This month in Five Books, art historian and fellow Zone author Christopher S. Wood (Anachronic Renaissance), selects Christopher Heuer’s recent release, Into the White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image as a 2019 Best Book on the Northern Renaissance. Click here to read Wood’s full commentary on the book. An excerpt appears below:
“We often think of the Renaissance and the early modern period as the age of exploration. Technology and map making provide explorers with the tools to discover terra incognita. Only here, we’re talking about discovering the undiscoverable. The Arctic really challenged the anthropological worldview that you describe. Many of the early European descriptions of the Arctic as relayed in Christopher Heuer’s book seem to orbit around ideas of indiscernability and blindness.
What Heuer calls degraded visibility represents a breakdown of humanist stabilities and certainties. Artistic perspective, pioneered in the Renaissance, is the symbol of these certainties. Into the White is essentially saying that the experience of Arctic exploration, into the icy wilderness, was profoundly disorienting and destabilising and permanently challenged any assumptions we may have had about the efficacy of the subject’s attempt to grasp the object through representational regimes. This is a very original book. You would think there would be nothing to say about this vast emptiness.”