Utopian and Science Fictions at the "Fin de Siècle"
Chapter 10 Against the Infernal Yawn: The Anamorphic Estrangements of Science Fiction 253
Chapter 10 Against the Infernal Yawn: The Anamorphic Estrangements of Science Fiction Linear Perspective is a machine for annihilating reality, an infernal yawn that swallows everything wherein the vanishing-point functions. Conversely, reverse perspective, like a fountain of reality spurting into the world, serves to generate reality, extract it from non-being and advance it into reality. — Pavel Florensky, ‘Reverse Perspective’ I Perhaps the most famous UFO to appear in the history of European paint- ing is the saucer-shaped object that slices silently across the pictorial space of ‘The Ambassadors’ (1533). Hans Holbein the Younger’s double portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve is a meditation on the intellectual and artistic accomplishments of Europe in an epoch of imperial expansion. The luxuriously robed table that stands at the centre of the composition, framed by the casually posed forms of the French ambassadors themselves, is artfully heaped with exquisite objects pertaining to the disciplines of geometry, astronomy, mathematics and music. The instruments of enlight- enment that are at once understatedly and ostentatiously displayed in this picture – the terrestrial and celestial globes for example – are thus also the instruments of colonial domination. Holbein’s tableau is a complicated, perhaps contradictory celebration of the apparently unassailable cultural authority that these Catholic statesmen embody. It emanates a sense of calm, almost sanctimonious command that discreetly conceals the messier 254 Chapter 10 economic and political premises of this cultural authority, even as it ulti- mately advertises them. Holbein sublimates the ambassadors’ power in the familiar double...
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