Abstract- David McConville

Cosmological Cinema: Pedagogy, Propaganda, and Perturbation in Early Dome Theaters

Cultures around the world have long turned to the dome of the heavens to understand and affirm their realities. As this perceived curvature has manifested architecturally throughout the world, domes have been used to enclose the most sacred environments of many cultures. The rounded enclosures have often been used as canvases upon which to represent psycho-cosmological constructs, painted with artistic renderings of incorporeal ideals. From Buddhist stupas to Islamic mosques to Christian cathedrals, these structures have been used as places of ritual, indoctrination, and transcendence. With both internal and external surfaces often steeped in visually symbolic and geometric meaning, domes have artistically and architecturally represented the worldviews from which they arose and were meant to sustain.
In the 20th century, it became possible for the first time to radially extend mental images onto the dome screen using projections of light. Made possible by advancements in engineering, mechanics, and electronics, the ability to completely immerse the visual field of audiences in a mediated environment was seized upon by numerous pioneers in a wide range of contexts. These modern multi-sensory sanctuaries continued to reflect the cosmologies and motivations of their creators, subtly affecting the evolutionary trajectory of the cultures from which they emerged.
This poster explores the motivations behind the construction and application of dome theatres in an attempt to provide insights into the worldviews and cultural trends that shaped their evolution. The goal is to make new connections between disparate efforts that can shed light on a largely forgotten history - a history that is increasingly relevant as a global network of immersive domed theatres are developed for education, outreach, and media arts experimentation in the 21st century.