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Electricity and Imagination

Seminar Machines and Imagination, 2012-2013

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Published on Thursday, December 06, 2012 by Elsa Zotian


Throughout the nineteenth century the astonishing technical success of electricity had a great impact on the contemporary imagination. The Volta’s battery which impressed Napoleon, the telegraph system that linked Europe and United States and later the electric light and the x-rays fascinated not only physicists but also artists, men of letters and eclectic intellectuals. The lightning  that gives life to the doctor Frankenstein’s creature in the Mary Shelley novel is the most known case. But also the photographs representing Duchenne de Boulogne’s studies of human facial expressions produced via electrical stimulation and the ‘futuristic’ arc lamp painted by Giacomo Balla are emblematic examples of reactions and interactions between technical development and artistic creativity. The aim of the seminar is to explore how, in a period that was later defined the age of electricity, both science and arts contribute to the representation of electrical technologies.


organization:  Pierre Cassou-Noguès, Viktoria Tkaczyk, Koen Vermeir

guest organizer: Christian Carletti


09:00 - 09:30

  • Koen Vermeir (SPHERE), Christian Carletti (SPHERE)
    Electrical machines and imagination

09:30 - 11:00  

  • Paolo Brenni (National Research Council - CNR, Florence)
    Fairies, Lightnings and Dynamos: Symbols and Allegories in the History of Electricity
  • Ulf Otto (Stiftung Universität Hildesheim)
    ‘Pandora oder Götter-Funken’. Electricity as Pantomime

11:00 – 11:30 break

11:30 – 1:00

  • Christine Blondel (Centre Koyré, Paris)
    Which Representations for Electrical "Healing Machines" in Late 19th Century France: Between Scientific Precision, Consecration and Nightmare
  • Baptiste Brun (Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
    Art brut and electricity: an anti-modern iconography? 

1:00 – 2:30 lunch           

2:30 – 4:00

  • Remko Scha (University of Amsterdam)
    Electric Power and the Human Body
  • Sam Halliday (Queen Mary, University of London)
    Bipolarity and Sexuality 

4:00 – 4:15 break

4:15 – 5:00

  • Laura Ludtke (University of Oxford)
    Electric Lights, New Mesmerism, and the Spectacle of Science in Richard Marsh's ‘The Beetle’ (1897)


  • Bâtiment Condorcet, Room Mondrian 646A (6th floor) - 4 Rue Elsa Morante
    Paris, France (75013)


  • Wednesday, December 05, 2012


  • électricité, imagination, littérature, technologie, histoire de la technologie


  • Christian Carletti
    courriel : christian [dot] carletti [at] unibo [dot] it

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Christian Carletti
    courriel : christian [dot] carletti [at] unibo [dot] it

To cite this announcement

« Electricity and Imagination », Study days, Calenda, Published on Thursday, December 06, 2012, https://calenda.org/230734

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