlife. In _Media Art Histories_, O. Grau, ed. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

“Media exerts a general influence on forms of perceiving space, objects, and time, and they are tied inextricably to the evolution of mankind’s sense faculties” (140).

Grau holds that a major problem with cultural policy is the poor understanding regarding audio-visual media’s beginnings. There are two views, utopian (futurist) and dystopian (poststructuralist critical theory), and they are both teleological, and neither seem to recognized the phantasmagoria dates back to the 17th century. In truth, the process of merging the message/image with its medium/apparatus such that the medium’s rendered invisible has a deep history. Grau believes that media technologies have done more than just heighten our sensory perception through telematic processes, as McLuhan suggested, but through virtual ones, as well, and drawn connections “with the psyche, with death, and with artificial life–with the most extreme moments of our existence” (142).

Digital art is changing to become more process-based and with new interactive, telematic, and genetic imaging process parameters. So what’s really new about new media isn’t so new. We continue “to generate illusionism and polysensual immersion” (154) using all contemporary means of art and science available.

Finally, a word about immersion. Grau considers it foundational to media’s development:

“Immersion can be a mentally active process; in the majority of cases . . . immersion is mental absorption initiated for the purpose of triggering a process, a change, a transition. . . . An increase in the power of suggestion appears to be an important, if not the most important, motive force driving the development of new media of illusion” (155).


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