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Trailers and Videos. Crazy Credits. Alternate Versions. Rate This. While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard. Director: Peter Jackson.
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Action Adventure Fantasy. The Matrix Action Sci-Fi. Inception Action Adventure Sci-Fi. Saving Private Ryan Drama War. Gladiator Action Adventure Drama. The Dark Knight Action Crime Drama. Fight Club The Green Mile Crime Drama Fantasy. Edit Cast Cast overview, first billed only: Bruce Allpress Aldor Sean Astin Sam John Bach Madril Sala Baker Man Flesh Uruk Cate Blanchett Galadriel Orlando Bloom Legolas Billy Boyd Pippin Jed Brophy Eothain Brad Dourif Wormtongue Calum Gittins Michael Bay returns for his final "Transformers" movie and intends to go out with quite a bang -- literally.
Kumail Nanjiani's "The Big Sick" was one of the hottest titles at the Sundance Film Festival and is based on the true story of his relationship with his now-wife, co-screenwriter Emily Gordon played on screen by Zoe Kazan. When she gets sick with a mysterious illness, he must team up with her parents to overcome the crisis. Sofia Coppola's drama follows a girls' school in Virginia which takes in a wounded soldier. Soon, sexual tension and jealousy takes over the school. From director Edgar Wright, the film revolves around a young but talented getaway driver named Baby, played by Ansel Elgort.
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In a sign of confidence, Sony's TriStar moved up the release from the dead of August. Steve Carell plays not one but two characters in this movie -- Gru and his twin brother, Dru. And the duo team up for one last heist with the assistance, of course, of dozens of minions. After being introduced as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe last year in "Captain America: Civil War," Tom Holland returns as the web crawler in his standalone film to face off against Michael Keaton's villainous Vulture. Robert Downey Jr.
Director Matt Reeves returns for the third movie in the rebooted franchise after helming 's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Nolan fans and Styles fans are sure to flock to the theaters. The ladies go on a girls trip to New Orleans, which obviously turns wild. The film recounts the racially charged riots that rocked the Motor City in Chapter 3 delineates the varied applications and consistent qualities of artificial darkness as manifest in a range of black-screen technologies over the course of the long nineteenth century— understood not only as the political arc traced from the French Revolution to the First World War, but also as a media epoch that spanned the introduction of panoramas and phantasmagorias in the late eighteenth century and the rise of cinemas in the early twentieth.
The chapter opens with late eighteenth-century phantasmagoric slides; visits assorted scientists, entertainers, charlatans, magicians, and photographers in the nineteenth century; and concludes with the supersession of black-screen techniques in early and interwar cinema. Enumerated at the start and verified throughout the chapter are a series of material supports, qualities, subject effects, and gender rela- tions that defined the black screen as a modern media dispositif.
In am- ple evidence is an unexpected but utterly consistent subject of artificial darkness: men whose power was equaled only by their self-mutilation. The topos was consistent for over a century, but it was not a product of aesthetic influence. Rather, diverse implementations of the black screen required a consistent set of material supports, qualities of darkness, and body techniques, and yielded a consistent subject effect and iconography.
Chapter 3 thus establishes the basic parameters perpet- uated, exploited, and challenged in the black-screen practices of Melies and Schlemmer. The first three chapters pursue a media archaeology of artificial dark- ness. The final two chapters advance this media archaeology into film and art histories.
Chapter 4 explores circuits of artificial darkness in early cin- ema through the exemplary figure of Georges Melies Long heralded a father of trick and even narrative film, opposed to the Lumiere brothers and cinematic realism, Meliks remains a touchstone of film his- tory and modern visual culture more broadly. Indeed, the Melies unearthed in chapter 4 problematizes the alleged origins and es- sence of the medium or art form he purportedly helped found. Chapter 5 grapples with avant-garde art, theater, and dance alongside the enigmatic Bauhaus master Oskar Schlemmer A father— yet another!
The Triadic Ballet , his magnum opus, was performed only seven times during his life and abandoned thereafter. Despite his mastery of the black screen, Schlemmer repressed any affinity to artificial darkness and publicly and privately preached the avant-garde gospel of light. Schlemmer was symptomatic of the avant- garde's entrenched aversion to darkness, and the silence, passivity, and death that purportedly accompanied it. A media archaeology of artificial darkness thus serves as a necessary corrective to established histories of avant-garde art.
