Erkki Huhtamo – Illusions In Motion: Media Archaeology Of The Moving Panorama And Related Spectacles


The MIT Press, USA, ISBN-13: 978-0262018517, 464 pages, 2013, English

Erkki Huhtamo is a universally acknowledged media archaeologist. This book is the result of very extensive research (done in the last twenty-five years) into the “moving panoramas”, huge rolls of painted canvas unrolled in front of an audience and enhanced with interpretational lectures, live music, sound effects and often dioramic “special effects”. Triggered by the virtual reality hype in early nineties, the author started to research similar technologies in the past, creating an approach that has been defined as “media archaeology”. The method gives up on the idea of a linear evolution of media and technology, instead placing importance on cross-influences from different cultural fields and social contexts a specific medium had. The author has assembled a legendary collection of proto-audio/visual machines, acquired with the patience and determination of a collector. He has documented it and trained specialists in order to properly preserve the collection over time. But why should old visual entertainment machines interest contemporary media culture? Because those machines were once proper media, and they were mediating content “in motion”. Huhtamo defines roles in the context of both time and relationships with other media, analysing many questions that we still face today. The meticulous investigation, details and contextualizations reveal the foundational elements of our contemporary screen-based mediations, and the emergence of (in the author’s words) a “media cultural imaginary.”