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Ether

The Nothing That Connects Everything

2005
Author:

Joe Milutis

Ether

Diagrams the interconnections among cosmic consciousness, hermetic avant-gardes, and technological progress

In Ether, the histories of the unseen merge with discussions of the technology of electromagnetism. Navigating more than three hundred years of the ether's cultural and artistic history, Joe Milutis reveals its continuous reinvention and tangible impact without ever losing sight of its ephemeral, elusive nature. The true meaning of ether, Milutis suggests, may be that it can never be fully grasped.

A valuable example of how we might begin to rethink our discipline and consider texts horizontally, in relation to contemporary culture outside the field, as well as vertically in terms of the ongoing evolution of the genre itself.

Extrapolation

Every culture has its own word for this nothing. Synonymous with the idea of absolute space and time, the ether is an ancient concept that has continually determined our definition of environment, our relations to each other, and our ideas about technology. It has also instigated our desire to know something irrepressibly beyond all that.

In Ether, the histories of mysticism and the unseen merge with discussions of the technology and science of electromagnetism. Joe Milutis explores how the ideas of Anton Mesmer and Isaac Newton have manifested themselves as the inspiration for occult theories and artistic practices from Edgar Allan Poe’s works to today. In doing so, he demonstrates that fading in and out of scientific favor has not prevented the ether, a uniquely immaterial concept, from being a powerful force for material progress.

Milutis deftly weaves the origins of electrical science with alchemical lore, nineteenth-century industrialism with yogic science, and network space with dreams of the absolute. Linking the ether to phenomena such as radio noise, space travel, avant-garde film, and the rise of the Internet, he lends it an almost physical presence and currency. From Federico Fellini to Gilles Deleuze, Japanese anime to Italian Futurism, Jean Cocteau to NASA, Shirley Temple to Wilhelm Reich, Ether traverses geographical boundaries, spiritual planes, and the divide between popular and high culture.

Navigating more than three hundred years of the ether’s cultural and artistic history, Milutis reveals its continuous reinvention and tangible impact without ever losing sight of its ephemeral, elusive nature. The true meaning of ether, Milutis suggests, may be that it can never be fully grasped.

Ether

Joe Milutis is assistant professor of art at the University of South Carolina. His writing has appeared in such publications as ArtByte, Wide Angle, Film Comment, and Cabinet.

Ether

A valuable example of how we might begin to rethink our discipline and consider texts horizontally, in relation to contemporary culture outside the field, as well as vertically in terms of the ongoing evolution of the genre itself.

Extrapolation

Joe Milutis has spun together a fascinating and complicated network of associations—artistic, scientific, intellectual, and popular—about how we understand the concept of the space between things. And the fact that he picks and chooses his examples based entirely on what inspires him personally is understandable. After all, that's what the book is really about. Milutis's book is a manifesto for something that seems to be driving artists everywhere. Ether is a vehicle for all of these desires, as well as a nice accounting of the people who have begun tapping into them. And if they're all as excited and prodigious as Milutis claims, we're on our way to seeing something new emerging from the ruins of the 20th century.

PopMatters

Ether has some three hundred years of influence. Here the ideas of electricity are woven with alchemical lore in a presentation that surveys the ether to ideas of space travel, film and even computers.

Midwest Book Review

Milutis writes compellingly about how present-day electronics and the Internet have ‘etherized’ life and commerce, and that this has material effects on how we live.

Forecast

Ether

Contents

Introduction: Superflux of Sky

Part I. Radiance and Intellect

1. Paradigm Lost: Ether and the Metaphysics of Pop Science
2. Holy Science, Film, and the End of Ether

Part II. The Lovely Intangibles

3. Radio, Ether, and the Avant-Garde
4- Ether Underground: The Postwar Representation of Outer Space

Conclusion: Visualizing Networks, Selling Transcendence

Acknowledgments
Notes

Index