Room B312 Portland Square,
University of Plymouth,
A Media Archaeology of Technologies of Enchantment.
This research project explores image-making technologies and the imaginary and ‘real’ images that are created as a consequence of our engagement with them. It suggests that these have a spiritual dimension that has largely been ‘lost’ to us. This spiritual dimension is rarely considered in discussions about our engagement with image-making technologies and technological processes, or in discussions that examine the meaning of technological image-objects and our experiences of them.
In order to attempt to bring to notice, and perhaps even recover, the experience of the spiritual dimension of technology, the research draws upon cultural, social and economic histories of still and moving image-making technologies with a focus upon the 19th and early 20th centuries. It explores the mythology of magic in histories of photography and the ‘enchanting’ experiences described as ‘not me, not not me’ and ‘as if’, that are experienced through the ritual and repetition of performance and shamanic dance, apparatus designed for psychological experiments at the turn of the twentieth century, and the phenomenon of living life as a digital avatar in online social worlds.
The research focuses upon what appear to us now to be surreal and incoherent elements of C19th and early C20th studio portrait photographs. It examines the mise-en-scene of photographic portrait studios to understand how photographers and subjects collaborated in a modification of the technological process of having one’s photograph taken, that that might lead to an experience of the spiritual dimension of the resulting (enchanting) image. The thesis suggests that this spiritual dimension may explain why we are compelled to keep photographs of anonymous and unidentifiable people, even though all connection to their origin is lost.
In order to understand the relationship of the activities of photographic portrait studios with other forms of technological image making, the research is also exploring the phenomenon of magic lantern ‘life model’ slides and early cinema, in particular the theatrical settings of Georges Melies and narrative films, ‘actualities’ and phantom rides.
This project has also provided opportunities to explore the research methods of process history and has revealed the value of experiencing the objects of research, and the processes involved in creating technological images, in addition to interpreting them through the filter of photographs and text.
Hutchinson, J. (2018). Münsterberg’s Imagination Machine, in Rüdiger Steinmetz, ed,. A Treasure Trove. Friend of the Photoplay – Visionary – Spy? New trans-disciplinary Approaches to Hugo Münsterberg‘s Life and Oeuvre. Leipzig: Leipzig University Press, pp. 163-179.
Hutchinson, J. (2014). ‘Not Me…Not Not Me’: A Restoration of Behaviour in Media Practices, in M. Punt and M. Blassnigg, ed., Media Archaeology and Cognition – Transtechnology Reader 2014/15, Plymouth: Transtechnology Research, pp. 272-279.
Hutchinson, J. (2019) Review of Vital Reenchantments: Biophilia, Gaia, Cosmos and the Affectively Ecological by Lauren Greyson, Leonardo Reviews, [online], June. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/review/2019/06/review-of-vital-reenchantments-biophilia-gaia-cosmos-and-the-affectively-ecological
Hutchinson, J. (2019) Review of Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India by Rebecca M. Brown, Leonardo Reviews, [online], February. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/review/2019/02/review-of-displaying-time-the-many-temporalities-of-the-festival-of-india Also in Leonardo, Volume 52, Issue 5 October 2019,
Hutchinson, J. (2017). To See Without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare
by Svea Bräunert and Meredith Malone
Leonardo Reviews, [online] May. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/review/2017/05/review-of-to-see-without-being-seen-contemporary-art-and-drone-warfare.php
Hutchinson, J. (2016). Women’s Views: The Narrative Stereograph in Nineteenth Century America by Melody Davis
Leonardo Reviews, [online] May. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/reviews_archive/may2016/davis-hutchinson.php
Hutchinson, J. (2015). Sara Angelucci: Provenance Unknown by Emelie Chhangur, Curator.
Leonardo Reviews, [online] October. Available at: http://leonardo.info/reviews/oct2015/chhangur-hutchinson.php Also in Leonardo, Volume 49, Issue 2 April 2016
Seminar 16 October 2019
Enchantment in the photographic studio: apparatus, images and imagination
Photographic portrait studios were the places where most people in the C19th had their first encounter with the apparatus and processes of photography. This seminar will consider how the enchanting experience of having one’s photographic portrait made is ‘transmitted’ to the viewers of the photograph. To do this, the seminar will ask participants to set aside habitual thinking about the boundaries between what is real, fictional and imagined in order to analyse the fabricated elements of the studio mise-en-scene: the painted backgrounds, paper-mache props and accessories that are visible in so many C19th portrait photographs. This will allow us to consider how these items contribute to the meaning of the experience for the sitters and the viewers of the photographs and to begin to address the problem of locating the quality of enchantment.
Seminar 16 January 2018
Balloon Flights and Phantom Rides:
Seminar 18 November 2015
Ephemeral Affections: The Elusive Object: Imagination, Abstraction and Dreams of Utopia
The purpose of this seminar is to explore the extent to which a re-creation or re-presentation of an object or event is able to ‘stand-in’ for the original, whether it was fully realised at the time of its conception or remained in an imaginary form.
It will do this by considering the provisional (re)-construction of Hugo Munsterberg’s  apparatus for testing the ”mental constitution” of motormen in order to determine their suitability for the job. The experiment took place at the Harvard Psychological Laboratory during the spring of 1912. The experimental subjects were employees of The Boston Elevated Railway Company. In his initial report  Munsterberg provided a detailed account of his design of the experimental process, and the apparatus. He claimed its success was in part at least due to its evoking for his subjects the reality of their working lives.
