- Sep 2017
Through care-ful looking, one comes to see an object as significant-as signifying; one comes to possess, to a greater or a lesser degree, a privileged historical knowledge and understanding.
This statement ties back to Haltman’s earlier classification of an object’s gerundial meaning or purpose. Material objects contain a present impact to assess and, perhaps, differentiate, from the significance of those objects in the past. After reading Lepawsky and Mather’s article on the history of the cathode ray tube, I came to know a lot more information about CRTs than I ever knew before. Their impact is astounding. For example, the cathode ray tube was instrumental in bringing television to the United States, an object our culture has since entrenched in nearly every part of society. The television is especially important for communication and media consumption; it was the television that cost Nixon the election! Not only did the cathode ray tube inspire one of the greatest cultural tools in history, it also dramatically restructured American society. Family life in the home was restructured around the television, and industry responded wholeheartedly to this rapid change. The mining industry surged in order to supply materials towards the creation of CRTs, and now CRTs leave a physical footprint in the history as they dwell, unwanted, in warehouses across the country. The CRT was a vital invention that snowballed technological infiltration and advancement of the American workplace, home life, and society. "The Day Politics and TV Changed Forever", an analysis of the 1960 election
read lustory, amt to dream hi~tury, emhedJed in-inscnhed in-objt"cts, m:hly and dynamically.
These words practically jump off the page with liveliness! This quote is a wonderful description of why objects and material culture are essential to our understanding and interpretation of society and of history. The insistence that objects are not simple, nor singular-purposed, allows readers to question the materials they have taken for granted in their own lives which likely contain a greater significance than they realize. Objects are vessels of culture, history, and story. Objects represent us; they even speak for us. Objects reveal our interests and desires - our fears and our weaknesses. What story might an object tell the next generation? Or yet, what story might an object from this lifetime tell to a generation that has no connection to this current time and place? The apocalyptic wasteland present in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake makes apparent that humans don’t always get to consciously choose which objects are passed on through history, and which ones are not. Who knows what parts of material culture will survive, and which parts might be obliterated forever from the minds of future generations? Discussing the AIDS Quilt in the way this class plans to will ensure a connection between the historical artifact and the future.
Image of the cover of Oryx and Crake:
Description of Oryx and Crake on Amazon: Amazon's Book Description
meeting with instructor
I am excited that we not only have access to guidance from Dr. Wharton, but also the administration at the NAMES Project. For example, information about the process through which a block on the AIDS Quilt is pieced together could not be inferred by looking at the block itself. Knowing that one woman handles this creative responsibility by blasting disco music and separating panels into colors like that which is found on a paint palette, is both awe-inspiring and crucial to the context of the Quilt. The NAMES Project hosts a dedicated staff that also contribute to the storytelling of the Quilt. The emotional labor that comes with opening the world’s eyes to the beautiful stories of those whom loved ones have lost to AIDS and HIV is compelling. It is this narrative that also feeds into the life of the Quilt.
Moreover, such polarities and oppositions offer effective analytic "hooks" of use in organizing insights
Good art, in classical Greece, contained four essential qualities: vitality, beauty, sensuality, and soul (Stewart, 8). Beauty informed by geometry was best, so, symmetria, or proportion, shaped Greek ideals of beauty (Stewart, 10). The Artemision Zeus is one such object and sculpture that encapsulates the balance and control cultivated through the use of polarities or opposites (Stewart, 46). This sculpture of Zeus embodies chiasmus, a state that mirrors the Greek letter 𝛘 (chi); a state of chiasmus projects a perfect alignment of binary opposites, an ideal critical to individual and societal harmony. For example, the Artemision Zeus flexes a right arm that is tense and engaged, yet a left arm that is straight and relaxed. Zeus’s left leg is flexed and engaged, but his right leg is relaxed and straight. This “clash of opposites” establishes kosmos, or order, in the figure by rhythmically instilling poise. Zeus’s absolute authority over imbalance and discord manifests as a combination of carefully constructed proportion and impassive control over opposing features. Completely inscribed within a seven Attic foot square, the Artemision Zeus epitomizes divine discipline and order through a meticulous occupancy of space. The top of the Artemision Zeus’s penis is the midpoint of the square, from which his knees and navel measure one and a half feet. Zeus’s sternum is located one and a half feet away from his navel, and his nipples are one foot apart (Stewart, 47). As Haltman describes here, the polarities present in an object help fuel our interpretation of that object’s significance, substance, and narrative. Polarities provide a multi-layered, multi-dimensional context to an object, and require one to analyze the object from different perspectives. Link to photo of the Artemision Zeus Stewart, Andrew. Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art. Cambridge University Press, 2008. See this text, Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art, on Google Books
anything left out of descrip-tion is lost to interpretation forever.
