The Practice of Light
Light is the condition of all vision, and the visual media are our most important explorations of this condition. The history of visual technologies reveals a centuries-long project aimed at controlling light. In this book, Sean Cubitt traces a genealogy of the dominant visual media of the twenty-first century—digital video, film, and photography—through a history of materials and practices that begins with the inventions of intaglio printing and oil painting. Attending to the specificities of inks and pigments, cathode ray tubes, color film, lenses, screens, and chips, Cubitt argues that we have moved from a hierarchical visual culture focused on semantic values to a more democratic but value-free numerical commodity.
Cubitt begins with the invisibility of black, then builds from line to surface to volume and space. He describes Rembrandt’s attempts to achieve pure black by tricking the viewer and the rise of geometry as a governing principle in visual technology, seen in Dürer, Hogarth, and Disney, among others. He finds the origins of central features of digital imaging in nineteenth-century printmaking; examines the clash between the physics and psychology of color; explores the representation of space in shadows, layers, and projection; discusses modes of temporal order in still photography, cinema, television, and digital video; and considers the implications of a political aesthetics of visual technology.
About the Author
Sean Cubitt is Professor of Film and Television at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of The Cinema Effect and the coeditor of Relive: Media Art Histories, both published by the MIT Press.
—William Uricchio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies, MIT; Principal Investigator, MIT Open Documentary Lab and MIT Game Lab
—Jussi Parikka, University of Southampton, author of What is Media Archaeology?
—John Frow, University of Sydney
—Yvonne Spielmann, Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore; author of Video: The Reflexive Medium and Hybrid Culture: Japanese Media Arts in Dialogue with the West
—Tara McPherson, Associate Professor of Critical Studies, USC School of Cinematic Arts; editor of Vectors