Art History: Moholy-Nagy: Photography and Space-Time
Donna West Brett: Moholy-Nagy: Photography and Space-Time
László Moholy-Nagy enthusiastically embraced photography as an art form that might concretize the fourth dimension by integrating light with space and time. His experiments with new materials and techniques, which fostered this aesthetic enterprise, drew inspiration from recent advances in optical science and modern conceptions of space influenced at the time by theoretical advances in the fields of geometry and physics. Moholy’s pioneering development of painting with light was advanced by technology-driven experiments that he used to progress what he called “camera vision.” Through his writings and photographic practice, Moholy embraced a way of thinking beyond representation and the ability to provide a trace of something seen to that which lies beyond sight. This paper takes key examples to explore the ways that Moholy extended the medium to represent the fourth dimension of space-time, both as visually ambiguous and beyond the physical as a way to embrace time and motion in the still-moving image.
Donna West Brett is an Associate Professor and Chair of Art History at the University of Sydney. She is author of Photography and Place: Seeing and Not Seeing Germany After 1945 (Routledge, 2016); and co-editor with Natalya Lusty, Photography and Ontology: Unsettling Images, (Routledge, 2019). Her current research projects include Photography in the Weimar Republic, Picturing Privacy: The Surveillance Legacy of East Germany, and Accidents, Anarchism, Calamity: Photographing Disaster in Britain. Brett is a recipient of the 2017 Australian Academy of the Humanities, Ernst and Rosemarie Keller Award, Research Leader for the Photographic Cultures Research Group, and Editorial Member for the Visual Culture and German Contexts Series, Bloomsbury.
Image caption: László Moholy-Nagy, Untitled, c. 1940, gelatin silver photogram, 50.1 x 40.2 cm. Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of George and Ruth Barford, 1968.264. © 2018, The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY/Scala, Florence.