The bird's-eye view
Julie Johnson is working on a book-length study on the bird's-eye view that incorporates the visual cultures of modernity and the traditions of the Imperial Baroque. The bird's-eye view is not a completely new form in modernity: rather it is a traditional form from the Baroque period that engenders a cosmological point of view, and enjoys a renaissance at the 1875 World's Fair in Vienna. New inventions (the hot-air balloon), popular entertainments (the revolving panorama and the ferris wheel at the Prater), and early cinema offered spectators a moving and temporary bird's-eye view of the city. Modernist architects and city planners also utilized the bird's-eye view, not only in plans but also as decorative finishes. The bird's-eye view is about perspective - the location of the subject in real space or the imagination. It requires a literal view from on high, or alternatively a visual concept of space outside the self. The dominant position of the spectator in the bird's-eye view is related to nineteenth-century panoramism, its new technologies and spectacular entertainments. The bird's-eye view is made popular in the nineteenth century, but its connection to the dominant viewpoint of the Monarch is equally important in this alternate reading of Viennese Modernism. The bird's-eye view recapitulates in visual metaphor a central dilemma of Habsburg rule: one ruler oversees and administers a far-flung empire - one that is too large to be visible without a cosmological or omniscient point of view.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at San Antonio
Among others: Athena Goes to the Prater: Parodying Ancients and Moderns at the Vienna Secession, in: Oxford Art Journal, 26, 2, 2003, p. 47-70; Writing, Erasing, Silencing: Tina Blau and the (Woman) Artist's Biography, in: Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, 4, 3, Autumn 2005; Helene Funkes Stillleben: Ein Blick auf das Übersehene, in: Helene Funke (1869-1957), Linz 2007; Theater as Therapy at Mauer-Öhling: The Fin-de-Sècle Realization of a Romantic Dream?, in: Illness, Mad(wo)men and Crime: Myth, Metaphor and Reality in Austrian Arts and Sciences, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (forthcoming). She is also writing a book based on her dissertation, which won the Austrian Cultural Institute Prize. It is provisionally titled "The Memory Factory: Influence anxiety and gender in the art of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna".