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Visuality, wonder, science: popular performances in the nineteenth century

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

The lecture will focus on how nineteenth-century popular performances served as effective means of knowledge transmission, especially regarding new visual knowledge, offering an interconnected experience of new image technologies, theatricality, and wonder. Informed by phenomenological analyses of performing and spectating bodies, political and material analyses of the power relations of technological environments, as well as the socio-cultural impact of historical spectatorships, the lecture’s aim is to investigate the contact zones in which practices of visual technologies, theatre and magic formed nineteenth-century spectatorships. Following the routes of stage magicians, experimental physicists, and science popularisers in Central Europe, the lecture will offer a short case study on Leopold Ludwig Döbler’s visual shows, which challenged the viewers’ political inertia in the era of strengthening emancipatory movements within the Austrian Empire. Studying these examples can not only contribute to understanding the relevance of popular performances in forming modern subjects, but also to acknowledging their role in national and imperial identity building.