The Magic Lantern Society

New Light on Old Media

Welcome to Issue 26 of New Light on Old Media

In issue 24 I suggested a trip to Vevey in Switzerland, where you could take in the multiple attractions of the Camera Museum, the new Charlie Chaplin Museum and the Museum of Games.

Now - believe it or not - there is yet another attraction in the town which features old media alongside the most up to date viewing experiences. This year
Nestlé, the world famous food company, long established in Vevey, is celebrating 150 years in business with the opening of a new, family-friendly, attraction called Nest.  The images shown above and below are from
their website, where you will also find an excellent short movie incorporating images of lantern projection, silhouettes and other ancient effects alongside intriguing new technology.

Mervyn Heard : Editor

Immersive Performance

The Roundhouse is an arts venue in North London. It was originally built as a railway engine repair shed and has a giant turntable at its heart. It has housed many innovative music and other media performances since it was renovated in the 1960s.

Last year the artist Ron Arad introduced his 360 degree immersive panorama formed from 5,600 silicon rods suspended from an 18 metre diameter ring, providing a wrap-around backdrop for live events within a projected environment.

The project, Curtain Call,  was so popular it has been brought back and will be operating this summer from 6 - 29 August when it will house severel new and specially commissioned works by various performers and artists, including a piece by Matt Collishaw, shown above.  You can discover more about the space and artists involved  here on the Roundhouse site.  You may also want to follow this link where, if you are so inclined, you can also find out more about the venue's fascinating former history.

Lichtspiele im Schatten der Armut

Dr Ludwig Vogl-Bienek is a senior researcher for "Screen 1900" which is based at the University of Trier in Germany. He is also a founding member of the magic lantern theatre group Illuminago presenting performances internationally.  For a number of years now Ludwig has been investigating the historical art of projection in Victorian Britain and this book is based on the results of these studies. Although the main text is in German the book offers many original references from English publications alongside a wealth of new images.  Copies of the book Lichtspiele im Schatten der Armut  (Lantern performances in the Shadow of Poverty)  are available here from Amazon books.


Cabaret du Neant
At last the T Shirt !

If you were interested in a bizarre night out in Montmartre during the Belle Epoque you might be drawn to visit the Cabaret du Neant and/or one of its two companion resorts - the Cabaret de l 'Enfer and Cabaret du Ciel.  Of these the Cabaret du Neant was without doubt the most popular with its coffins for tables, bone chandelier, 'poisonous' cocktails and, of most interest to us, a whole array of Pepper's Ghost style illusions housed in its cellars. The attraction survived right up until the time of the Second World War and today is something of a legend among lovers of the phantasmagorical. Now - somewhat belatedly - you can buy the T shirt! 
just a little more about the original venue here and/or buy the lovely T shirt (or a mug) here


More About the

Magic Lantern Society

If you have an interest in research or performance involving the magic lantern or other forms of vintage visual media  you might want to consider joining The Magic Lantern Society. We publish a regular quarterly printed journal and meet on a regular basis in the UK and other parts of Europe.
For further information and back issues of this e-letter go to  

You will find our sister organisation The Magic Lantern Society of the US and Canada here:

Illusions and Delusions 

The image you see above has been worrying internet surfers for some weeks now. This image which shows a series of square shapes reflected as circular in an ordinary flat mirror is not a camera trick. The illusion was in fact the runner up in this year's international Illusion of the Year Competition. You can see all of the finalists here.  Afficianados of Victorian optical toys may be particular interested in the winner of third prize.
This is a zoetrope device, but one in which the modus operandi is inverted with the images positioned
not within the slotted drum but surrounding it.

And while we're on the subject of zoetropes, you might like to check this one out too, sent to me by a reader. In this case a 3 dimensional moving figure is formed from a spinning pattern of light. The creator is artist Akinori Goto.


Museums of Illusion 

Croatia proves that you can never have too many museums devoted to the world of Illusions. There are currently two in Zagreb and Zadar, and pretty soon there will be another one in Ljubljana.  Lots of familiar but large scale optical puzzles are featured, including an 'Infinity Room'.  Here the visitor is surrounded entirely by mirrors giving the illusion that the room goes on forever and is populated with many versions of the viewer. This is not a new idea. The oldest surviving version I know of an Infinity Room being Le Palais des Mirages at the Musée Grévin in Paris.

Originally created for the Paris Exhibition of 1900 and still beguiling sophisticated modern audiences the full attraction is essentially a waxworks exhibition and if you've never been there I can highly recommend a visit.  Alternatively, if you're planning a trip to Croatia there are links to all of their Muzej Iluzija here.


Living Pictures at Laguna Beach

Each summer Laguna Beach in California stages an arts week centred on a somewhat bizarre event called The Pageant of the Masters.  This 90 minute stage show is a modern take on the kind of 19th century Tableaux Vivant exhibitions once popular in both public venues and private salons in which famous works of art were re-presented in tableau form incorporating real people. At Laguna Beach similar classic paintings and figurative sculptures combine with recent images from advertising billboards. All of the live models being drawn from the local community.  The attention to textural detail is quite extraordinary and, in some cases, its almost impossible to accept that the characters are real until they move. You can take a look at the video and remarkable gallery of images here on their site. This year's Pageant runs from July 7 - August 31.


New Light on Old Media Issue 26, August 2016
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