In The Age of Total Images, art historian Ana Peraica focuses on the belief that the shape of the planet is two-dimensional which has been reawakened in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the ways in which these ‘flat Earth’ conspiracy theories are symptomatic of post-digital image culture. Such theories, proven to be false both in Antiquity and Modernity, but once held to be true in the Medieval Period, have influenced a return to a kind of ‘New Medievalism’.
By tracing visual representations of the planet across Western history and culture, Peraica provides support for a media-based explanation behind the reappearance of flat Earth theories. Through an adventurous exploration of the ways the Earth has been represented in sculptural globes, landscape painting, aerial photography, and even new media art, she proposes that a significant reason for the reemergence today in the belief that the world is flat lies in processes and practices of representation which flatten it during the compositing of photographs into ‘total images’. Such images, Peraica argues, are principally characterized by the disappearance of the subjective point of view and angle of view from photography, as the perspectival tool of the camera is being replaced with the technical perspective of the map, and human perception with machine vision, within a polyperspectival assemblage. In the media constellation of these total images, photography is but one layer of visual information among many, serving not to represent some part of the Earth, but to provide an illusion of realism.