Of Skulls and Stealth: Reflections on the Image of the New Military Technology

Mark Dorrian
2003 Journal of Narrative Theory  
In his essay "Norm and Form," Ernst Gombrich commented that the standard art historian's technique of using twin slide projectors when lecturing had its origin in the work of Heinrich Wilfflin.1 Behind the all-toofamiliar double image lies an originary opposition which was of course the nexus of Principles of Art History, Wolfflin's most influential bookthe classic and the baroque-and which he analyzed in terms of his famous "five pairs of concepts": linear and painterly; plane and recession;
more » ... ne and recession; closed and open form; multiplicity and unity; and absolute and relative clarity (13-16). In the spirit of this opposition I want to invoke two images. They are both used for publicity purposes and appear on websites. On, let's say, the left hand side (on which the "classic" usually appears) is Concorde, commonly referred to as the most beautiful aircraft ever built. The text on the British Airways website describes it in a sort of Hegelian epiphany as the "perfect combination of form and function" (perfect "combinations" or "balances" are always classical).2 The aircraft is pictured as a transcendent object framed by the heavenly blue of the stratosphere. In contrast, the other image, that of the US Air Force's F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter aircraft, is a much more paradoxical affair. There are no perfect combinations here. Although evidently in the air, the object seems strangely and
doi:10.1353/jnt.2011.0039 fatcat:2ofl2weelnbbrp6rzysgo2l47m