The Vatican to Vegas: A History of Special Effects

A polymathic, all-embracing, skeptical collage in which Klein, who teaches at the California Institute of the Arts, explores special effects from Renaissance and early Baroque artists’ cultural domes, through trompe l’oeil and the great expositions of the Industrial Revolution to cinema, video games, theme parks and Las Vegas. He suggests that “scripted spaces,” whether in 1580 or today, become a central part of our cultural identities, from the stations of the cross to the arrangements in supermarkets, from the Sistine Chapel to the Bellagio. Drawing parallels between the labyrinths of 18th-century Venetian Giovanni Battista Piranesi and the mazes in computer games, between projections of power and the archi-tainment of Las Vegas, he suggests that such spaces are modes of perception—ways of seeing—and what matters most in the history of fakery is who controls the illusions.