REFLECTING ON THE 2015 CILIP CONFERENCE
Written by Martin Mullin, Head of UK Acquisitions. CILIP is the Chartered […]
David L. Martin
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Rembrandt's famous painting of an anatomy lesson; the shrunken head of anAustralian indigenous leader; an aerial view of Paris from a balloon: all arewindows to enchantment in a rational world, curiosities that illuminate somethingshadowy and forgotten lurking behind the neat facade of a rational world. In CuriousVisions of Modernity, David Martin unpacks a collection of artifacts from the visualand historical archives of modernity, finding in each a slippage of scientificrationality--a repressed heterogeneity within the homogenized structures ofpost-Enlightenment knowledge. In doing so, he exposes modernity and its visualculture as being haunted by precisely those things that rationality sought toexpunge from the "enlightened" world: enchantment, magic, and wonderment.Martin traces the genealogies of what he considers three of the most distinct andhistorically immediate fields of modern visual culture: the collection, the body, and the mapping of spaces. In a narrative resembling the many-drawered curiositycabinets of the Renaissance rather than the locked glass cases of the modern museum, he reveals to us a world renewed through the act of collecting the wondrous andaberrant objects of Creation; tortured and broken flesh rising from the dissectingtables of anatomy theaters to stalk the discourses of medical knowledge; and thespilling-forth of a pictorializing geometry from the gilt frames of Renaissancepanel paintings to venerate a panoptic god. Accounting for the visual disenchantmentof modernity, Martin offers a curious vision of its reenchantment.
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