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Mechanisms in the Mist: A Media Archaeological Excavation of the Mechanical Theater

  • Erkki Huhtamo
Chapter
Part of the Avant-Gardes in Performance book series (AGP)

Abstract

Theatrical spectacles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries played an important role as models in the formation of media culture. They provided scenographic inspiration for popular touring spectacles like peepshows, puppet shows, and ombres chinoises. A particularly interesting case was a spectacle known by many names, such as theatrum mundi, Mechanisches Theater, or Theatre of the Arts. Its formation took place in the eighteenth century, but its true era of prominence was the nineteenth century, when shows fitting such designation toured far and wide in Europe and the Americas. This chapter discusses the mechanical theater as a cultural form, probing its relationship to the legitimate theater and to parallel optical spectacles, such as dioramas and magic lantern shows, from which it appropriated features, and situates them within a genealogy of media cultures.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am in eternal gratitude for Jean-Paul Favand for his support and encouragement, which has made my research of Théatre Morieux possible. The entire team of the Musée des Arts Forains (Paris Bercy) has helped me. Suzanne Wray has shared ideas and sources about mechanical theaters for years. Without Nele Wynants’ invitation and persistence this article would never have been finished. Thomas Weynants has helped in many ways; it was from Thomas that I first learned about mechanical theaters. Last but not least, Lars Rebehn (Dresden), Manfred Wegner (Munich), and Ingrid Sonvilla (Salzburg) gave me access to important resources.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Los Angeles, UCLALos AngelesUSA

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