“The Question of Scale. A Neglected Aspect of Images: Just How Big is too Big?” 
July 15th 2009 – Berlin School of Mind and Brain


The challenge of measuring a physical representation such as an image or an artifact presents many interesting dilemmas, both practical and theoretical. What measures are possible and which make most sense? Within the scope of possible methods, a “scientific” approach takes into consideration the visibility of the artifact: size relative to observer, perception of the detailing, the role of visual acuity, illumination levels, object reflectance and other physical factors. Another approach looks at limiting factors during creation of the artifact: working time, availability of material and mapower, allocation of space, economic cost, and social and political background.

Applying both approaches to the large variation in dimensions of representation – from the miniature to the massive frescoes, from the minuscule statuette to the colossi, from the sub-millimetric intricacy of the illustrations of the Book of Kells to the American Flag on Wall Street – shows that the question of scale is a complex cascade of technological, financial and theocratic-ideological pressures on the one hand, and of our perceptual capacities on the other.

–Ruggero Pierantoni lives and works in Genoa, Italy. Upon completing his doctorate in Biophysics at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Genoa, he moved on to work at Florida State University Department of Electron Microscopy, Tallahassee, Florida; Max Planck Institut für Biologische Kybernetik, Tübingen; California Institute of Technology, CALTECH and Calgary Medical School. His main research interests have included ultrastructure of synapses in the visual system, white noise technology in electrophysiology, interface between computer and electron microscope, transmission and scanning. Beginning in 1980, Pierantoni expanded into visual and acoustic perception, theory of representation, as well as drawing of the blind. From 1990, on invitation of Prof. Joseph Rykwert, Pierantoni taught at the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. Additional visiting professor placements have included the Centre for Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario; VIRGINIATECH in Washington D.C.; University of Toronto, Department of Italian Studies; and Dizraeli School of Architecture and Urbanism, Carleton University, Ottawa. Apart from papers in international technical and scientific journals, Pierantoni is the author of nine books on visual perception, history of vision, history of architecture, scientific iconology, and architectural acoustics.

Curated by Anton Burdakov