The objective of this project is to bring together an international, interdisciplinary group of researchers from the human, social, and exact sciences as well as artists, visual technicians and planetarium professionals to investigate the history, present state and future of popular astronomical spectacles. Through an historical study and experimental digital reconstruction of planetarium performances since the early 19th century, we want to analyse a particularly important locus where spatial and visual cultures of modernity were elaborated and experienced at the intersection of science, technology and spectacle.
We look into the material and technological characteristics of these devices, their social and cultural context but also their perception and experience by different audiences. Thereby we also seek to develop new approaches and methodologies for studying visual cultures : science performances are a perfect object to initiate a conversation between history of science and performance studies, fields that have mostly ignored each other so far.
Integrating perspectives from art history, cultural studies and theory, communication and museum studies, this conversation will sharpen thinking about, e.g. the performativity of images, how to analyse their experience and if and how they stimulate belief. The experimental component explores the value of digital reconstructions of historical devices for academic investigation in fields related to visual studies and provides an opening to public thinking about these issues, including about their practical implementation for science communication in or as future planetariums.