Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture
Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel
1 Glass Glimpsed: In, On, Through and Beyond
—in memory of Linda Munk
Inserted in a wall, a sheet of glass brings together two spaces, inside and outside; or, silver-backed and itself acting as a wall, glass creates an illusion of two spaces, both of them inside. Like a wall, glass blocks physical access between one space and another; it prevents touching and smelling, and to some degree inhibits hearing and heating. But unlike other materials used in a wall, glass admits visual exchange. One can see through glass, though one cannot walk through it, nor reach through it. This may seem the merest platitude, yet glass was not always thus: its transparency is of recent date. The mirrored space is inhabited by the body that looks. By the mid-nineteenth century, the quality of both the glass and the reflecting surface was sufficiently refined for one to see an entire world in a mirror, a reverse image of our own, a ‘looking-glass world’ as in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass of 1871.1
A Metaphysics of Glass
Two thousand years ago neither the glass nor its backing were of such reflective power or optical scope. Thus the mirror could be invoked by St Paul, not as affording access to a parallel universe, but as illustrating the ← 5 | 6 → impairment of our vision of the Divine: ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly.’2 The Greek phrase suggests that a mirror would offer only a defective and inadequate resemblance of what it...
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