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Alchemy of Light

Alchemy of Light

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Published by Stephen Wright

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Stephen Wright on Nov 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/28/2013

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 A 
LCHEMY OF
L
IGHT
Ruth Sergel Advisor: Despina PapadopoulosInteractive Telecommunications DepartmentTisch School of the Arts/New York UniversityMasters Thesis, Spring 2008
 
--
“Hyperboloids of wondrous Light Rolling for aye through Space and TimeHarbour those Waves which somehow Might Play out God’s holy pantomime.” 
-Alan Turing
 
--
• Abstract
Magicians have played a unique role in exploiting emerging technologies andunderlying cultural anxieties to create spectacles so alluring that audiences willinglyparticipate in their own delusion.
 Alchemy of Light 
is a multi-media performance workthat depicts that history as a mirror to contemporary concerns that surround ourrelationship with technology and its impact on our human interaction.My research explores pre-cinema devices, automata and wax figures as earlyexplorations of self through the medium of technology. During the 19
th
century,scientific advance led to a dramatic reconsideration of the boundaries between life anddeath. Magicians, using the most advanced technology of their day, developedperformances that played off these tensions.
 Alchemy of Light 
, melds 19
th
century illusionism with current interactive technologies torelate the tale of the legendary magician, Torrini as a parable of the seduction and limitsof technology. The early development
 Alchemy of Light 
, from the
Magic Box 
, a physicaltrailer for the piece, through the early rehearsal process is outlined as well as futuresteps towards the premiere of
 Alchemy of Light 
at the HERE Arts Center in 2009.
• Thesis
What we think we see can tell us something about who we are
1
There is an aching tension between the promise of technology and our critical need forhuman interaction and touch. Emerging technologies have the capacity to unhinge whatwe thought we knew about how the world functions and in that moment of confusion arush of possibilities both wonderful and terrifying appear; often revealing underlyingcultural anxieties.Magicians bridge the world of new technologies and the pulse of communal concerns. As the early adopters of the technology of their day, they have exploited catoptrics,magnetism and pre-cinema illusions to play on our hidden fears and fantasies. Mastersof interaction design, they create scenarios so alluring that audiences willinglyparticipate in their own delusion.From the mid 17
th
century, wax models, automata, magic lanterns and other pre-cinemadevices served as tools to explore representations of the self. The radical technologicalbreakthroughs of the 19
th
century – photography, telegraph, phonograph and cinema –redefined a world in which for the first time people were asked to trust the agency ofmachines to mediate reality. In this new era, communication could travel across electro-magnetic fields, voices and images be preserved and replicated even after death.In the 19
th
century the confusion surrounding these new technologies focused on questionsof mortality and were exploited both by spiritualists and magicians. At each advance therewas a palpable excitement that perhaps the breach between life and death might, in somemanner, be surmounted. The frenzy that grew around spiritualism and mentalism acts onlysubsided with the advent of the cinema and the impact of World War I.

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