Shivers Down Your Spine

Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View

ALISON GRIFFITHS
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 392
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/grif12988
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  • Book Info
    Shivers Down Your Spine
    Book Description:

    From the architectural spectacle of the medieval cathedral and the romantic sublime of the nineteenth-century panorama to the techno-fetishism of today's London Science Museum, humans have gained a deeper understanding of the natural world through highly illusionistic representations that engender new modes of seeing, listening, and thinking. What unites and defines many of these wondrous spaces is an immersive view-an invitation to step inside the virtual world of the image and become a part of its universe, if only for a short time.

    Since their inception, museums of science and natural history have mixed education and entertainment, often to incredible, eye-opening effect. Immersive spaces of visual display and modes of exhibition send "shivers" down our spines, engaging the distinct cognitive and embodied mapping skills we bring to spectacular architecture and illusionistic media. They also force us to reconsider traditional models of film spectatorship in the context of a mobile and interactive spectator.

    Through a series of detailed historical case studies, Alison Griffiths masterfully explores the uncanny and unforgettable visceral power of the medieval cathedral, the panorama, the planetarium, the IMAX theater, and the science museum. Examining these structures as exemplary spaces of immersion and interactivity, Griffiths reveals the sometimes surprising antecedents of modern media forms, suggesting the spectator's deep-seated desire to become immersed in a virtual world. Shivers Down Your Spine demonstrates how immersive and interactive museum display techniques such as large video displays, reconstructed environments, and touch-screen computer interactives have redefined the museum space, fueling the opposition between public and private, science and spectacle, civic and corporate interests, voice and text, and life and death. In her remarkable study of sensual spaces, Griffiths explains why, for centuries, we keep coming back for more.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50346-4
    Subjects: Film Studies, Technology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    Shivers down your spine is a book about alternative modes of spectatorship, in particular immersive and interactive ways of experiencing visual spectacle that are not usually considered part of the canon of film spectatorship. The terms interactive, immersive, and spectatorship all come prepackaged in the discursive wrappings of academic tropes and biases, 1990s promotional culture, and aesthetic experimentation that traverse commercial and intellectual fields of inquiry, as well as historical and cultural contexts. My aim in this book is to explore an expanded paradigm of spectatorship, beyond the seated spectator in the darkened auditorium. My goal is to examine the...

  6. PART I. FROM CATHEDRAL TO IMAX SCREEN:: CASE STUDIES IN IMMERSIVE SPECTATORSHIP
    • 1 IMMERSIVE VIEWING AND THE “REVERED GAZE”
      (pp. 15-36)

      This chapter investigates medieval Christian iconography as an instance of the “revered gaze,” a way of encountering and making sense of images intended to be spectacular in form and content and that heighten the religious experience for the onlooker. As the first chapter of a book about visual technologies that send shivers down the spine and that complicate our traditional understanding of film spectatorship, this interdisciplinary examination of the discursive origins of religious iconography may also suggest new ways of thinking about the nature of religious viewing across art history, cultural, and visual studies. By examining the architectonics of the...

    • 2 SPECTACLE AND IMMERSION IN THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PANORAMA
      (pp. 37-78)

      Picture yourself walking through a darkened, narrow corridor that leads upwards to a staircase drizzled with light, feeling a little disoriented but nevertheless eager to reach the top. The year is 1793, and you have just paid to enter Irishman Robert Barker’s patented 360-degree panorama entitled The Grand Fleet at Spithead 1791 (fig. 2.1). When you finally reach the observation deck, a platform designed to resemble the poop deck of a frigate, emerging out of the darkness, you find yourself gazing out at sea, or so it seems, having left the throbbing streets of the bustling metropole for another time...

    • 3 EXPANDED VISION IMAX STYLE: Traveling as Far as the Eye Can See
      (pp. 79-113)

      In this 1950s-style comic-book image of an Aryan cyborg, who has sprouted multiple eyes across his head and chin, hypervisuality is parodied through the iconography of the science fiction genre (fig. 3.1). The piercing blue eyes promising visual omnipotence, the ability to “See Everything! … [A]cross the Internet. Anywhere. Anytime. In any direction,” along with the beams of light radiating from behind the head, symbolize a quasi-spiritualist techno-fetishistic future in which we too, if we buy into the rhetoric, can experience the world as never before. Of course, this 2000 Newsweek ad for IPIX, a company founded in 1986 specializing...

    • 4 “A MOVING PICTURE OF THE HEAVENS”: IMMERSION IN THE PLANETARIUM SPACE SHOW
      (pp. 114-156)

      One of the most popular planetarium displays presented at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) (fig. 4.1) in the summer of 1953 was described by planetarium chairman Robert R. Coles as “A simulated trip on a rocket to the moon, in which spectators watching the planetarium’s domed ceiling were whisked a quarter million miles through space for a landing at one of the moon’s craters.”² Ten years later, a virtually identical description of the planetarium show appeared in Hart’s Guide to New York City : “Here’s a fascinating way to take a trip to outer...

  7. PART II. MUSEUMS AND SCREEN CULTURE:: IMMERSION AND INTERACTIVITY OVER CENTURIES
    • 5 BACK TO THE (INTERACTIVE) FUTURE: The Legacy of the Nineteenth-Century Science Museum
      (pp. 159-194)

      Museums have long played host to planetariums, especially those devoted to the study of science and technology and natural history such as the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), which we left at the end of part 1 of Shivers Down Your Spine and to which we shall head back toward the end of the book. For the time being we will return to the nineteenth century, to forge stronger connections between spaces of immersion and interactivity encountered in part 1, and the museum, which is the backdrop of all the case studies explored in part 2. If part 1...

    • 6 FROM DAGUERREOTYPE TO IMAX SCREEN: MULTIMEDIA AND IMAX AT THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
      (pp. 195-231)

      When the iconic IMAX film To Fly! opened at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in 1976 to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial, it also marked a turning point in the status of audiovisual display technologies in museums. The late 1960s and 1970s saw multimedia exhibits find permanent homes in museums in unprecedented numbers and ways, a massive modernization effort in which aging nineteenth-century halls were renovated with exhibits reflecting current thought in museological design and curatorship. It therefore goes without saying that a majority of museums have incorporated screen-based media into their exhibits in the past thirty...

    • 7 FILM AND INTERACTIVE MEDIA IN THE MUSEUM GALLERY: FROM “ROTO-RADIO” TO IMMERSIVE VIDEO
      (pp. 232-282)

      At a 2001 Tate International Council Conference entitled “Moving Image as Art: Time-Based Media in the Art Gallery,” the opening speaker, British Research Council video artist David Curtis, complained that museum gallery-based film and video art had not been subject to the same sort of historical scrutiny as other media forms. While Curtis’s decision to flag this marginalization is worthy, his neglect of museum-based screen and audio culture before 1960s/1970s video art is regrettable.¹ Curtis was not alone in slighting the early history of moving-image technologies (and computer interactives) in the museum, since several delegates who made clarion calls for...

  8. 8. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 283-288)

    In 1984, hermann Krüger sketched out a model of museum spectatorship in which visitors proceeded through a four-part viewing process from an initial glimpse, through a more sustained gaze, followed by a grasp of the phenomenon at hand, and finally a desire to study the exhibit. Beyond its linearity, prescriptive qualities, and somewhat utopian rendering of the museum experience, Krüger’s model resonates with the reported encounters with many of the spectacular displays discussed in this book.¹ If Krüger’s “grasp” and “study” stages are less likely to be consistently achieved—a “gasp” rather than a “grasp” would be the adjective of...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 289-334)
  10. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 335-336)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 337-356)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 357-372)