A Million Pictures – the book

Earlier this year, the A Million Pictures book was published as the 6th volume in the KINtop – Studies in Early Cinema series. It brings together the contributions to the A Million Pictures conference in August 2017.

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Catholics and the Magic Lantern

As part of our research for the B-magic project, Sabine Lenk and I have published two articles on the French and Belgian catholics’ use of the magic lantern.

The first one, “Fighting the Enemy with the Lantern: how French and Belgian Catholic priests lectured against their common laic enemies before 1914” appeared in a special issue of Early Popular Visual Culture edited by Joe Kember. It deals in particular with the creation of projections services by the Catholic church during the first decade of the 20th century. The article can be found open access here.

The second article, “Projecting Faith: French and Belgian Catholics and the Magic Lantern before the First World War was published in a special issue of the journal Material Religion. It deals with the Catholics’ projection practices. This article can be found open access here.

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Publications Update 2018

The book based on the Machines. Magie. Médias conference in Cerisy la Salle in August 2016 has been published recently, edited by Jean Marc Larrue, Giusy Pisano, and myself. Its more than thirty chapters present the complex interactions between the history of stage magic and media technologies. The book also contains a contribution written by Sabine Lenk and myself reflecting on Tom Gunning’s concept of an “aesthetics of astonishment”.

Several other publications have come out in 2018:

In a special issue on movie theatres edited by Claude Forrest, the Canadian Journal Cinémas, vol. 27, no. 2-3, 2017, Sabine Lenk and I contributed an essay on the history of cinemas in the German city of Düsseldorf entitled “L’émergence des multisalles en RFA: le cas de Düsseldorf”. In particular, we looked at the transition from the traditionally dominant model of one screen per theatre to cinemas with several screens within the same building. For more information look here.

Also, the proceedings of the 2014 Domitor Conference held in Chicago and Evanston have now been published. Sabine Lenk and I explored the question of “fake” images in early cinema, discussing so-called “reconstructed” news items, but also the reuse of the same film for different purposes, and the re-labelling of images filmed at an entirely different occasion to sell them as “news coverage” of a topical event such as, for instance, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In June 2013, I attended a conference in Zürich on Christian Metz. As film semiotics has lost the central position in film theory, which it had in the 1960s and 1970s, this volume is an important and very welcome collection of essays paying homage to Christian Metz, whose work has been instrumental in the establishment of film studies as an academic discipline. In my own contribution, I look at the role played by the tradition of film theory in Metz’s own writings.

In May 2018 my colleague Sonja de Leeuw retired and the journal View published a special issue in her honor. In my contribution (which can be found here), I discussed Louis van Gasteren’s film Omdat mijn fiets daar stond (1966), in which he used footage he had filmed of a young man being beaten up by the police combined with an interview with the victim. Using slow-motion to enhance the impact of these images, van Gasteren’s film raises questions about such documentary footage as “visible evidence”

As part of the A Million Pictures project, Sabine Lenk and I wrote an article on the use of the magic lantern in art historical teaching in the context of debates on visual education in art around 1900, which was published, together with other contributions from the project, in the University of Salamanca’s Fonseca. Journal of Communication. The issue was edited by Francisco Javier Frutos Esteban, Carmen López San Segundo, Daniel Pitarch Fernández and Ángel Quintana Morraja. A PDF of our article can be found here.

Mirko Tobias Schäfer and I contributed to an issue of the Dutch Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis on Big Data Histories (vol. 21, no. 2, 2018), edited by Karin van Es and Eef Masson. In our contribution, we take a media archaeological look at Big Data, discussing various ideas and initiatives in the 19th and early 20th centuries to collect data in the form of photographs, stereographs. or films as trustworthy and unbiased documents. The discourses that surround them show many similarities with current ones about the expectations and hopes regarding Big Data.

Finally, a Spanish translation of my article “Le cinéma comme disposition (du) spectaculaire” (Cinémas 14, 1, pp. 21-34), was published in Vivomatografias 3, 2017, pp. 92-108, the Buenos Aires based journal of the Latin American Society of Studies on Precinema and Silent Film. A PDF of the Spanish translation can be found here.

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Lecture in Groningen






  Ill.: La Nature 27 December 1890


Yesterday I gave a lecture at Groningen University on “Media Histories / Media Dispositifs: The Case of 3-D Technology”. I was invited by the group “Arts, Media, Moving Images” at the Research Centre for Arts in Society. My argument went as follows: rather than adhering to the linear history that we encounter in numerous accounts and which basically draws a more or less straight line from Charles Wheatstone’s stereoscope of 1838 to today’s 3-D cinema and beyond that to Virtual Reality headsets, it is much more productive to look at how the various dispositifs  actually worked, how they addressed their audiences, how they functioned and what kind of effect they aimed at producing. Stereoscopy participated in a number of cultural series, and this is something which becomes virtually invisible when we think in terms of a linear history.


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Two Conferences in Montreal


From May 18-20 Sabine Lenk and I participated at the 3rd conference of the International Society for Media Studies on the intriguing topic of “Authentic Artifice”, held at the Université de Montréal. We presented a paper entitled “‘Rendre réel aux yeux du public…’ – Stage Craft, Film Tricks, and the Féerie”. The genre of féerie is indeed a fascinating case of “authentic artifice”, flaunting its artificiality and the sophisticated effects that are used to create a seemingly naive fairytale world.




At the second conference “Cinema in the Eye of the Collector” at the Cinémathèque québecoise, June 4-8, Sabine Lenk presents the Robert Vrielynck collection, which is held by the Museum voor hedendaagse kunst Antwerp, and I will talk about the media archaeological collection, which the late Werner Nekes has presented in his film Was geschah wirklich zwischen den Bildern and in his Media Magica-series as well as in numerous exhibitions.






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