At the same time, however, avant-garde art, thought. The spaceless darkness codified at Bayreuth and promulgated in cinemas was redirected most adroitly by Dadaists and Surrealists. The cross-fertilization of media archaeology and art and film histories requires the overthrow of several avant-garde binaries— above all the opposition between art and life.
Peter Burger famously began his theory of the avant-garde with the problem of artistic autonomy in bourgeois society and the concomitant and insuperable gap between art and life. The imperative to restore art to the praxis of life undergirded a multitude of avant-garde projects and innumerable analyses thereof. What is lost in this equation— however potent and productive— is a second set of historical conditions, parallel to the autonomy of modern art: namely, the ubiquity of modern images.
The historical avant-gardes are simply unthinkable without a world, a life, already suffused with images of greater and lesser artistry. The fusion of art and life not only was an aim of the avant-gardes; it was also their con- dition of possibility. The murmur that disturbs every chapter of this book can be formulated as a question that doubles as an imperative. How does one best live in a world of images?
This book ventures one set of answers in relation to a largely uncharted but ubiquitous image sphere, the dispositif of artificial darkness, and to the art and media that gave it form. The configuration of that dark- ness hinges on the sites that control it. By the end of the nineteenth cen- tury, sites of controlled darkness emerged as centers of image production and reception. Conditions once localized in early nineteenth-century at- tractions like panoramas and dioramas became, by the end of the century, a generalized dispositif recognized, albeit piecemeal, in scientific treatises, photography and cinema handbooks, theater and magic manuals, and ar- chitecture anthologies.
By the early twentieth century, artificial darkness was a touchstone for wide-ranging avant-gardes. Artificial darkness was never limited to a single site and so was never a monolithic entity. Three sites in particular instantiated the invisibility, spacelessness, and disem- bodied discipline that were the hallmarks of most artificial darknesses. The principal two sites were dialectical twins: black screens set in luminous environments and dark theaters home to luminous screens anchored the dispositif of artificial darkness as it consolidated in the late nineteenth century.
Black screens and dark theaters were often joined or mediated by a third site: photographic and cinematic studios, in particular, darkrooms. These three sites formed circuits of artificial darkness that at times oper- ated seamlessly. Just as often, the dark current was staggered, asymmet- rical, and complex. On occasion, it short-circuited. The dispositif of artificial darkness has gone unremarked for the last century because, as Friedrich Kittler asserts, "the facts of physiology and media technology remain too dumb or too unconscious for critics.
Artificial darkness took hold the moment phys- iologists and media impresarios saw absolute darkness as an opportunity rather than a limit. These conditions gathered steam over the course of the long nineteenth century and came to a head in the late s and early s.
In physiological debates and devices, photographic and cinematic studios, and darkened purpose-built theaters, darkness attained its modern form. The aim of this chapter is less to identify the qualities of artificial darkness— a task taken up in chapter 3— than to map its emergence in late nineteenth-century sites, technologies, discourses, regulations, architectures, operations, and their systems of relations. Instead it was a cavity or chamber, draped in black velvet, whose open side circumscribed a darkness so im- penetrably deep as to appear two-dimensional fig.
As Albert Hopkins and nearly every other informed author noted, black-screen techniques were perfected not in theaters or portrait studios but rather at a laboratory constructed for the French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey. The condition most difficult of fulfillment is the absolute darkness of the screen before the photographs are taken. Little light as there is, the screen might reflect upon this sensitized plate, during a single exposure, small quantities of light, which would tend to fog the plate.
A wall painted with any black pigment, or even covered with black velvet, exposed to the sun, reflects too much light for a plate to withstand. The interior of the chamber was completely blackened, the ground was coated with pitch, and the back hung with black velvet. At the time he introduced the black screen, Marey was already the most prominent physiologist in France.
Through a range of ingenious devices, often of his own design, Marey rendered graphic the pulsation of muscles, circulation of blood, beating of wings, and trotting of hooves. Such visual immediacies and publics were the lifeblood of one fig.
Marey, black screen at the Physiological Station, Eadweard Muybridge. In an effort to render his own graphic method photographic, Marey turned to the black screen. The principle behind black screens was timeless: a properly arranged light trap whose impermeable darkness appeared like a two-dimensional, absolutely black screen. Dark fields were among the bridges that conjoined "the surveillance of the heavens and surveil- lance of man. Francois Dagognet anchors his study of Marey precisely in the victory of light over darkness.
