Das cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1919) by Robert Wiene (Germany)
"a street at night: yawning blackness in the background - empty, starless, abstract space, against it a square, lopsided lantern hung between lurching walls. doors and windows constructed or painted in wrenched perspective. dark segments on the pavement accentuate diminishing effect. the slinking of a brutal figure pressed against the walls and evil spots and shadings on the pavement give a sinister expression to the street. adroit diagonals lead and rivet the eye."
""a room: or rather a room that has precipitated itself in cavern-like lines, in inverted hollows of frozen waves. here space becomes cloistral and encompasses the human - a man reads at a desk. a trinagular window glares and permits the living day a voice in this composition."
- Hermann G. Scheffauer on Caligari, 1920
Zhang Dali, Chinese Offspring (2003-5)
Jin Meng, Room with a view (2002)
zhang and jin's photographic journey is a phantasmagoric picturesque, an unfolding space of an interior and haunting objects in distance that questions our gaze - a gaze of political and social desire; a gaze that survived repression and hardship. we wander through the derelict topography of architecture as a lonely witness of an upheaval and change, albeit illusional, which has left us with a ruined map of cities and symbols...community is hung upside down, iconic loci flee, and what was once a proud order in society only remains within the confines of a picture-frame as a static memory.
Dioramas @ American Museum of Natural History
"journey poems, view paintings, and garden views were among the new forms of shared spatiovisual pleasure [during the eighteenth century]. they combined a sensualist theory of the imagination with the touch of physicality. a haptic consciousness was being produced. the broadening of visuality inaugurated at this time was essentially about changing the way desire was positioned: it effectively 'located' desire in space and articulated it as a spatial practice."
"working closely with topographical representation, this genre of view painting emphasized the drama of location; the portrait of the city in italian vedutismo, that is, tended toward a narrative dramatization of sites, characterized by a heightened and tactile texture of place."
- G. Bruno, Atlas of emotion: journeys in art, architecture, and film
diorama is a simulacrum of haptic reality, a design tool in which a narrative and material texture can be imagined and tested as an extension of site context. it is not necessarily a historical reconstruction, as stephen parcell argues; it retains a potential for fiction without an authorized narrator to explain what it means. it's a metaphor free from didactic feeds.