In this exploratory paper I consider the long history of seeing in the dark, from cave painting to Zoom lectures. Focusing especially on what was once known as the ‘Dark Ages’, I seek to counter whiggish histories of enlightenment, and explore how art and architecture are and were commonly produced and experienced in darkness or half-light. How have new technologies helped to efface histories of darkness? How, despite this, does darkness still create powerful ‘occasions’ for viewing? And to what extent does artificial light diminish modern encounters and interpretations of artworks and spaces?
Image: Detail from Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica, 1617 (Wellcome Collection)
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Helena Vowles-Shorrock – History of Art
Senior Lecturer in Medieval Art and Architecture at The Courtauld Institute of Art