How were these dark areas to be lighted? The forces of life are hidden; by transposing them he brought them fully into the light. In November , the municipal council of the city of Paris granted Marey, the newly elected chair in medicine at the Academie des sciences, a plot of land, known as the Parc des Princes, in the Bois de Boulogne. Over the next half decade, Marey erected three sep- arate black screens at the Physiological Station. The initial configurations were primitive and the results were unsatisfactory: a simple lean-to was soon replaced by a shed three meters deep, fif- teen meters wide, and four meters high , whose interior was painted black and draped in black velvet.
An chronophotograph of middling quality illustrates the necessary symbiosis between the various elements fig. Yet even these early, ineffective attempts evinced a revolutionary principle whose execution Marey quickly perfected. Unlike Muybridge, who captured movement sequentially with a bank of cameras opposite a white wall, one image per camera, Marey captured multiple exposures on a single, stationary plate.
The black screen opposite the cam- era ensured that virtually no light reflected back onto the photographic plate. Marey explained his method in a September article in La Nature, translated into English and published two months later in the American journal Science: The apparatus [disposition] employed at the physiological station for the instan- taneous photography of movements comprises two distinct parts,— first, the photographic apparatus [ lappareil photograph ique], with the room on wheels [chambre roulante ], which holds it; and, secondly, the black screen [ecran noir], on which appear in white the men and animals whose pictures are being taken, as well as the instruments for measuring the distance run, and the time consumed between two successive photographs.
Marey, chronophotograph, Marey, Physiological Station, c. Photograph and text from albums assembled and annotated between and , under the direction of Marey. The caption reads "Black screen and camera-on-wheels arranged [disposes] for chrono- photographic experiments. A large camera outfitted with a slotted disc for a shutter was placed oppo- site a deep, blackened shed fig. Once the disc attained a regulated speed of eight or ten revolutions per second, the subject— man, beast, or object; naturally, painted, or clad in white— would pass in full sunlight before the mouth of the shed.
The end result was a photograph comprised of a white subject multiplied across a uniform black background. The black screen was a velvet light trap that enabled the pristine expo- sure of a single plate tens or scores of times. Circumscription and proper disposition reduced darkness to two dimensions. As such, inchoate dark- ness could be formed, that is, transformed into a positive term, an enabling condition, an apparatus. Indeed, Marey insisted on a distinction largely lost in English translation. The apparatus— Marey used the term disposi- tion and, later, dispositif ' 2 — constructed at the Physiological Station con- sisted of a photographic apparatus— an appareil photograph ique— as well as the black screen.
The camera was just one apparatus within a complex dispositif. Marey, black screens from at the left and at the rear.
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The subjects chronophotographed by Marey were channeled between the apertures of two dark chambers: one whose named denied its chamber the ecran noir or black screen and a second properly so called chambre roulante or room on wheels. Atop a pylon erected over the black hangar of , Marey mounted a camera aimed straight down to capture subjects from above. See the pylon at the rear of fig. For this zenith camera, the path before the black shed was covered in bitumen asphalt to serve as a rudimentary black screen.
Subjects— in partic- ular birds in flight— could now be captured in a sophisticated dispositif consisting of three cameras and three black screens. Marey became a hero of scientific objectivity by literally writing himself out of his photo graphic method. When the eye ceases to see, the ear to hear, and touch to feel, or even when our senses provide us with deceptive appearances, these instruments are like new senses of astonishing precision.
Photo: J. As historians of sci- ence Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison argue, Marey was a pioneer of the mechanical objectivity that undergirded scientific discourse and prac- tice from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth. Das- ton and Galison define objectivity first and foremost as the countering of subjectivity through heroic self-discipline, such that "where human self- discipline flagged, the machine would take over. As Marey increased the number of exposures in an effort to trace move- ments with ever greater precision, he quickly understood that the com- plete presence of the body impeded its chronophotographic inscription.
Overlapping limbs— the result of closely spaced exposures— delivered illegible photographs fig. Eventually his subjects, beginning with his collaborator Georges Demeny, dressed in full-body black suits adorned with metallic buttons at joints and metallic strips along extremities fig. These "human skeletons" 24 performed movements in front of— and thus disappeared into— the black screen. Marey, chronophotograph, c. Album A, plate 12, Mus 4 e Marey, Beaune. Before the black screen, humans were transposed into graphic notations. Human skeletons gave way to living stick figures. Cinema, according to Marey, was nothing less than a superhuman or ex- trahuman form of vision that offered astonishing precision where human organs suffered deceptive appearances.
