Edwin Carels

Teacher, Researchers and Head of the Training Committee Programme at KASK & Conservatorium/HoGent

As a teacher and researcher, Carels is affiliated with the School of Arts KASK/HoGent, where he holds a PhD in the arts, and finished the post-doctoral project ‘Counter-archives.’ He is also the coordinator of the audiovisual department there and a longstanding member of the VAF (Flemish Fund for Audiovisual Art). Carels publishes essays on media-archaeology, visual arts, film, and animation. For more than two decades, he was also senior film programmer for the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. As a curator, he has worked together with, among others, Luc Tuymans, Chris Marker, The Quay Brothers, Zoe Beloff, Ken Jacobs, Peter Kubelka, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Jean-Luc Godard.

Session abstract "Cameras in the museum"

Museums are like peepshows: they are instruments that focus our view, or at least create the right conditions for us to experience a particular optical adventure. In 2003, the M HKA acquired the private collection of the late Robert Vrielynck. But what is a museum of contemporary art supposed to do with an ensemble of antique cameras, optical toys, film posters, and a large amount of other cinematographic paraphernalia? Not only did a private collection become public property, but a fanciful, idiosyncratic amalgam of cinematographic equipment now entered the realm of contemporary art. The M HKA prefers to regard its collection (and thus also the ‘Vrielynck’ section) not simply as something to be stored but as a reserve, an area of study for both researchers and artists. Indeed, eliciting new interpretations is precisely the underlying strategy that regularly recurs in M HKA programmes: artists are invited to use the collection to produce an 'intervention'. 

This talk presents a string of case studies through which media-archaeology entered the Antwerp museum. A museum that takes the effects of media technology on the social life seriously should actively reflect on the impact of the camera on visual culture rather than passively subjecting itself to it. Despite (or precisely because of) outdated materials like those from Vrielynck’s collection, it is possible to formulate critical comment and institutional criticism: as if indeed the historical cameras stubbornly stare back at the surveillance cameras in the museum building.

Marjan Doom

GUM & Botanical Garden (Ghent University Museum)

Marjan Doom (UGent, GUM) is director of Ghent University Museum & Botanical Garden. She is Master in Veterinary Medicine and holds a PhD in anatomy. As director of the museum, she sets out its mission and vision, in which the crossovers between science and art play a prominent role. GUM aims to evoke reflection on critical thinking and the process of knowledge creation through scientific and artistic research, rather than to clarify research output.

Leen Engelen

LUCA School of Arts

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Leen Engelen holds a PhD in Social Sciences from KU Leuven and conducts research in the field of film and media history and the history of visual culture. She published on a diversity of topics – history of cinema in Belgium, media and film during the First World War, cultures of spectacle, panorama’s and ephemera such as film posters and postcards – in several academic books and journals. She has a special interest in archives, cultural heritage and digital access. Among other projects, she collaborated with the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp and with the Heritage Department of the city of Leuven. In 2019, Leen was awarded the Annual Prize for Science Communication by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB).

Evelien Jonckheere

Senior postdoc at University of Antwerp

Evelien Jonckheere is a Senior Postdoctoral Fellow (FWO) of the research project “Physiognomic culture in popular performance: on the use of stereo-‘types’ in fin-de-siècle Brussels” at the University of Antwerp (2021-2024). She is an art historian with an expertise in visual culture, performance history and media archaeology. Her research resulted in several exhibitions, artistic projects and publications on spectatorship, café culture and music hall history, (spiritual) magic lantern performances, and human zoos.

Session abstract "Projecting musical paintings"

Since the late seventeenth century, the occult (derived from the Latin occulere or 'to hide') has been a term that covers alternative spiritual practises which, based on comparative studies of natural science, religion, philosophy, and art, search for 'hidden' forces and laws; and even explanations for paranormal phenomena and supernatural forces. This contribution examines how the magic lantern was used as an instrument 'to materialise the invisible' and 'to visualise harmonious correspondence of vibrations' in fin-de-siècle artistic performances in Paris and its anarchistic backyard, Brussels. 

Optical lanterns (de)composed light through experiments of reflection, refraction, and dispersion in scientific demonstrations. These experiments were part of a growing nineteenth-century fascination with electromagnetic vibrations. This generated occult beliefs in corresponding light and sound vibrations which were seen as key to universal harmony and invisible higher realities. Through writings and lectures by fin-de-siècle occult 'prophets' such as 'Sâr' Péladan, Papus, Blavatsky, and their followers, theories on synesthetic vibrations of sound and colour were widespread among (pseudo-)scientists and artists. Occult beliefs on the harmony of vibrations inspired symbolist fin-de-siècle artists and resulted in spectacular experiments. By setting up intimate performances with paintings, music, and rituals in a spiritual atmosphere, 'musical paintings' became a hit in private salons and occult circles such as Kumris (1890-1892) in Brussels and Péladan's Salons de la Rose+Croix (1892-1897) in Paris. These were heavily inspired by Wagner's spiritual 'Gesamtkunstwerk', the 'ideal' example of materializing a harmony of vibrations. By adding colourful light projection to 'musical paintings' in the lumino-contes by the French des Gâchons brothers (1891-1895) and the artistic shadow plays by the Brussels Chat Noir counterpart Le Diable-au-Corps (1895-1898), an extra layer of corresponding vibrations was generated. 

Consequently, this lecture aims to delineate the position of the magic lantern in fin-de-siècle 'musical painting' performances inspired by an occult vibration-mania. What was the added value of light projection in the lumino-contes by the des Gâchons brothers and the Brussels artistic shadow plays; and to what extent did these projections revive the utopian eighteenth-century 'harpsichord for eyes' invented by the occultist Louis Bertrand Castel? And how did these Franco-Belgian synesthetic performances relate to the Anglo-Saxon 'colour-organs' by Alexander Rimington and Alexander Burnett Hector, creating 'colour-music'? By investigating these questions, a (pseudo-)scientific and spiritual dimension of fin-de-siècle artistic projection will be revealed.

Frank Kessler

Utrecht University

Frank Kessler is professor of Media History at Utrecht University (the Netherlands). He is a co-president of DOMITOR, the international association for research on early cinema and one of the founders of KINtop. Jahrbuch zur Erforschung des frühen Films. His research interests are focused on the emergence of cinema as a mass medium and cultural form. In his latest research projects, he has worked on the role of the optical lantern as a medium for knowledge transmission in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Session abstract "Performing cinema as a screen medium c. 1900"

The emerging medium of animated photography that started to become institutionalized as cinema in the second half of the 1900s had to find its place in a rich visual media landscape. Films were projected in a variety of venues, often in combination with other media or forms of spectacle, which in turn shaped the way they were perceived and received by audiences. It is therefore important to not just look at the films themselves but to also take into account where and in which ways they were performed. 

This lecture will address the question on how a focus on the performance of early cinema can enrich our understanding of the formative years of the medium. To do so, it is important to take into consideration the various other media and forms of spectacle that participated in this media landscape and the multiple interactions between them. It will argue in favor of a 'performative turn' in studying cinema as a screen medium around 1900.

Pauline Lebbe

Royal Conservatoire Antwerp

Soprano Pauline Lebbe explored Belgian art song ever since her master thesis, which presented interfaces between Belgian symbolism and music from 1880 to 1945. She works as a researcher and coordinates the Labo XIX&XX research group at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, immersing her in the endless world of the mélodie, the rich mosaic of romanticism, modernism, impressionism, expressionism, futurism and avant-garde, and the socio-cultural context in which art song flourished. Her recent research activities focused on songs by women composers, magic lantern show music and orientalist art song. Additionally, her performing practice includes oratorio, music theatre, opera and cantorship.

Session abstract "Performing with the magic lantern: Let there be music!"

From its earliest use as an entertainment extravaganza, the magic lantern was employed in combination with music instruments such as the tambourine, violin, or hurdy-gurdy. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, itinerant showmen combined image projection with musical accompaniment and/or singing. Another mesmerizing example of the prominence of music during lantern projection are Robertson's phantasmagoria shows, in which a glass harmonica and sound effects were used to horrify spectators and create a 'spooktacular' atmosphere. A century later, so-called 'song slides' photographically illustrated ballads, hymns, and poems; and, during their projection, audiences were invited to sing along with the chorus. Despite the prevalence of music in such popular entertaining lantern shows, the auditory aspects are repeatedly neglected in the historiography on the magic lantern, as the instrument is mainly scrutinized for its visual features. 

This lecture considers sound and vision as complements of a live performance. Several types of performances are distinguished based on the relationship between sound and music conception: music and lantern slides created to serve as one artistic unity, slides that illustrate a(n existing) piece of music, musical accompaniment to existing slides, and combinations of existing slides and music. The first type is given particular attention as a distinct but rarely studied musical genre. Subsequently, several single cases of musical projection performances from around the turn of the century are examined as works of an audio-visual performance art with its particular qualities to divert and captivate audiences.

Bart G. Moens

University of Antwerp

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Bart G. Moens is postdoctoral researcher at the Université libre de Bruxelles and member of the SciFair team at the University of Antwerp, working on the "Panorama, Diorama and Cosmorama: Performing History and Geography" subproject. He specialises in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century visual culture with a particular interest in material and intermedial aspects of arts and media. In 2023, he completed his PhD "Emotions on Demand: Melodramatic Structures of Feeling in Optical Lantern Culture (1890s-1920s)" in the framework of the EOS funded B-magic project.

Session abstract "Performing with the magic lantern: Let there be music!"

