RENEW 2013

The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology

Riga / October 8 – 11, 2013

"Archaelogy" Participants


Cylindrical anamorphosis: thaumaturgical origins and contemporary workings

Session:Media Archeology

Panel:Panel A


Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, room 311

In this paper I will trace the origins of cylindrical anamorphosis and try to analyse why it also today manages to weave its uncanny magic. I will start with the relationship between anamorphosis and linear perspective. A relationship usually considered indisputable, although it ranges from anamorphosis being a logical consequence of the rules of linear perspective, to anamorphosis being a corruption of these rules. Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ is the archetypical example of perspectival anamorphosis—where the distorted image can be viewed correctly from a particular vantagepoint. Often, anamorphosis is equated with perspectival anamorphosis, and when the group of catoptrical anamorphosis—where the reconstituted image can be seen in the reflection from a cylindrical of conical mirror—is mentioned, it is usually placed on one line with perspectival anamorphosis. I will argue that cylindrical anamorphosis, as one type of catoptrical anamorphosis, is of a completely different order than perspectival anamorphosis: its ghost-conjuring lineage from natural magic and thaumaturgy through the phantasmagoria (Niceron 1638; Baltrušaitis 1977; Gunning 2009); its being based, not on linear perspective, but on the transformation of data from one coordinate system to another (Holländer 1984); its double visual order (Stafford 2001; Clark 2007); its adherence to the scopic regime of the baroque (Buci-Glucksmann 1986; Jay 1994). This layering of meanings might help explain why cylindrical anamorphosis seems to feel completely at home in a contemporary black box media-environment with multiple projections of moving images, an environment where the phantasmagoria becomes part of a contemporary technoaesthetics (Buck-Morss 1992).

Rudi Knoops is a PhD researcher at KU Leuven / LUCA School of Arts and is affiliated with the Inter-Actions research group at the Media, Arts and Design faculty (MAD-faculty) in Genk, Belgium. His practice-based PhD in audiovisual arts – for which he received a doctoral scholarship from KU Leuven – is an inquiry into the workings of cylindrical anamorphosis, situated on the intersection of media archaeology, visual arts and sound arts. His artworks and research focus on the space-time dimension(s) of cylindrical anamorphosis, and on the question of how a spatialized installation set-up can trigger embodied perception. This approach is illustrated by the research project MULTIPLE voice/vision, of which he published a cahier.
Alongside his artistic work and current PhD research, Rudi Knoops lectures at the MAD-faculty in the Experimental Media module, and acts as a thesis coach for Master’s students.

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