detail of a drawing in a book
  • detail of a drawing in a book
Sponsored by the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University

The Bird’s-Eye View and the Balloonist


Mark Rosen, University of Texas at Dallas

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

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.