By David L Martin
Rembrandt's recognized portray of an anatomy lesson, the shrunken head of an Australian indigenous chief, an aerial view of Paris from a balloon: all are home windows to appeal, curiosities that remove darkness from whatever shadowy and forgotten lurking at the back of the neat facade of a rational global. In Curious Visions of Modernity, David Martin unpacks a suite of artifacts from the visible and ancient records of modernity, discovering in every one a slippage of medical rationality--a repressed heterogeneity in the homogenized buildings of post-Enlightenment wisdom. In doing so, he exposes modernity and its visible tradition as haunted by way of accurately these issues that rationality sought to expunge from the "enlightened" global: attraction, magic, and wonderment. Martin strains the genealogies of what he considers 3 of the main designated and traditionally quick fields of contemporary visible tradition: the gathering, the physique, and the mapping of areas. In a story reminiscent of the many-drawered interest cupboards of the Renaissance instead of the locked glass situations of the fashionable museum, he exhibits us a international renewed during the act of amassing the wondrous and aberrant items of construction; tortured and damaged flesh emerging from the dissecting tables of anatomy theaters to stalk the discourses of clinical wisdom; and the spilling forth of a pictorializing geometry from the gilt frames of Renaissance panel work to venerate a panoptic god. Accounting for the visible disenchantment of modernity, Martin deals a curious imaginative and prescient of its reenchantment.
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Extra resources for Curious Visions of Modernity: Enchantment, Magic, and the Sacred
This experiment, this comment, is curious (curieux). This man’s museum is most curious (curieux ), full of curiosities (choses curieuses). The curious sciences (sciences curieuses) are those which are known only to a few, and have particular secrets, such as Chemistry, and a part of Optics, where extraordinary sights are produced by means of mirrors and glasses; also several sciences, said to reveal the future, such as Astrology, Chiromancy, Geomancy and even Cabbala, Magic, etc. CURIOSITY, Desire, eagerness to see, learn about new, secret, rare and curious things.
Their number exceeds already the second hundred. Every day I took one of these words and wrote it out in all the languages which I could collect. This has taught me that Celtic is like the Ostiakian: that what means sky in one language means cloud, fog, vault, in others; that the word God in certain dialects means Good, the Highest, in others, sun or fire. … I asked Professor Pallas to come to me, and after making an honest confession of my sin, we agreed to publish these collections, and thus make them useful to those who like to occupy themselves with the forsaken toys of others.
For what we are actually witnessing here, in the elaborate display of the cultic object and its reliquary at Canterbury Cathedral, is part of a sophisticated marshaling of all forms of representation, visual ordering, and aesthetic experience toward a common end: communion with the sacred. 44 There are scant few indications of the discursive nature of this regime of wonderment as illustrative as that of the twelfth-century treatise on the abbey of Saint-Denis, by Abbot Suger. The at times ecstatic delight and pleasure expressed by Suger as he recalls the wondrous beauty of the objects housed within the abbey are some of the most powerful expressions of medieval piety available to us today.