Hunting a Snark? | Rudi Knoops


exploring uncharted terrain on the New Media map (after Lewis Carroll)

Speculum Musurgica

My new installation Speculum Musurgica had its première a few days ago, August 18 2015, and is exhibited in Antwerp Cathedral till November 22, 2015.

Speculum Musurgica, 2015 - detail

I made this new installation for an exhibition on Petrus Alamire, with as content two seven-voice compositions from Petrus Alamire’s sixteenth century music manuscripts: the motet Memorare Mater Christi of Matthaeus Pipelare, and the anonymous chanson Proch Dolor, an elegy on the death of Emperor Maximilian, performed by Paul Van Nevel and the Huelgas Ensemble.

The heptagonal media installation Speculum Musurgica consists of ingenious mirror structures and sound projections that invite visitors to take a physical walk through the rich polyphonic texture of the music.
In a spatialized setting, each of the seven singers is projected individually, for both sound and vision. In the centre of the installation the multiple auditory layers coalesce into a surround sound. On the other hand a more analytic listening mode is possible by physically approaching one of the performers. For the visual layers I use the technique of cylindrical anamorphosis: a distorted image can be observed in its reconstituted form through reflection in a cylindrical mirror. Observing one single anamorphosis brings the visitor closer to the projected image (and sound) of one individual musical performer and amplifies the analytical listening mode. The multiple use of anamorphosis however forces the visitor to make choices and invites to spatially and physically explore and experience the polyphonic texture of the music. In this multi-layered universe, visitors choose for themselves which individual musical lines to emphasize. They go in search of interesting perspectives – whether auditory, visual or a combination of the two – and create their own individual experience of the polyphonic music performed.

Speculum Musurgica is part of my practice-based PhD in media arts, wherein I focus on the appropriation of cylindrical anamorphosis. Using a media archaeology inspired methodology of short-circuiting past and present, I gauge the affordances of this seemingly obsolete seventeenth century media technology and its significance for how we engage with the techno aesthetics of contemporary society.

To wet your appetite: Belgian television had a newsitem on the exhibition & the Laus Polophoniae music festival – also with Petrus Alamire as theme this year – in which my new installation Speculum Musurgica features prominently:


Media Art Histories 2013: RENEW

The highlight of my research and writing in 2013 was my paper for the  MEDIA ART HISTORIES 2013: RENEW conference. The 5th edition of the International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology took place in Riga, Latvia, October 2013. The venue for the conference was in the art nouveau district, at walking distance from the old city centre.

Strelnieku Iela

In my paper I specifically discussed cylindrical anamorphosis. I focussed on how it differs from the perspectival type of anamorphosis, and in a layered approach I outlined why it is of a completely different order. My paper was accepted for the Media Archaeology theme, and my session would be chaired by Erkki Huhtamo, also the keynote speaker opening the conference. I really looked forward meeting this renowned media archaeology theorist, of whom I’ve read quite a bit, for example the excellent  Media Archaeology. Approaches, Applications, and Implications that he co-edited with Jussi Parikka. Erkki Huhtamo’s feedback on my presentation was stimulating: he thought it was a very deep and thorough approach of a subject that is often treated in a very shallow and superficial way.

The abstract of my presentation:

Cylindrical anamorphosis: thaumaturgical origins and contemporary workings

In this paper, I will trace the origins of cylindrical anamorphosis and analyse why, also today, it manages to weave its uncanny magic. The relationship between anamorphosis and linear perspective is considered indisputable, although it ranges from anamorphosis being a logical consequence of the rules of linear perspective to anamorphosis being a corruption of these rules. Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ is the archetypical example of perspectival anamorphosis—where the distorted image can be viewed correctly from a particular vantage point. Often, anamorphosis is equated with perspectival anamorphosis, and the group of catoptrical anamorphosis—where the reconstituted image can be seen in the reflection from a cylindrical of conical mirror—is usually mentioned as just another type of perspectival anamorphosis.
I will argue that cylindrical anamorphosis, as one type of catoptrical anamorphosis, is of a completely different order than perspectival anamorphosis for a number of reasons: its ghost-conjuring lineage from artificial magic or thaumaturgy through the phantasmagoria (Niceron 1638; Baltrušaitis 1977; Gunning 2009); its being based, not on linear perspective, but on the transformation of data from one coordinate system to another (Holländer 1984); its double visual order (Stafford 2001; Clark 2007); its adherence to the scopic regime of the baroque (Buci-Glucksmann 1986; Jay 1994).
This layering of meanings might help explain the almost natural integration of cylindrical anamorphosis in a contemporary black box media-environment with multiple projections of moving images, an environment where the phantasmagoria becomes part of a contemporary technoaesthetics (Buck-Morss 1992).


ISEA2011 – quite some time ago

Writing about cancelling my participation in ISEA2013, I realised I had not posted here about my participation in ISEA2011 a few years ago. The 2011 edition of ISEA took place at Istanbul, a fabulous city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

ISEA2011 @ Istanbul

In my paper for ISEA2011 I discussed the installation DIORAMATIZED #02 that I at that time was making for an exhibition @ M Museum Leuven. I analyzed the installation in the light of  Stephen Bann’s writings about curiosity. Hence, the title of my paper and presentation seems quite logical: Curiosy as an artist’s brief.

You can find the text of the full paper at the ISEA2011 webportal (the ISEA2011 proceedings still haven’t been published, what a difference with ISEA 2013!) or at my page.

The abstract:

In this paper I will discuss some of the techniques that I use as an artist to instill curiosity. The criteria for my ‘discourse’ are set out by Stephen Bann in his book “Ways around Modernism” (Stephen Bann, 2006) wherein he formulates an “ambitious brief for the present-day artist in respect to curiosity”. I will elaborate on this brief with references to my own work, and show how a media-archaeological mindset, facilitated by a strong interest in and linkeage between art and science, can be an important source of inspiration for an artist. Being a media artist, I try to expand the code of the video apparatus by subverting parameters of the medium. One media-archeology based technique that I employ is re-injecting analogue elements into this highly digital apparatus. The technique of anamorphosis is one such analogue form of mediation that I employ in my PhD research: using multiple catoptrical anamorphoses with multiple optical (analogue) ‘lenses’ as mediators between the digital apparatus and the observer. This approach touches the core of my PhD research wherein I explore how interventions on a number of parameters of the video apparatus can generate a sense of wonder and curiosity with the observer, in search of a contemporary iteration of the concept ‘cinema of attractions’ (Tom Gunning, 1990). ‘Cinema of attractions’ being an everpresent undercurrent surging to the surface whenever the fascination for and the explicitation of the medium takes the lead. It is clear that this stress on curiosity as part of an artist’s brief also has an impact on research methodologies being used: research through design could in this context easily be rephrased as research through curiosity. Finally I will take this discourse one step further: if the artist succeeds in passing on (part of) his own deeply personal mode of curiosity to his audience, only then can curiosity start to offer the building blocks for a new epistemology for the present day (Madeleine Grynsztejn, 2007).


August 2018
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I currently have a PhD fellowship at KU Leuven, Associated Faculty of the Arts. This blog documents my PhD research, where I explore the workings of cylindrical anamorphosis in audiovisual media. My practice based arts research shows an evolution towards installation-based works.