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Tags for: The Bird’s-Eye View and the Balloonist
  • Lecture

Sponsored by the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University

detail of a drawing in a book

A View from the Balloon at Its Greatest Elevation (detail), from Airopaidia (1786) by Thomas Baldwin

The Bird’s-Eye View and the Balloonist

Wednesday, September 27, 2023, 6:00 p.m.
Location:  Lecture Hall
John C. and Sally S. Morley Family Foundation Lecture Hall
John C. and Sally S. Morley Family Foundation Lecture Hall

About The Event

Free; no ticket required

The late 18th century witnessed the rise of the hot-air balloon as a mode of transport and, perhaps more importantly, as an instrument of spectacle. Crowds gathered to watch aerialists embark on their journeys, which often were celebrated with retrospective prints and published narrative accounts. The balloonists of the 18th century were the first to achieve a true aerial prospect, but their modes of seeing were in many ways conditioned by the maps and views of preceding centuries that approximated or imagined ways of seeing from above. The tension between firsthand experience and conventional visualization can be accessed in the writings and images from the earliest balloon voyages, in which aerialists resorted to metaphors and signification, drawing heavily from the language of preexisting cartography rather than accounting for the embodied viewing that this newly available phenomenon afforded. The techniques and materials discussed in this talk concern both conscious and unwitting adoptions of a cartographic vocabulary to an incommensurable new experience.

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