Spectacular Attractions: Museums, Audio-Visuals and the Ghosts of Memory

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In the last decades, moving images have become a common feature not only in art museums, but also in a wide range of institutions devoted to the conservation and transmission of memory. This paper focuses on the role of audio-visuals in the exhibition design of history and memory museums, arguing that they are privileged means to achieve the spectacular effects and the visitors’ emotional and “experiential” engagement that constitute the main objective of contemporary museums. I will discuss this topic through the concept of “cinematic attraction,” claiming that when embedded in displays, films and moving images often produce spectacular mises en scène with immersive effects, creating wonder and astonishment, and involving visitors on an emotional, visceral and physical level. Moreover, I will consider the diffusion of audio-visual witnesses of real or imaginary historical characters, presented in Phantasmagoria-like displays that simulate ghostly and uncanny apparitions, creating an ambiguous and often problematic coexistence of truth and illusion, subjectivity and objectivity, facts and imagination.

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Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies

The Journal of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania

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