Inevitably, the question arose: how best to capitalize on this superhuman vision? Marey was more interested in the science of motion than in its applications, but he and Demeny even- tually mobilized the black screen to discipline the bodies of soldiers and students. Their methods were developed by the engineer Charles Fremont and, later, by Frank B. Gilbreth, the founder of Scientific Management, to optimize the productivity of workers. Artificial darkness was therefore a dispositif in a second and broader sense, manifest in a range of fields with no direct relation to photography.
By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theaters, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon. Visibility is a trap. This much is familiar. Less remarked upon, but no less remark- able, were the precise configurations of visibility and invisibility, light and dark, stipulated by Bentham and cataloged by Foucault.
The invisibility of the guard, guaranteed by the Panopticon s luminous exterior and dark interior, protected him and rendered his physical presence superfluous. Invisibility was a trap. Absolute Black: Cleaving Darkness from Blackness The artificiality of darkness first came into focus against the backdrop of nineteenth-century physiology and its claims on human vision. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, as Jonathan Crary has astutely argued, "the body that had been a neutral or invisible term in vision was now the thickness from which knowledge of the observer was obtained.
Concurrently, however, corporeal thickness was met with the deceptive flatness of the black screen. Knowledge obtained from the newly visible body was used to render the body invisible. This invisibility was no longer a philosophical a priori; dark spaces like the camera obscura ceased to serve as models for human vision. Rather, in- visibility was the result of bodily discipline and technological precision: black-clad figures vanished before black screens. At first blush, it is not hard to imagine why Marey would have credited Chevreul with the discovery of absolute black.
By the s, Chevreul was renowned on at least three separate counts. First, there was his work in chemistry, in particular fatty acids. But the phenomenon of simultaneous contrast failed to materialize when a black paper circle was replaced by a hole that opened onto a darkened cavity. In the first instance, the blackened paper reflected just enough light to engender the phenomenon of simultaneous contrast. The second example involved not a surface but a hole that opened onto a dark cavity and allowed no light to escape.
Chevreul had successfully identified an instance where the properties of blackness and those of darkness did not correspond. Chevreul was hardly the first to employ a velvet light trap for experi- ments in color and perception. Niepce de Saint-Victor was a second cousin of photography pioneer Nicephore Niepce; his greatest contribution to pho- tography was his introduction of glass negatives using albumen, an invention presented to the Academie by Chevreul. Chevreul, I photographed a hole: the result was negative, that is, there was no man- ifestation of active radiation. And only in would Marey return this photographic insight to the realm of pho- tography.
First, neither Chevreul nor Rosenstiehl could claim credit for the distinction between material and absolute black. That division was already established in the field of physiology— and was intuited, if untheorized, for centuries. In the early s, as part of a series of studies on retinal excitation, the German physiologist Adolf Fick developed a black box schwarzer Kasten so dark that the darkest black paper appeared gray by compar- ison. What distinguished Fick from prior— and, in the case of Chevreul, later— experiments was his insistence that even a perfectly executed black box was not absolutely black: "rather, on the one hand, a small quantity of light did escape from the box and, on the other hand, the intrinsic light of the retina [Eigenlicht der Netzhaut ] was active in the black areas.
Fick chastised Joseph Plateau— the Belgian physicist most famous for his invention of the phenakistoscope— for utilizing black surfaces that were not absolutely black. It appears that Plateau took the chastise- ment to heart. In the early s, Plateau similarly distinguished absolute from material black, elaborated the experimental conditions necessary for its realization, and asserted its limited value to the science of human vision.
In a short study on physical and physiological sensation, Plateau constructed a series or scale from the darkest black to the lightest white articulated, perhaps for the first time, through relative rather than ab- solute values. Observed and theorized by early nineteenth-century figures like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Jan Evangelista Purkyne, the condition attained a host of appellations over the ensuing decades: light chaos, light dust, self-light, idioretinal light, in- trinsic brightness or darkness, retinal noise, and, most famously, intrinsic light Eigenlicht and intrinsic gray Eigengrau.
