Beginning in the late eighteenth century, huge circular panoramas presented their audiences with resplendent representations that ranged from historic battles to exotic locations. Such panoramas were immersive but static. There were other panoramas that moved—hundreds, and probably thousands of them. Their history has been largely forgotten. In Illusions in Motion, Erkki Huhtamo excavates this neglected early manifestation of media culture in the making. The moving panorama was a long painting that unscrolled behind a “window” by means of a mechanical cranking system, accompanied by a lecture, music, and sometimes sound and light effects. Showmen exhibited such panoramas in venues that ranged from opera houses to church halls, creating a market for mediated realities in both city and country.
In the first history of this phenomenon, Huhtamo analyzes the moving panorama in all its complexity, investigating its relationship to other media and its role in the culture of its time. In his telling, the panorama becomes a window for observing media in operation. Huhtamo explores such topics as cultural forms that anticipated the moving panorama; theatrical panoramas; the diorama; the "panoramania" of the 1850s and the career of Albert Smith, the most successful showman of that era; competition with magic lantern shows; the final flowering of the panorama in the late nineteenth century; and the panorama's afterlife as a topos, traced through its evocation in literature, journalism, science, philosophy, and propaganda.
About the Author
Erkki Huhtamo, media historian and pioneering media archaeologist, is Professor in the Department of Design Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the coeditor of Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications.
“A pioneer of the media archaeological methodology, Erkki Huhtamo reveals in this book his roots as a cultural historian. Illusions in Motion is painstakingly well researched and meticulously composed. Besides excavating the histories of this neglected medium, the moving panorama, it offers an empirically grounded example of how to research media cultures. Huhtamo shows us what fantastic results patient research can achieve.
—Jussi Parikka, media theorist and Reader in Media & Design, Winchester School of Art, UK
“An intelligent and thorough introduction to this largely forgotten medium has been sorely needed, and now we have it. Erkki Huhtamo has a commendably crisp style. He is not content to recite the huge number of facts he has so meticulously assembled. He consistently puts his facts into context, and as the fascinating story of moving panoramas unfolds he makes sure we are fully equipped to appreciate it.”
—Ralph Hyde, author of Panoramania!
“Erkki Huhtamo’s remarkable book is a massive archaeological dig revealing a long lost city that we still inhabit, carefully dusting off the foundation of the illusions that continue to move across our screens, walls, and cities. With a quarter century of focused, original research in numerous languages, it sets the scholarly standard for media archaeology, a historical enterprise that gauges itself on relevance to the present. On that count Illusions in Motion informs an extraordinary, rolling range where painting meets architecture meets theater meets cinema that scrolls into all the screens, immersions, and augmentations of today.”
—Douglas Kahn, Research Professor, National Institute for Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney
“In this exciting book Erkki Huhtamo, our foremost media archeologist, gives us the most thorough and insightful treatment of the moving image media that dominated the nineteenth century and gave us a new word for a modern mode of vision: the panorama. Huhtamo explores the varieties of this revolutionary visual medium, which utterly transformed conceptions of what a picture could be: introducing effects of motion and light and eliminating the idea of the frame. This panorama opened up a new conception of the relation between art and perception that immersive new media are only now catching up with. With erudition and insight, as well as passion and humor, Huhtamo returns the panorama to its merited place in cultural history.”
—Tom Gunning, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago