Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture

by Henriette Steiner (Volume editor) Kristin Veel (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection XXX, 364 Pages


Invisibility Studies explores current changes in the relationship between what we consider visible and what invisible in different areas of contemporary culture. Contributions trace how these changes make their marks on various cultural fields and investigate the cultural significance of these developments, such as transparency and privacy in urban architecture and the silent invasion of surveillance technologies into everyday life. The book contends that when it comes to the changing relationship of the visible and the invisible, the connection between seeing and not being seen is an exchange conditioned by physical and social settings that create certain possibilities for visibility and visuality, yet exclude others. The richness and complexity of this cultural framework means that no single discipline or interdisciplinary approach could capture it single-handedly. Invisibility Studies begins this conversation by bringing together scholars across the fields of architectural history and theory, art, film and literature, philosophy, cultural theory and contemporary anthropology as well as featuring work by a collective of artists.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Negotiating (In)Visibilities in Contemporary Culture: A Short Introduction
  • Transparency, Refraction and Opacity
  • Urban Topography, Void and Display
  • Surfaces, Secrets and Interior Spaces
  • Screens, Cameras and Surveillance
  • The Emergence of an Interdisciplinary Field
  • PART I Transparency, Refraction and Opacity
  • Prelude I
  • 1 Glass Glimpsed: In, On, Through and Beyond
  • A Metaphysics of Glass
  • A Poetics of Glass
  • A Climatics of Glass
  • Windows as Mirrors
  • Window and Mirror: The Gradual and the Dual
  • Bibliography
  • 2 Mirroring the Invisible
  • Mirror and Image
  • The Extension of Light and Mirror Spectra
  • Liquid Mirrors: Art and Commerce, Nature and Architecture
  • Bibliography
  • 3 ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’: Transparency, Voyeurism and Glass Architecture
  • Reviving Modernist Transparency
  • Cracking Transparency
  • Bibliography
  • 4 Transparency: Effable and Ineffable
  • Space and the Projective Subject
  • Klein Square 1
  • Klein Square 2
  • Conclusion: The Invisible Trace of the Transparent
  • Bibliography
  • PART II Urban Topography, Void and Display
  • Prelude II
  • 5 Mendelsohn and Libeskind: A Hidden History – Jewish Identity, the Void, Architectural Metaphors and Traces through Twentieth-Century Berlin
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Urban Bottles and Green Glass: Display and Transparencies in Post-Industrial Tuborg
  • Diversified Visualities
  • Variation on Bottles: Tuborg – a Beer and an Urban Threshold
  • Variation on Bottles: The Urban Thermos – From Beer to Coffee
  • Variation on Glass: Apartments with a View
  • Variation on Glass: Transparency and Visibilities
  • Variation on Bottles: Red and Green – From Harbour to Marina
  • Variation on Bottles: White Yachts, Blue Waters – But No Benches on the Boardwalk
  • Variation on Glass: Reflections in Green with Still Life
  • Variation on Bottles: A Green Urban Icon
  • Variation on Glass: A Panorama of Urban Times
  • Exit: Perspectives for the City
  • Bibliography
  • 7 Spaces of Difference, Different Spaces: A Study of Urban Transformations in an Old Paint Factory
  • Unpacking Lefebvre
  • Production of Space at the Factory
  • The Void
  • PB43
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 8 Negotiating (In)Visibilities in German Memory Culture
  • Christian Boltanski, The Missing House and The Museum
  • Stih and Schnock, Places of Remembrance
  • Gunter Demnig, Stolpersteine
  • Acknowledgement
  • Bibliography
  • Websites
  • PART III Surfaces, Secrets and Interior Spaces
  • Prelude III
  • 9 Surface Encounters: On Being Centred, Decentred and Recentred by the Works of Do-Ho Suh
  • Biography as a Device that Centres, Decentres and Recentres
  • A Replica of a Replica of a Replica …
  • Between the Outside of the Inside and the Inside of the Outside
  • Bibliography
  • 10 The Secret Suburb: Second Lives in Second Homes
  • Development of Danish Holiday Home Areas
  • Historical Development: Two Suburbs
  • The Qualities of the Summerhouse
  • Second Lives
  • The Free Modern Life: An Illusion?
  • Bibliography
  • 11 Cool Critique Versus Hot Spectatorship: Jelinek/Haneke’s Voyeur around Vienna, a Return
  • Critical Spectatorship: Die Klavierspielerin
  • Mimetic Spectatorship? Haneke’s Collaborative Voyeurs
  • Critical Repetitions? Pornography’s Reproduction and the (Re)turns of Drive
  • Conclusion: Hot Critique
  • Bibliography
  • 12 Visions of Punishment: On Susan Crile’s Abu Ghraib Drawings
  • Chalk
  • Theatres of Shame
  • Seeing and Feeling
  • Circulating Bodies and Images
  • Bibliography
  • PART IV Screens, Cameras and Surveillance
  • Prelude IV
  • 13 To See the World as It Appears: Vision, the Gaze and the Camera as Technological Eye
  • The Vision and the Gaze
  • A Brief Introduction
  • A New Reality?
  • Phenomenology as a Way to Discover Realities
  • To See the World as It Appears
  • The Camera as Technological Eye: Seeing the World Through a Camera Lens
  • The Gaze as Producer of Shame or Integration into the World?
  • The Camera and the Creational Act
  • Bibliography
  • 14 Vanishing Surveillance: Ghost-Hunting in the Ubiquitous Surveillance Society
  • Vanishing Surveillance
  • Ghost-Hunting in the Ubiquitous Surveillance Society
  • Bibliography
  • 15 The Invisibilities of Internet Censorship
  • Digital Censorship
  • Invisible Infrastructures
  • What is Digital Censorship?
  • The New Censoring Actors
  • Interventionist Digital Censorship
  • Structural Digital Censorship
  • Conclusion: On Conspiracy, Invisibility and Censorship
  • Bibliography
  • 16 Visible in Theory: Perceived Visibility as Symbolic Form – A Photo-Expedition into a Contemporary Urban Environment
  • Ørestaden, a New Urban Environment in Copenhagen
  • The Panopticon: Surveying the Field
  • Imagined Transparency: Screen Reflections
  • Black Box – Into the Camera
  • Visible in Theory: Towards a Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix → Illustrations


Fig. I.1: Prelude I

Credit: zURBS (Nina Lund Westerdahl)


Fig. 1.1: Laurence Whistler, The Overflowing Landscape

Credit: The Estate of Laurence Whistler


Fig. 3.1: VALIE EXPORT, Silja Tillner, Transparent Cube

Credit: Zobl/Schneider

Fig. 3.2: Monica Bonvicini, Don’t Miss A Sec’

Credit: Jannes Linders © Monica Bonvicini, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


Fig. 4.1: Space and the projective subject: the subject …

Credit: Lorens Holm

Fig. 4.2: Klein Square 1

Credit: Lorens Holm

Fig. 4.3: Klein Square 2

Credit: Lorens Holm


Fig. II.1: Prelude II

Credit: zURBS


Fig. 5.1: Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, Orte des Erinnerns

Credit: Stih and Schnock, Berlin/VG BildKunst, Bonn/Berlin/ARS, New York City

← ix | x → Fig. 5.2: Christian Boltanski with Christiane Büchner and Andreas Fischer, The Missing House

Credit: Bernd Nicolai

Fig. 5.3: Daniel Libeskind, Matrix of the star

Credit: Studio Libeskind

Fig. 5.4: Berlin-Kreuzberg, Berlin Museum and its environment

Credit: Bernd Nicolai

Fig. 5.5: Second Friedrichstadt extension by Philip Gerlach, ‘Grund-Riss’

Credit: Berlin: Landesarchiv

Fig. 5.6: Rem Koolhaas, House at Checkpoint Charlie (Shipwrecked), 1986 of the Friedrichstadt; plan is oriented south.

Source: Paul Josef Kleihues, Hans Klotz, eds, International Building Exhibition Berlin 1987, Examples for a New Architecture (London: Academy, 1986), p. 155

Credit: DAM (German Architecture Museum, Frankfurt)

Fig. 5.7: Erich Mendelsohn, Metallworker Union Building and Vorwärts Administration Building project. 103

Credit: Bruno Zevi, Erich Mendelsohn, Complete

Works (Basel, Boston: Birkhäuser, 1999), p. 223

Fig. 5.8: Erich Mendelsohn, De-La-Warr-Pavilion, sea-side oriented staircase

Credit: Postcard collection owned by the author

Fig. 5.9: Mendelsohn, Villa Weizmann, Rehovoth/Israel, inner courtyard with staircase tower

Credit: Bernd Nicolai

Fig. 5.10: Daniel Libeskind, Nowhere is a center

Credit: Studio Libeskind

Fig. 5.11: Daniel Libeskind, Jewish Museum Berlin, Paul Celan Court

Credit: Studio Libeskind

← x | xi → CHAPTER 6

Fig. 6.1: The Tuborg Sign

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.2: The Tuborg Rotunda

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.3: A nearly transparent apartment

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.4: Third-stage, limited transparency

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.5: Exhibiting transparency

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.6: Remains from old Tuborg

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.7: Public space at 14:22:50 on June 21

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.8: Anybody home?

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.9: The grand Tuborg Bottle of 1888

Credit: Henrik Reeh

Fig. 6.10: An urban desert

Credit: Henrik Reeh


Fig. 7.1: PB43

Credit: Mark Vacher

Fig. 7.2: The factory

Credit: Mark Vacher

Fig. 7.3: Crack in the concrete

Credit: Mark Vacher

Fig. 7.4: Prags Have

Credit: Mark Vacher

← xi | xii → CHAPTER 8

Fig. 8.1: Christian Boltanski, The Missing House

Credit: Dora Osborne

Fig. 8.2: ULAP-Gelände

Credit: Dora Osborne

Fig. 8.3: Renate Stih and Frieder Schnock, Places of Remembrance

Credit: Dora Osborne with kind permission of the artists


Fig. III.1: Prelude III

Credit: zURBS


Fig. 9.1: Do-Ho Suh, Who Am We?

Credit: Stephen White. Reproduced with kind permission of Serpentine Gallery

Fig. 9.2: Seoul Home/L.A. Home/New York Home/Baltimore Home/London Home/Seattle Home

Credit: Stephen White. Reproduced with kind permission of Serpentine Gallery

Fig. 9.3: Do-Ho Suh, 348 West 22nd Street, Apt. A, New York, NY 10011

Credit: Stephen White. Reproduced with kind permission of Serpentine Gallery


Fig. 10.1a: Villa Savoye

Credit: Claus Bech-Danielsen

Fig. 10.1b: Falling Water

Credit: CINARK

Fig. 10.1c: Johnson’s Glass House

Credit: Lise Bek

← xii | xiii →Fig. 10.1d: Farnsworth House

Credit: CINARK

Fig. 10.2: Danish summerhouses

Credit: Claus Bech-Danielsen

Fig. 10.3: The guest house at Niels Bohr’s summerhouse in Tibirke


Fig. 11.1: Benny’s Video

Credit: WEGAfilm © 1992

Fig. 11.2: Die Klavierspielerin

Credit: WEGAfilm © 2001


Fig. 12.1: Susan Crile, Private England Dragging a Prisoner on a Leash, 2005

Credit: Susan Crile

Fig. 12.2: Susan Crile, Arranged: Naked Mound of Flesh, 2005

Credit: Susan Crile

Fig. 12.3: Susan Crile, Naked, Piled, Hooded Prisoners, Flesh to Flesh, 2005

Credit: Susan Crile


Fig. IV.1: Prelude IV

Credit: zURBS


Fig. 13.1: ‘This is a chair, but not just any old chair’

Credit: Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson

Fig. 13.2: Performing in front of the camera? On my way to summer camp

Credit: Sig-Britt Wigortsson

← xiii | xiv → CHAPTER 16

Fig. 16.1: Ørestad city by night

Credit: Kristin Veel

Fig. 16.2: Map of Ørestad

Credit: By & Havn

Fig. 16.3: Inner courtyard of 8 House

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Fig. 16.4: Le Corbusier, Section of the Ville Radieuse


Fig. 16.5: Viewer’s perspective of the inner courtyard of 8 House

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Fig. 16.6: View of interior, VM Houses

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Fig. 16.7: Façade, Winghouse

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Fig. 16.8: Façade, VM Houses

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Fig. 16.9: Entrance to car park, VM Mountain

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Fig. 16.10: Exterior view of the inner courtyard of 8 HouseS

Credit: Mikkel Gerken

Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. The editors apologise for any errors or omissions in the above list and would be grateful for notification of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book.

← xiv | xv → Acknowledgements

The contributions to this volume originate in papers presented at conferences held in Copenhagen and Zurich throughout 2012 and 2013 as part of the research network (In)Visibilities A Network for Studies on the Seeable and the Hidden of Contemporary Culture. The editors would like to acknowledge the generous financial support received from the Danish Council for Independent Research and the Swiss National Science Foundation, without which this project would not have been possible. Participants at the conferences included art practitioners and academics from areas including literature and film studies, philosophy and art history, architecture, sociology, geography and urban studies. Thematically, the conferences covered a range of topics spanning surveillance and voyeurism, architecture and visibility (especially glass), censorship and security and questions concerning spatial and archival practices. The editors would like to thank everyone who took part in the network’s activities and who, in many different ways, therefore contributed to shaping this volume and the contributions included in it, in both direct and indirect ways. We would also like to acknowledge institutional support from the University of Copenhagen, ETH Zurich and Churchill College, Cambridge: each of these institutions facilitated different stages of the collaboration in distinct ways. We furthermore would like to thank Henrik Reeh and Claus Bech-Danielsen for their continuous support for the project. At Peter Lang, we are indebted to the our editor Laurel Plapp, and we would like to thank Rachel Malkin for more help with language and with preparing the text than she probably herself imagines as well as Jesper Nielsen for editorial assistance. We also would like to thank the series editors Christian J. Emden and David Midgley for their help, feedback and encouragement. Finally, we would like to thank the authors for their time, patience and enthusiasm. ← xv | xvi →


Negotiating (In)Visibilities in Contemporary Culture: A Short Introduction

The highly debated yet oft-repeated dictum ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ is usually used as an argument for accepting increased surveillance. But it raises fundamental questions about what privacy actually entails in a society that, with the proliferation of ubiquitous computing seeping into every corner of our everyday lives, challenges existing perceptions of human subjectivity and the place of the individual in the world. Occasionally, new revelations – such as the exposure of global surveillance programs by former NSA employee Edward Snowden and, before that, the persistent rumours about the existence of a signals intelligence collection and analysis network by the name of Echelon – reveal snippets of the technological capacities available for those who want to find out about the lives of others through state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. However, the response to such revelations seems divided. While some people react strongly and demand political intervention, the reaction of many citizens rather seems to be a shrug, implying that ‘when the technology exists, this is to be expected’.1 In this book, we propose that the widespread, existence and acceptance of the increasingly ubiquitous, and often unnoticed, surveillance technologies in our daily lives is one example of processes of negotiation that take place in contemporary culture on a wider scale: processes that are indicative of changes taking place in the relationship between what is considered visible and what is invisible – between what remains hidden and what comes to the surface – in contemporary culture. The existence of these changing perceptions is ← xvii | xviii →what we call an ongoing negotiation of (in)visibility in contemporary culture.2 If we have nothing to hide, it might not be because we do not fear anything, but rather because we believe there is nothing to see. This book develops the idea of what it means that ‘there is nothing to see’ and sets out to investigate the consequences of the shifting relationship between visibility and invisibility in contemporary culture.


XXX, 364
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (January)
privacy urban architecture visuality
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XXX, 364 pp., 64 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Henriette Steiner (Volume editor) Kristin Veel (Volume editor)

Henriette Steiner is Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of The Emergence of a Modern City: Golden Age Copenhagen 1800-1850 (2014) and co-editor of Memory Culture and the Contemporary City: Building Sites (2009) and Rumlig Kultur/Spatial Culture (2012). Kristin Veel is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of Narrative Negotiations: Information Structures in Literary Fiction (2009) and co-editor of the collected volume The Cultural Life of Crises and Catastrophes (2012).


Title: Invisibility Studies
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