Glare Captured Through Telescope Eyes: On Seeing and Unseeming in the New Ethers
Esther Leslie, Birkbeck, University of London
October 5, 2022 · 5:00 pm—7:00 pm · 010 East Pyne
Department of Comparative Literature
Ethers come and go. Devices make present spectacular and sublime incomprehensibilities, the tiniest shudders in space and time, a glimmer from something so distant its seeming existence might just be an effect of the mechanism – lending interest to Adorno’s line about the splinter in one’s eye being the best magnifying glass . Our media eyes are directed towards an cosmic turbidity offworld, but we have our clouds, fogs, ethers on Earth too and they equally present conundrums to the unaided eye. This talk explores galactic desire and earthbound ethers designed to capture and communicate the business of the world. It asks what nature, what new nature, is seen through new and old lenses and how does it look back. Adorno claimed in 1956 that ‘Philosophy exists in order to redeem what you see in the look of an animal’. What do we see in – and through – robot eyes? In the lens of telescopes? What do they see in us, and for whom? Can we speak of a new ontology of vision – or subsumption by the provisional – in the age of turbid media?
Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London. Her interests lie in the poetics of science and imbrications of politics and technologies, with a particular focus on the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, as well as the poetics of science, European literary and visual modernism and avant gardes, animation, colour and madness. Current work focuses on turbid media and the aesthetics of turbulence. Her books include various studies and translations of Walter Benjamin, as well as Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (2002); Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (2005); Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (2014), Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (2016) and Deeper in the Pyramid (2018) and The Inextinguishable (2021), both with Melanie Jackson.