From its earliest use as an entertainment extravaganza, the magic lantern was employed in combination with music instruments such as the tambourine, violin, or hurdy-gurdy. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, itinerant showmen combined image projection with musical accompaniment and/or singing. Another mesmerizing example of the prominence of music during lantern projection are Robertson's phantasmagoria shows, in which a glass harmonica and sound effects were used to horrify spectators and create a 'spooktacular' atmosphere. A century later, so-called 'song slides' photographically illustrated ballads, hymns, and poems; and, during their projection, audiences were invited to sing along with the chorus. Despite the prevalence of music in such popular entertaining lantern shows, the auditory aspects are repeatedly neglected in the historiography on the magic lantern, as the instrument is mainly scrutinized for its visual features. 

This lecture considers sound and vision as complements of a live performance. Several types of performances are distinguished based on the relationship between sound and music conception: music and lantern slides created to serve as one artistic unity, slides that illustrate a(n existing) piece of music, musical accompaniment to existing slides, and combinations of existing slides and music. The first type is given particular attention as a distinct but rarely studied musical genre. Subsequently, several single cases of musical projection performances from around the turn of the century are examined as works of an audio-visual performance art with its particular qualities to divert and captivate audiences.

Kristof Timmerman

Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

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Kristof Timmerman is an artist and researcher working in the field of live, interactive digital environments and virtual reality. He has worked for several theatre companies, including the experimental CREW. In 2006, he founded the digital artist collective studio.POC with which he has since been creating theatre performances and installations. He chairs Maxlab, the research group on the interaction between art and digital technology at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. He is currently working on his doctoral research "Sense of Wonder. Artistic portals between the real and the virtual" on the context of immersive experiences.

Melissa Van Drie

University of Copenhagen

Melissa Van Drie is a cultural historian and performance artist interested in sensory and somatic practices of knowledge production. She works on how sound, hearing and listening are important aspects of worldmaking for both humans and nonhumans. Her PhD (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3) explored the intersections of science and theatre in the elaboration of nineteenth-century sound media. Subsequent postdocs and grants in Performance Studies and Music, STS, Media Archeology, and Environmental Humanities permitted further research on the roles and regimes of the senses in histories of art, health, food, and multispecies ecologies (Cambridge, U. Copenhagen, EHESS, CNRS, U. Maastricht).

Session abstract

This session embarks on a media archaeological exploration of listening orientations. During the nineteenth century, sound fundamentally changed. What sound was and how it worked, as well as the physiological mechanics of hearing preoccupied science, medicine, and the arts. From experimental, scientific displays that conscripted sound to support new investigations of nature, to theatrical performances that employed new technologies, people were confronted with new experiences on sound phenomena that forced them to listen in different ways. All in all, this activity set in motion profound questions about the senses, the mind, and human experience of the external world. 

This session aims to investigate how new ideas, practices, and technologies of listening were shaped and shared through nineteenth-century spectacular stagings. We will examine several modern spectacles and public experiments that perform listening. Our focus on public staging as epistemic tool will permit exploring different kinds of intermedial interplay, as well as sensory dimensions of media. Particular attention will be given to the material conditions, the somatic experience, and the spatial organization of early experiences of earphones; a range of sound media artefacts will make an appearance, including the théâtrophone, phonograph, telephone, and stethoscope. What new critical pathways for thinking about the political and social roles of sound media emerge through this re-enactement of the sonic past? How do our listening orientations today reflect or contrast with this nineteenth-century technoscientific ear and its ways of framing the world? 

Kurt Vanhoutte

University of Antwerp

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Kurt Vanhoutte is professor and chair of theatre and film studies at the University of Antwerp. His research focuses on the interplay of performance and science. Currently, he is spokesperson-coordinator of B-magic, an EOS (Excellence of Science) programme enabling an interdisciplinary consortium to study the magic lantern and its impact as a visual mass medium between instruction and entertainment. He is also Principal Investigator in Historical Bias, a project researching ideological bias through intersectional analysis of past data (c.1800-c.1940). Vanhoutte has published many book chapters and articles in journals including Early Popular Visual Culture, Contemporary Theatre Review and Foundations of Science.

Benjamin Verhoeven

University of Antwerp

Benjamin Verhoeven is a theatre maker, director and teacher. He worked as a theatre educator for a number of companies, including Opera Ballet Vlaanderen and hetpaleis(Flanders’ largest youth theatre). Today, he is a teaching assistant in Theatre & Performance Studies at the University of Antwerp. Verhoeven also has his own theatre collective, FLATLAND, with which he makes audiophile theatre. Within the network group Game|Play (an initiative of CiASp and ULB), he is further exploring research on video games.

Nele Wynants

Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (ARIA), University of Antwerp

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Nele Wynants is assistant professor at the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (ARIA), University of Antwerp. As an art and theatre scholar, she focuses on the interactions between performance, media and science and their overlapping histories. She coordinates the EU-funded project ‘Science at the Fair: Performing Knowledge and Technology in Western Europe, 1850-1914’. She is a member of the Young Academy of Belgium (Flanders) and the Project Management Board of B-magic, a large-scale research project on the magic lantern in Belgian history. As editor-in-chief of FORUM+ for research and arts, she is also involved in contemporary practice-based research and research in the arts.