S2 Herein lay the kernel of a radical physiological distinction between darkness and blackness— between the absence of stimulation and the positive sensation of black— a distinction systematically repressed in the physiological literature prior to the s. From the s through the s, scientists cleaved the subjective perception of black from the objective phenomenon of dark- ness. As Crary has shown, Goethe led a revolution from geometrical optics to physiological optics in the early nineteenth century. Hermann von Helmholtz inaugurated a revisionist account in his own multivolume handbook for physiological optics, published between and and issued together in In a popular publication of , Helmholtz expounded the precarious status of black.
But when we examine the colors of external objects, black corresponds just as much to a peculiarity of surface in re- flection, as does white, and therefore has as good a right to be called a color. Among his quotidian proofs for the latter, he observed that ob- jects behind us, from which we receive no sensation, do not appear black; they simply do not appear. More to the point, the darkness perceived with closed eyes does not extend beyond our visual field. Hering was one of the most vociferous advocates of subjective vision in the second half of the century.
He separated what he called the inner eye— that is, the neural visual system comprised of retina, optic nerve, and the related parts of the brain— from the outer eye, namely, the dioptric mechanism often likened to a camera obscura. The sensation of black, Hering avowed in , must be studied with the same rigor as the sensation of brightness.
The former processes color roughly in accordance with the Young-Helmholtz-Maxwell model and its optical primaries of red, green, and blue. Red-green and yellow-blue are opponent pairs. For Hering— and more recent neuroscience— the assertion that black is the absence of light is no more valid than the definition of green as the absence of red.
Additionally, in order to perceive black as a positive sensation, the eye maintains low-level neural activity for both black and white sensa- tions. In the absence of any external stimulation— for example, during a prolonged stay in a completely darkened room— the inner eye arrives at a gray equilibrium, an Eigengrau or intrinsic gray, produced by low-level black and white neural activity. Two crucial points emerge from this brief history of the physiology of black.
The media archaeological answer is obvious.
Cameras produce no intrinsic gray; and the Eigengrau produced by humans can be subdued readily through dazzlers and other stark light- ing schemas. If the physiology of absolute black quickly fell into scientific oblivion, the black screen, as it came to be known among photographers, magicians, cinematographers, and others, was widely adopted as a central component of the emergent dispositif of artificial darkness.
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The crux is this: Chevreul championed absolute black as a tool to investigate human vision. Stated simply: photographic darkrooms were not dark.
At least not to the human observer. The manuals answered this question as well. Chemical darkness. Darkrooms that must not be dark. We have entered spaces no less foreign to our digital present than they must have been to the eighteenth- century past. For the darkroom was one in a series of spaces designed around mediated light and darkness.
Collectively, they marked a radical de- parture from the long line of studios from which they ostensibly descended. But only with the advent of photography— followed immediately by the proliferation of photographic studios in the s— did mediated light and mediated darkness become the norm.
Nineteenth-century photographic studios were characterized by a slight variety in layouts 82 and a wide spectrum of sumptuousness. Chemicals, lenses, and cameras he can always obtain of excellent quality from dealers of reputation, but in the construction of the glass room he must de- pend to a large extent upon himself, acting under such information and instruc- tion as he can obtain. It is certain that a very clever operator will occasionally fig.
Jahan- dler, representation of a darkroom in Edward L.
Wilson, Wilsons Photographies, The caption reads "The drawing below supplies an admi- rable model, though supplied with rather more than properly belongs to the work of the dark-room. The disposition of light should be such as to facilitate to the utmost the really difficult task of regular success.
Photogra- phers were encouraged to build studios atop buildings quantity and have windows and skylights face north quality. So photographers, chem- ists, inventors, and entrepreneurs turned to a series of media for the control of light and darkness. As elucidated by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, among the leading photochemists of the late nineteenth century: "These operations cannot be carried out in one and the same room [Raum] , all the more so as they demand diametrically opposed conditions: to record the model, ample light; to prepare the plates, darkness.
They were de- scribed exhaustively in generations of manuals and in a handful of patents filed in the first days of the medium. Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, the shrewd and judicious artist- entrepreneur, famously relinquished his photography patent to the French state in exchange for a lifelong pension— and made the daguerreotype process available to all in his country. Previously, however, he had sold a license to Antoine Claudet, scion of a French glass-manufacturing family and inven- tor of a cylindrical glass-cutting machine, for which Prince Albert eventu- ally awarded him the medal of the Society of Arts.
