Magic Lanterns. Between Reality and the Imaginary.

A Workshop on the Iconography of Magic Lantern Slides.

DATE: 13 NOVEMBER, 2018, 09:00-19:00

VENUE: Mundaneum, Mons, 76 rue de Nimy - 7000 Mons - Belgium

Entrance is free but please register your attendance by sending an email to by 5 November 2018.

The next workshop organized within the framework of the EOS-funded project B-magic: The Magic Lantern and its Cultural Impact as Visual Mass Medium in Belgium (1830-1940) will take place on 13 November, 2018 at the Mundaneum in Mons. This venue corresponds well to the title of our event, Magic Lanterns. Between Reality and the Imaginary. The Mundaneum, a centre of knowledge conservation and distribution, dedicated to the memory and the work of Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, once also provided the possibility to screen luminous projections based on its impressive collection of glass lantern slides.

Frog with a fish in its stomach. Cca. 1899. Rayon X. 158 (8). Radiguet Radiographic Museum (Paris). From the collection of the Mundaneum, Mons.

Slide: Frog with a fish in its stomach. Cca. 1899. Rayon X. 158 (8). Radiguet Radiographic Museum (Paris). From the collection of the Mundaneum, Mons.

Preserving this heritage speaks to Otlet’s and La Fontaine’s conception of a general, portable encyclopedia of universal knowledge, which is based on their idea of cutting up reality in order to render it accessible and intelligible. It is, of course, impossible to realize this idea without appealing to the imaginary and prospective dimension of knowledge; first, one should be able to imagine and foresee what kinds of classifications and files might accompany the development of the sciences and humanities. This is the power of the scientific imaginary. This very force made Dmitri Mendeleev leave empty blocks in his famous periodic table of chemical elements, in order for them to be eventually filled by new elements, ones that remained to be discovered, although their properties could already be predicted …

The particular dispositif of the magic lantern and the iconographic regimes of its glass slides ensure that this medium also oscillates between reality and the imaginary. The principles of projection, sequencing and commentary on lantern images introduce a new, magical dimension, linked to the fascination of projecting sequences of “articulated” images. Arranged into series, glass slides can cater to the needs of fiction, as well as to those of didactic and documentary projections. With references to iconic figures, such as Belgian photographer and portraitist Gustave Maurissiaux, our speakers will investigate the hybridism at the heart of iconicity. They will elaborate on where, when and how graphical interventions can add a fictional and imaginary dimension to an originally photo-realistic representation.

This workshop will feature keynote lectures by renowned scholars in late 19th and early 20th century screen studies: André Gaudreault (University of Montréal, Canada), Giusy Pisano (ENS Louis-Lumière, France) and, Marc-Emmanuel Mélon (University of Liège, Belgium). The workshop will also feature an exclusive screening of the film Merci Monsieur Robertson (1986) a film on the famous Belgian lanternist and phantasmagorian Étienne-Gaspard Robert, also known as “Robertson”, and producer Françoise Levie (Memento Production, Belgium), the biographer of Robertson.

Lanternist Gwen Sebus will join us with a pre-workshop performance and a discussion on 12 November, 2018, 16:20-18:00 in Mons. The performance will take place in the framework of the monthly B-magic PhD seminar and is open to anyone interested, but please confirm your presence with an email to by 5 November.

The workshop is organized as a part of a series within the framework of the B-MAGIC. The Magic Lantern and its Cultural Impact as Visual Mass Medium in Belgium (1830-1940) project funded by FWO and FNRS under the Excellence of Science (EOS) project number 30802346. B-Magic will write the as yet unwritten history of the magic lantern as a mass medium in Belgium. In doing so, it will provide an essential contribution to the study of the country’s cultural history as well as to international media historiography.

This workshop is organized by the Media and Journalism Observatory (Université catholique de Louvain) and GIRCAM in collaboration with the B-Magic consortium partners.

Click HERE for the (provisional) program.