The Shadow-Theatre of the World


Substantial Motion Research Network art

Farshid Kazemi and Siying Duan discuss their mutual interest in shadow-theatre and the magic lantern as early precursors to the art of the cinema. The conversation begins with how the use of shadow-puppetry in Plato’s allegory of the Cave and the Persian philosopher and poet Omar Khayyam’s reference to the magic lantern in the 11th century functioned as a technology to think about the ontological structure of the world. The origins of cinema is discussed in light of the shadow-play in India, China and Iran and in light of magic, shamanism, and the evocation of the spirit of the dead. Fascinating aspects of the phenomenon of shadows are discussed in Chinese and Persian and Shi’i-Islamic thought. The story of the origin of Chinese shadow-play is mentioned and finally; how the cinema was received in light of indigenous traditions of the shadow-play and the magic lantern within Chinese and Iranian culture at the turn of the last century.