Monday, April 23, 2018

Museumised: Rose-Coloured Resurrection

The Loud Family for the PBS documentary An American Family,
which "devastated" them when media called them "affluent zombies"
while accusing gay son Lance Loud (upper left) of
"camping and queening about like a pathetic court jester".
"We all become living specimens under the spectral light of ethnology, or of anti-ethnology which is only the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of differences."
-- Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (p. 16)
With the mission of chronicling the "daily life of the Louds - an upper-middle class family from May 30 to December 31, 1971, PBS museumized the family as it fetishized their interactions and relationships in the series An American Family aired in 1973. They became specimens before the camera, which precipitated the parental divorce and the punk antics of Lance Loud, who had famously corresponded with artist Andy Warhol as a teen. Sited as the first "reality TV" show, An American Family changed the lives of the Louds, and it "changed my life," stated Craig Gilbert, the creator of the series stated in 2011 in a New Yorker interview. In a subsequent HBO drama titled Cinema Verite about the making of An American Family aired in 2011, the producers tried to "convey the surreal enormity of An American Family to viewers who are more accustomed to the idea of living in public, whether in front of cameras or through social media" and understanding the innocence of the early 1970s. Writes Baudrillard, "More interesting is the phantasm of filming the Louds as if TV weren't there. The producer's trump card was to say: "They lived as if we weren't there." An "absurd paradoxical formula--neither true, nor false: but utopian"(50) wrote Baudrillard while concluding that the family were victims of a sacrificial spectacle offered to 20 million Americans (51-52). Such museumification of human subjects continues more broadly today in everyday life everywhere as every minute seemingly is captured and uploaded for all to see. An American Life is a harbinger of the Internet exploitation of the individual and all of the social media disasters to come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Model T Ford


On October 1, 1908, the first production Model T Ford is completed at the company’s Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford would build some 15 million Model T cars. It was the longest production run of any automobile model in history until the Volkswagen Beetle surpassed it in 1972.
Before the Model T, cars were a luxury item: At the beginning of 1908, there were fewer than 200,000 on the road. Though the Model T was fairly expensive at first (the cheapest one initially cost $825, or about $18,000 in today’s dollars), it was built for ordinary people to drive every day. It had a 22-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and was made of a new kind of heat-treated steel, pioneered by French race car makers, that made it lighter (it weighed just 1,200 pounds) and stronger than its predecessors had been. It could go as fast as 40 miles per hour and could run on gasoline or hemp-based fuel. (When oil prices dropped in the early 20th century, making gasoline more affordable, Ford phased out the hemp option.)  “No car under $2,000 offers more,” ads crowed, “and no car over $2,000 offers more except the trimmings.”
Ford kept prices low by sticking to a single product. By building just one model, for example, the company’s engineers could develop a system of interchangeable parts that reduced waste, saved time and made it easy for unskilled workers to assemble the cars. By 1914, the moving assembly line made it possible to produce thousands of cars every week and by 1924, workers at the River Rouge Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan could cast more than 10,000 Model T cylinder blocks in a day.
But by the 1920s, many Americans wanted more than just a sturdy, affordable car. They wanted style (for many years, the Model T famously came in just one color: black), speed and luxury too. As tastes changed, the era of the Model T came to an end and the last one rolled off the assembly line on May 26, 1927.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Aestheticizing Darwin's Ideas

Ernst Haeckel

 Selections from the the film Proteus, a documentary concerning the life, work, and philosophy of Ernst Haeckel, a 19th century naturalist. The film tells of the man's character and influences while using his detailed engravings of Radiolaria, single celled marine organisms, to make animated progressions. 

Jean Painleve

Extract from Jean Painlevé The Seahorse 1934  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Harry Smith

"Tracking and gathering are interdependent. It is tracking that holds the murmuration together, and it is the collective intelligence or gathering of the flock that enables it to track the sky. This reiterative process is an oscillation of author, work, world, and intention. It simultaneously absorbs, propels, corrects, and posits."
...Creativity, page 63