Accelerated or Slowed Perspective

Perspective accélérée ou ralentie A film by Benoît Labourdette (3’57s, 2018). Where we discover that architecture is much less real than we imagined. thumbnail Benoît Labourdette
15 August 2018. Published by Benoît Labourdette.

Where we discover that architecture is much less real than we imagined.

Contents of the film

This film consists of a quotation from the beginning of the book Anamorphosis or Thaumaturgus opticus by Jurgis Baltrušaitis (Flammarion, 1984, collection Depraved perspectives), on “depraved” images of the Pantheon in Rome.

References

Some references, which can illuminate the text and the film :

  • Plato. Philosopher. 428 to -347 BC.
  • Vitruvius. Architect. 90 BC to 20 AD.
  • The Pantheon. Monument in Rome. 125 AD. JC.
  • Jurgis Baltrušaitis. Historian of art. 1903 to 1988.

The text read in the movie

Accelerated or slowed perspective

The difference between the object and its vision has retained philosophers and artists of all times. Plato, in The Sophist, distinguishes two imitative arts: the art of copying, reproducing forms exactly, and the art of evocation, transposing them into the realm of appearances. Large works of sculpture or painting look different than they are: the upper parts too small, the lower parts too large, so beautiful figures are no longer beautiful if their true proportions are maintained. To keep them that way, artists, caring little about truth, give them not the natural forms, but those they consider the happiest. This is no longer reality, but fiction. “The works that, considered from a good point of view, resemble beauty but no longer offer, properly examined, the resemblance they promised are ghosts.” And the art that produces them is a phantasmagoria.

Vitruvius takes up this reasoning, drawing practical conclusions from it. Since what is true seems false and things seem to be otherwise than they are, we must add or subtract. For an architectural façade, the operation consists in replacing the straight lines by the curves, thickening, raising, tilting certain parts. The result is several depravations. The drums expand in the middle, the stylobates bulge, the columns of the corners swell (one fiftieth of the diameter), the architraves fall forward (from the twelfth part of their height).

Undoubtedly, it is only a question of light corrections “to remedy the error of the sight”. But it is the same principle of the distortion of natural forms where equality is obtained by unevenness and stability by shaking. The architecture, conceived in this way, is not a strict reality but a Platonic ghost.

Extract from “Anamorphosis or Thaumaturgus opticus” by Jurgis Baltrušaitis (Flammarion, 1984).

Credits

Reading, pictures, music, directed by Benoît Labourdette.