The seminar is presented in the context of a wider exploration of the value of reconstruction in a media-archaeological research process. Drawings, images and a maquette model that were created during the research process will be presented. These are informed by Munsterberg’s description (see text below).
Participants will be invited to engage with these items in order to explore the extent of their adequacy as ‘stand-ins’ for the apparatus, even if its original form was an imaginary constituent of a thought experiment.
As soon as this principle for the experiment was recognized as satisfactory, it was necessary to find a technical device by which a movement over this artificial track could be produced in such a way that the rapidity could be controlled by the subject of the experiment and at the same time measured. Again we had to try various forms of apparatus. Finally we found the following form most satisfactory. Twelve such cards, each provided with a handle, lie one above another under a glass plate through which the upper card can be seen. If this highest card is withdrawn, the second is exposed, and from below springs press the remaining cards against the glass plate. The glass plate with the la cards below lies in a black wooden box and is completely covered by a belt 8 inches broad made of heavy black velvet. This velvet belt moves over two cylinders at the front and the rear ends of the apparatus. In the centre of the belt is a window 4½ inches wide and 2½ inches high. If the front cylinder is turned by a metal crank, the velvet belt passes over the glass plate and the little window opening moves over the card with its track and figures. The whole breadth of the card, with its central track and its 4 units on either side, is visible through it over of 5 units in the length direction. If the man to be experimented on turns the crank with his right hand, the window slips over the whole length of the card, one part of the card after another becomes visible, and then he simply has to call the letters of those units in the track at which the red figures on either side would land, if they took the number of steps indicated by the digit. At the moment the window has reached Z on the card, the experimenter withdraws that card and the next becomes visible, as a second window in the belt appears at the lower end when the first disappears at the upper end. In this way the subject can turn his crank uninterruptedly until he has gone through the 12 cards. The experimenter notes down the numbers of the cards and the letters which the subject calls.
Munsterberg, H. (1913) Chapter VIII, ‘Experiments in the Interest of Electric Railway Service’, in Psychology and Industrial Efficiency. Boston and New York: Houghtan Mifflin Company, pp. 63-82.
(Also available online at http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Munster/Industrial/chap8.htm)
 Hugo Munsterberg (1863-1916) moved from Leipzig to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992 at the invitation of William James, to become the director of the Harvard Psychology Laboratory, a position he retained until his death. In 1898 he was elected the president of the American Psychological Association. In addition to fulfilling these responsibilities he was a lecturer and prolific writer of books and papers for specialist and general audiences. As an altruistic idealist he developed the academic discipline of experimental psychology to a psychology that could by its practical application solve the ‘problems’ of life.
 The American Association of Labor Legislation commissioned the experiment in March 1912. Munsterberg sent his initial report to them less than three months later.
Seminar November 2014 – co-presented with Jacqui Knight
Technologies of Rupture: Machines of Innocence and Oblivion and the Renewal of Reality
This seminar will look at techniques of rupture or ‘estrangement’ (Shklovskij 1991) and assimilation used as a device in artistic photographic practices. Ruptures produce effects such as temporal indeterminism (a ‘stepping outside’ of time), a disorientation before a re-orientation. As such a rupture can challenge expectations of what is normal, logical and causal, countering habituation and automatisation.
The seminar will present selected artworks, including the photographs of William H. Rau of the Pennsylvania Railroad, as examples of the assimilation of the machine into an Edenic ideal, a healing of the rupture. It will also present selected works of artists who re-appropriate or retool objects, materials or technologies, removing them from habitualised use and anatomizing them. By considering differing scales of rupture; such as jokes and magic tricks, accidents and the catastrophic, the seminar aims to reveal something about the underlying ideals, intentions and histories of these technologies or tools.
Barthes, R. (1964) Image Music Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Harper Collins, 1977.
Marx, L. (2000) The Machine in the Garden: Technology and The Pastoral Ideal in America. Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Shklovsky, V. (1991) Theory of Prose. Translated by Benjamin Sher. London: Dalkey Archive Press Campaign.
Van Horne, J. C. with Drelick, E. E. (eds.) (2002) Traveling The Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
George Inness (1825-1894)
The Lackawanna Valley, 1855
Oil on canvas, 86 × 127 cm (33.9 × 50 in)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Seminar January 2014
Degrees of Lustre: An Experimental Taxonomy of Manifestations, Marvels and Mischwesen
The seminar will present a brief historiographical review of methods and processes of classification of so-called ‘avatars’. This will include manifestations of the idea as material entity or imagined embodiment; illusory vehicles for experiencing enchantment and the marvelous. The aim is to facilitate the development of an appropriate taxonomy or framework for further study, and through discussion to explore the question set out in the introduction to this seminar series – that is, whether the recognition now of what constitutes an avatar indicates a change or release of a dormant capacity in human cognition or, whether new media and technology simply allows us to experience this phenomenon in a new way.
Texts, images, artifacts and film drawn from the fields of anthropology, literature, theatre and religion, performance and ritual, puppetry and masks, the development of the photographic image and film, and new-media technologies will be presented. You are invited to contribute to the seminar by considering and sharing experiences of encounters with the avatar and how this phenomenon is manifest in your area of research.