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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture


Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel

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.
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PART I Transparency, Refraction and Opacity


← 1 | 2 → Part I

Transparency, Refraction and Opacity

← 2 | 3 → zURBS

Prelude I

Valdrada’s inhabitants know that each of their actions is, at once, that action and its mirror image, which possesses the special dignity of images, and this awareness prevents them from forgetfulness.

—ITALO CALVINO,Invisible Cities

There is no such thing as one given urban reality. The countless mirror images and reflections enveloping us in our day-to-day lives remind us of that: what we perceive as reality can be multiplied in several different forms an exponential amount of times. We could say that the mirror doesn’t only reflect the world, it also changes it. As Calvino points out: ‘At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it. Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored.’

← 3 | 4 → Thus, the mirror not only reflects reality in terms of replicating it in a mirror image, it also helps us reflect upon reality, by offering a sensory and critical interpretation that makes us question and further understand our environment.

Mirroring space, then, can reflect many possible realities and provide many different perspectives on the city: mirrors with reflections that make enemies become friends, subversive mirrors with reflections that make left become right, and right become left. Mirrors turning all the windows in a city into reflections of its many possible urban realities, dreams and futures....

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