The history of photography quickly had its first two competing camps. Crucially, these stylistic traits cannot be divorced from certain media technologies advanced by each pioneer. Beard opened the first public photographic portrait studio in Europe in March on the roof of the Royal Polytechnic Institution in London fig. The rooftop location ensured sufficient quantities of light un- der most conditions— oftentimes too much. The intensity and duration of light exposure necessitated by early daguerreotypy proved disagree- able to many sitters, who were forced to remain immobile and refrain from blinking.
He designed and patented a circular studio lighted from above by a flat roof of blue glass, which allowed actinic light to pass without excessive glare for the sitter. In June , Claudet established a glass-house studio on the roof of the Royal Adelaide Gallery, a competitor to the Polytechnic. He, too, quickly filed a multipart patent for improvements to the daguerreotype process. The box should be placed in a dark room where the light enters but feebly, as through a door ajar.
Or, more precisely, the darkroom emerged when media darkness was success- fully cleaved from physiological black and the repercussions of this divi- sion were entered into patent offices, photographic manuals, and studio techniques— in short, into the embryonic dispositif of artificial darkness. In the first decades of its existence, the photographic studio did not oppose the brilliance of the glass room with the obscurity of the dark- room. Rather, both spaces uncoupled mediated light and darkness from the human sensorium.
As Claudet explained in an oft-quoted paragraph: Thus we might construct a room lighted only through an inclosure of light yellow glass, in which light would be very dazzling to the eye, and in this room no pho- tographic operation could be performed; or a room inclosed by deep blue glass, which would appear very dark, and in which the photographic operation would be nearly as rapid as it would be in open air.
With the darkroom— and its glass room correlate — the dispositif of artificial darkness gained a foothold in manifold sites of image production. Ihe darkroom and its manuals established effective and reproducible techniques practiced by professional and amateur photographers. As Bernhard Siegert has argued, "The door is tightly connected to the concept of threshold, a zone that belongs neither to the inside nor the outside and is thus an extremely dangerous place. As recommended by myriad manuals on photographic manipulation published toward the end of the century: "The system employed by the author of these [trick] photo- graphs is that of the natural black background obtained through the open door of a dark room.
Yet until the final decade of the nineteenth century, studio photographers rarely availed themselves of these opportunities. Previously the as-yet-unnamed black screen served pictorial ends that strove to replicate paintings rather than explore the unique possibilities available to photography or artificial darkness. The portion of a studio draped in nonactinic velvet for Rembrandt-like contrasts was also used to make so-called Cartes Russes, wherefrom photo- portrait busts were isolated against colorful paper backdrops. The editors of the Photographic News lambasted a correspondent who wrote to the magazine for guidance: "The feeble ef- fect you describe in your glass positives is probably owing to your black background.
What ever can induce you to use a background so unnatural, inartistic, and unpleasing? But neither the Rembrandt effect nor Cartes Russes took full advantage of the qualities unique to black screens. These studio practices remain of interest only as counterpoints to techno-determinist histories: given the radical possibili- ties of artificial darkness, most studio photographers preferred instead to imitate Old Masters and create silhouettes.
Artificial darkness may have afforded new aesthetic opportunities, but resistance was long and fierce. It should come as no surprise that Claudet, an early expert in artificial darkness and its manifold techniques, would advance a practice at once technologically precocious and aesthetically regressive. Faced with the dif- ficulties endemic to the uniform exposure of a subject, Claudet attempted to control the darkness rather than intensify the light. As he reported in I looked for some mean as to modify the effects of the light.
The operator, placed at some distance from the person, and furnished with a screen in each hand, moves them constantly in the direction from which the strong light is projected. This prevents Solarization, and produces artistic effects. When he returned to Amer- ica, he abandoned his earlier cinematic experiments with wax cylinders and wrote a new caveat a precursor to a patent , clearly influenced by Marey, from which he would develop the Kinetoscope. Dickson build a "tunnel"-style studio with uniform black interior and exterior— a combination that precipitated its famous nickname, the Black Maria, from the American slang for paddy wagon fig.
Like most tunnel- style studios— also known in Europe as atelier de forme americaine " 0 — the Black Maria included a skylight here in the form of a retractable roof and a long, dark tunnel for the Kinetoscope camera. Behind the camera lay the darkroom. All but uniquely among photographic and cinematic studios, the entire structure was mounted on rails, allowing it to turn on its axis and receive proper sunlight throughout the day.
