Joseph L. Clarke, Art History and Architecture, University of Toronto
Room 130, 80 Queen's Park
Joseph Clarke is Assistant Professor of Modern Architecture in the History of Art department. His work broadly addresses relationships between architectural form, technics, and epistemology from the Enlightenment to the present. His current book project, The Acoustic Project: Modern Architecture and the Reflection of Sound, explores how research on reverberation influenced the spatial ambitions of modern architecture.
“Like fumes rising under the tripod of Pythia from Gaia’s holy, primal womb”—this is how Richard Wagner in 1873 described the phantasmagoric musical effects he hoped to achieve at his theater at Bayreuth, then under construction. Wagner’s claiming of architecture as a component of the Gesamtkunstwerk in his early writings is well known. Yet it was only in the late 1860s and 1870s that he developed an ideal of a hallucinogenic theater capable of inducing a state of dreamlike “blindness” in which visual consciousness would be overcome by oneiric auditory experience. This talk positions the design of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, by the architect and acoustic specialist Paul Otto Brückwald, in the context of Wagner’s mature, Schopenhauer-infused artistic philosophy. As an apparatus for the production of nonvisual spatial sensations, this unconventional building helped shape the modern idea of “acoustic space” and its associations with immersion, empathy, and synaesthesia.