Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment
336 pp., 7 x 9 in, 54 illus.
- Published: September 23, 2005
- Published: February 27, 2004
Tracing the logic of media history, from the baroque to the neo-baroque, from magic lanterns and automata to film and computer games.
The artists of the seventeenth-century baroque period used spectacle to delight and astonish; contemporary entertainment media, according to Angela Ndalianis, are imbued with a neo-baroque aesthetic that is similarly spectacular. In Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment, she situates today's film, computer games, comic books, and theme-park attractions within an aesthetic-historical context and uses the baroque as a framework to enrich our understanding of contemporary entertainment media.
The neo-baroque aesthetics that Ndalianis analyzes are not, she argues, a case of art history repeating or imitating itself; these forms have emerged as a result of recent technological and economic transformations. The neo-baroque forms combine sight and sound and text in ways that parallel such seventeenth-century baroque forms as magic lanterns, automata, painting, sculpture, and theater but use new technology to express the concerns of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Moving smoothly from century to century, comparing ceiling paintings to the computer game Doom, a Spiderman theme park adventure to the baroque version of multimedia known as the Bel Composto, and a Medici wedding to Terminator 2:3D, the book demonstrates the logic of media histories. Ndalianis focuses on the complex interrelationships among entertainment media and presents a rigorous cross-genre, cross-historical analysis of media aesthetics.
Entertainment media continue to undergo dramatic transformations. Yet Angela Ndalianis refreshingly reminds us how much films like Jurassic Park or Alien, and computer games such as Phantasmagoria and Tomb Raider, owe to the labyrinthine compositions and machinic illusions of seventeenth-century ceiling painting. She convincingly shows that the late twentieth-century culture of special effects is neo-baroque through and through: given to open-ended spectacles, fictions blended with reality, and bold displays of technical virtuosity.
Barbara Maria Stafford, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago
Ndalianis' book achieves that rare thing: a scholarly argument based on carefully articulated historical evidence that is accessible to the non-specialist and a joy to read. It is an erudite call to rethink the contribution that the Baroque has made to western thought and art practice—in particular to reflect on the way that contemporary technologies of entertainment seem to be drawn to an aesthetic that lies outside the academic obsession with representation.
Michael Punt, EditorInChief, Leonardo Reviews