Following the Rainbow
Following the Rainbow
Chapter five, “Following the Rainbow: The Prism as Queer Instrument and Method of Imaginative Projection,” pursues an alternate route of possibility in the scene of projection in the dark room activated by employing as a method the instrument of an analytics of wonder: the prism. At once a child’s toy that refracts white light into a rainbow of colors in the devised night of the dark room and a scientific device of projection that elucidates a methodology of looking without clearing out or abjecting, the prism illuminates the potentialities of a practice of the both/and or the methodology of what I call “projective prismatics.” Pursuing the old media that haunt the new, this chapter revisits the lingering effects and possibilities of the instrument central to what is called the “Scientific Revolution.” This culminating chapter takes up the prism as a projective instrument related to the other devices for casting images in a darkened chamber (the camera obscura, the magic lantern, the solar microscope, and devices for casting shadows) to perform the possibilities of thinking and imagining otherwise, beyond the impasse of the cutting choices of optimism versus realpolitik or reparative versus paranoid reading. In promising the demonstration of the essential properties of light and color occulted within what would otherwise deceive the eye as a reified, unitary whiteness, the prism offers another logic of projective speculation and its potential materialization. Looking materially at the historical case of the image cast by light shown through the prism illuminates the productive instabilities of the scene of image projection as a vehicle for not only the visible proof of natural laws but the affective transports of wonder and the kinds of transformative effects on matter associated with the work of alchemy. Ultimately, I argue for the prism as the neglected device of projection whose forgotten or overlooked properties of casting multiple lights illuminates the potentials of immersion, differentiation, and alteration already immanent in the technical set-up and scene of image projection.
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