Advances in technology allow us to see the invisible: fetal heartbeats, seismic activity, cell mutations, virtual space. Yet in an age when experience is so intensely mediated by visual records, the centuries-old realization that knowledge gained through sight is inherently fallible takes on troubling new dimensions. This book considers the ways in which seeing, over time, has become the foundation for knowing (or at least for what we think we know).
A. Joan Saab examines the scientific and socially constructed aspects of seeing in order to delineate a genealogy of visuality from the Renaissance to the present, demonstrating that what we see and how we see it are often historically situated and culturally constructed. Through a series of linked case studies that highlight moments of seeming disconnect between seeing and believing—hoaxes, miracles, spirit paintings, manipulated photographs, and holograms, to name just a few—she interrogates the relationship between “visions” and visuality. This focus on the strange and the wonderful in understanding changing notions of visions and visual culture is a compelling entry point into the increasingly urgent topic of technologically enhanced representations of reality.
Accessibly written and thoroughly enlightening, Objects of Vision is a concise history of the connections between seeing and knowing that will appeal to students and teachers of visual studies and sensory, social, and cultural history.