Type d'actualité et date de publicationChercheur.es accueilli.es au CAK

Kurt Vanhoutte

Du 1er février au 31 août 2015


Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies & Spokesperson for the Research Centre for Visual Poetics of the University of Antwerp (www.visualpoetics.be).

Laureate Fellowship 'Research in Paris' 2015 (Ville de Paris)

Sujets de recherche

  • Projet : Geared to the Stars: Science Performance and Astronomy in Paris, Capital of Modernity.
  • Thèse de doctorat : Theatre Through the Looking Glass of New Media (2001, University of Antwerp)

Séminaires/ Autres collaborations

Spectacular Astronomy: historical and experimental explorations into the visual and spatial experience of planetariums, 19th-21st centuries

Research project within the programme iCAVS (Interdisciplinary Cluster for the Advancement of Visual Studies).
Principal investigator: Charlotte Bigg (CNRS, CAK, Paris), Second Principal investigator: Kurt Vanhoutte (University of Antwerp).

Duration: 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2015

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.

Éléments de bibliographie

Kurt Vanhoutte & Charlotte Bigg, “On the Border between Science, Performance and the Digital: the Embodied Orrery” In: International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media (Routledge: New York, 2014), pp. 255-260. Special issue: Hybridities: The intersections between performance and science and the digital.

Kurt Vanhoutte, Dieter Brusselaers, “Of Fairies and Skeletons: A dialectical encounter between the féerie and the phantasmagorie in Benjamin's Passagen-Werk” In: Lendemains. Etudes comparées sur la France (Narr Verlag: Tübingen, 2014), pp. 97-109. Special issue: La Féerie autour de 1900 - une figure de la modernité?

Kurt Vanhoutte,”The Specific Weight of Things” In : De Buysser, Pieter, Landscape with skiproads/Book Burning, two plays. Oberon Books, London, 2014, pp.11-15.

Kurt Vanhoutte & Kaat Debo, “Incunabula. Engineering the Ornament” in 1914, Now. Four perspectives on Fashion Curation. London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, 2014, pp. 39-45.

Vanhoutte Kurt. "Two-fold origin : performing hybrids between theatre and media" in
Contemporary theatre review-issn 1048-6801-20(2010),p. 475-485.

Vanhoutte Kurt, Wynants Nele. "Performing phenomenology : negotiating presence in intermedial theatre" in Foundations of science-issn 1233-1821-16(2011),p. 275-284.


This project 'Geared to the Stars' aims to map out the popularisation of astronomy in the theatres of nineteenth century Paris. The focus will be on the performance of astronomy in popular venues (theatres, opera houses and museums) as opposed to / in congruence with learned environments (lecture halls, science societies or observatories). Special attention will be paid to cultural instances of the Boulevard du Temple and those fostered by influential pioneers of the théâtre scientifique such as François Moigno, Henri Robin and Louis Figuier. Issues to address include the complex struggle between aesthetic conditions and scientific concerns, the relation to changing ideas of theatricality and the remarkable persistence of the shows to take mythic constellations as their subjects (secular magic, although they doubtlessly and at the same time celebrated technology and progress). This aim involves historicising the notion of spectacle along with its didactic goals, its aesthetic particularities and mediating technologies (such as moving transparent paintings, magic lantern slide projection and other mechanical devices). By analyzing archival sources of these performances (reviews, contracts, catalogues, posters, advertisements), their particular mode of address and the persuasive effect they had on the audience’s imagination, we aim to deepen the understanding of the ways in which theatre and science in modernity intersected and overlapped. Because of its highly tangible mode of production, representation and reception and because of its imbrication in other public discourses, both popular and learned, the theatre stage seemed the privileged site for the spectacularization of astronomy.