Picturing Aura

In cooperation with the Faculty of Humanities: History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

26mrt2018 20:00 - 21:30


A guide to this remarkable chapter in the history of photography: the history of efforts to photograph a mysterious radiant force that is said to surround living bodies and is known as ‘the aura’, by Professor Jeremy Stolow (Concordia University, Montreal).

While dismissed as pseudo-scientific nonsense by the scientific mainstream, pictures of aura are embraced by a range of actors — fringe scientists, psychics, spiritual healers, occultists, and artists — as authentic representations of the state of human vitality and of the true nature of the cosmos.

As such, they are said to constitute visible evidence confirming descriptions of subtle bodies and supernatural energies that belong to long histories of religious cosmology and healing arts.

Picturing Aura is thus (among other things) a story about heterodox uses of the orthodox instruments of science — especially, but not only photographic apparatus — in ways that challenge modern science’s monopoly over its own technological infrastructure.

Professor Stolow's lecture will offer a rough guide to this remarkable chapter in the history of photography, while at the same time drawing attention to some puzzling assumptions about media technologies as instruments of knowledge, and about how one is supposed to draw distinctions between the categories of science, medicine, religion, spirituality, and art.


Jeremy Stolow

About the speaker

Jeremy Stolow is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. For 2017-18, he is a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study. A social theorist by training, Stolow teaches media history and conducts research in the field of religion, media, and material culture. Among his publications are his books, Orthodox By Design: Judaism, Print Politics and the ArtScroll Revolution (2010) and Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between (2013).


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Location: SPUI25