The Crystal Stereoscope: The Architectural Reconstruction of Vision
Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, Soros Audium
David W. Thomas University of Arizona, Art History Department Media Art Histories 2013: RENEW The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology Call for Papers The Crystal Stereoscope: The Architectural Reconstruction of Modern Vision In the nineteenth century World’s Fairs displayed the pinnacle of technological achievements. The presence of a World’s Fair served as a tremendous economic and cultural boon for both the host nation and city, similar to the Olympics today. To house the massive exhibitions of the fair, the host cities often built new and magnificent structures. Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, built for the World’s Fair, held in London in 1851, has long been considered an architectural masterpiece whose innovative use of technology indelibly associated the structure with modernity. I argue that the building’s links with modernity extend beyond the architectural and technological to revolutionary technologies of vision. Building on Jonathan Crary’s arguments in Techniques of the Observer, I argue that the Crystal Palace presents the exhibition goer with the same bifurcated image found at the end of the stereoscope that was responsible for shifting contemporary notions of vision. Crary argues that new optical technologies, such as the stereoscope, were the locus for historical shifts in vision and the reconstruction of the observer in the nineteenth century. Through its structural, functional, and subjective similarities to the stereoscope, the Crystal Palace acted as an optical device that served as a location for the reconstruction of the observer and historical vision, and as a locus for the birth of modernity.
I am a master’s student at the University of Arizona pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in Art History. I enjoy exploring relationships with technology and art, specifically looking at contemporary works.