The earliest known photograph of the Black Maria, March After Marey built his final black screen in , he walled in the prior incarnation, painted the wall white , and used it for chronophotography on moving filmstrips beginning in In November , years before Edison or the Lumieres would exhibit moving images of any kind, Marey presented his results at the Academie des Sciences. Dickson, Interior of the Black Maria, Marey made extensive use of black screens until the end of his life.
But because chronophotography on moving filmstrips— later known simply as "cinematography"— required no superimposition, the vital connection between chronophotography and artificial darkness was, in this instance, broken. And although we have generally adopted a black background, that is only because the figures stand out more sharply. Exemplary was Blacksmith Scene, the first commercial motion picture filmed in the Black Maria April and among the handful of films shown at the first public exhibition of the Kinetoscope at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science May 9, ; fig.
The roughly half-minute-long film depicts fig. Thomas Edison, Blacksmith Scene, frame enlarge- ments, Etienne-Jules Marey and Charles Fremont, chronophotograph of black- smiths, Metropolitan Museum of Art, purchase, the Horace W. Charles Musser and others have understood the film as a nostalgic look at work habits. In order to capture the successive positions of the hammer and the hands, the chronophotographer must obliterate the worker. Just not at the Black Maria.
Fundamental to the official history of cinema, the Black Maria was little more than a shriveled offshoot in the family tree of artificial darkness. Chronologically second, Melies's film studio was pri- mary in terms of influence. As Paolo Cherchi Usai notes: "By , this stu- dio had established the standard to be followed by its contemporaries. Artificial darkness was D Marey disappeared into the chemical darkness of the photographic darkroom so that a more objective "cinematic" image, a superhuman form of vision, could emerge from its ruby-red depths. Melies— as we will see in chapter 4— vanished before the illusionistic flatness of the black screen and appeared in the darkened theater as a superhuman cinematic image that overwhelmed human vision.
His cinema was the analytic ex- tension of human senses. That of Edison or Melies successfully deceived those senses. The fathers of cinematic entertainment exploited the limitations and capacities of the human eye to create the illusion of move- ment. Physiologists studied human thresholds in their infinite variability.
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Media technicians sought to exceed them once and for all time. Or, in the case of darkness, infinite shades of gray versus absolute black. We have all been here before. By the time we are eighteen years old, say the statisticians, we have been here five hundred times. No, not in this room, but in this generic darkness.
We may remove our shoes, if that will help us remove our bodies. But cinematic darkness was not always generic. Occa- sionally these divergent objects of attention were fused; monarchs and rulers, not least Louis XIV, were known to participate in the onstage spec- tacles.
Lighting was equally and— from a modern perspective— bizarrely balanced between stage and auditorium such that the stage was left too dark and the auditorium too bright. As explained in an text: "The in- congruity stems from the fact that the court pays for the auditorium light, while the theater management pays for the stage lights. The radicality of Bayreuth, in turn, can be fully grasped only in light of the manifold dark auditoriums from which it descended and which it, in turn, spawned.
Two basic— if by no means mutually exclusive or exhaustive- trajectories can be traced in a genealogy of theatrical darkness. Most ob- vious was the darkening of extant theaters. Wherefore I place only a few lamps in the auditorium, while at the same time I render the stage as bright as I possibly can. Still further, these few auditorium lights I place at the rear of the spectators, because the in- terposition of such lights would but be dazzling to the eyes.
The Teatro di San Cassiano, the first public opera house, opened in Venice in and inaugurated the Italian-style auditorium cloaked in darkness or semidarkness. Before the start of performances, chandeliers were lifted through the ceiling, to be lowered again only to facilitate the exit of the masses, who remained as rowdy as ever despite the newfound darkness. Wolfgang Schivelbusch similarly advanced the rule, albeit one that developed in fits and spurts, whereby "the darkness of the auditorium was a reliable indicator of the degree of illusionism. The propagation of gas lighting in the nineteenth century accelerated experimentations in theater lighting.
Before and after the widespread adoption of gas lighting, the vast majority of respected directors and respectable spectators rejected theater in the dark. This second trajectory, optical spectacle, also has a history— albeit nei- ther as extensive nor as illustrious as its proper theatrical older sibling. Pantomimes, with subjects drawn from mythology and epics, were viewed from a darkened auditorium. Richard Altick expounded succinctly the twofold rationale behind the exclusion of light.