Visiting the NAMES Project illuminated the importance of archiving monumental pieces of craft and storytelling such as the AIDS Quilt. To be able to recreate an object’s “visual and physical effect in words” holds much greater significance than one might think (Haltman, 4). As Dr. Wharton discussed during our first visit to the NAMES Project, our work on this long-term project will have a greater reach than its effect on our grade in this class. Our descriptions of the panels on the AIDS Quilt will contribute to an interactive database for the AIDS Quilt, thus we have a serious responsibility to preserve and honor memories, history, and life. Additionally, fully recreating a panel’s “visual and physical effect in words” prevents it from falling vulnerable to obliteration without hope of recovery. As Roddy noted, the staff at the NAMES Project have photographs of all the panels as well as other information on file about them. When a panel needs to be repaired, thus, the staff knows exactly how the fabric should link together, or what a missing piece used to be, and where it goes. As Dr. Wharton mentioned, if an item in an archive is destroyed, there must be sufficient information about that item or object to inform future generations of its significance. History must be accessible to future generations as well as to as large an audience as possible. So we must recreate an object’s “visual and physical effect” as if it may no longer exist soon thereafter; perhaps that way, we might honor the nuances, intricacies, and impact of an object rightfully and most immediately. The Names Project Luckie St. Location:
From what that you see or know or feel has your sense of your object's thematic content emerged?
The term thematic content stood out to me in this sentence. I admire the way it indicates an active possession of qualities or characteristics.Thematic content encompasses both the intentions and interpretations of an object. Though the supplemental text I read did not explicitly analyze the physical and emotional qualities of the cathode ray tube, I believe that several inferences can be made about the CRT from the information that authors Lepawsky and Mather did include. Primarily, the CRT’s life showcases the usurping nature of technological advancement. Lepawsky and Mather describe the CRT’s first burst into mainstream culture as a colonization of “new terrain [in] the home” (Lepawsky, Mather). Through the medium of television, CRTS “displac[ed] other things, like pianos, that had once been centerpieces of home life” (Lepawsky, Mather). Yet in the 90’s especially, the CRT experienced its own removal from throne. The progression of knowledge often weeds out that which is no longer suitable to the current mainstream environment; however, it is clear that Lepawsky and Mather hope readers understand that the technological products we discard do not disappear, nor are they easily recycled. Finally, though objects may be discarded, it is important to note that their remnants may still circulate - perhaps the thematic content of the CRT implies a sort of invincibility. Though the CRT is not as popular as it once was, it still “makes a living” by entertaining from old television sets or arcade consoles. It also refuses an easy demise. Full of toxic materials, the CRT cannot be landfilled and does not break down. Instead, CRTs find themselves transformed as their parts are stripped and reused in other objects. So, they live on.
Speculation, moreover, reaches beyond unitary readings to lay stress instead on recognizing the object as a site of contested meanings
In “A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube's Strange Afterlife,” authors Josh Lepawsky and Charles Mather challenge the assertion that the cathode ray tube is “dead.” In arguing against the CRT’s death, Lepawsky and Mather simultaneously question whether or not it is possible for any objects or aspects of material culture to “die.” If material culture’s physical properties signify that it is alive simply because it exists in the physical realm, then, yes, the cathode ray tube does live on. Its life is not glamorous - for many CRTs live in waste dumps or abandoned warehouses - yet they are still here. Even with all the objects that culture may shift toward (in this case, flat screen televisions), perhaps there will always be remnants of what came before. The cathode ray tube, thus, is also a “site of contested meanings.” Is the CRT a present member of material culture? Some believe not. In my opinion, the CRT does live on as a piece of material culture. Its current circulation through the waste stream and, still, the entertainment sphere is worth analyzing so that we might seek its narrative. Though quieter, CRTs nevertheless remain. That is worth talking about.
Bibliography: Lepawsky, John and Mather, Charles. “A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube's Strange Afterlife.” The Atlantic. April 29, 2014. www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/a-terminal-condition/361313/. September 4, 2017.
Descriptton provides the bridge between the realm of the material and that of concepts and ideas.
This statement will guide our future panel descriptions beautifully. It is critical that we provide the link, or evidence, of our conclusions to the panel that we are studying. Statements supported directly by the physical, tangible object are powerful because they are credible. A practical, scientific approach towards analyzing an object limits the amount of personal imagination and invention one might use to defend one’s argument. Connecting individual opinion to physical evidence and fact constitutes a strong argument. For instance, the painting Woman, I by Willem De Kooning presents a misogynistic fear of a woman’s sexuality and of her empowerment. The painting depicts a terrifying, monstrous woman, whose vacuous eyes lack humanity, and whose sharp teeth convey a sense of danger. This ugly portrait has a number of physical aspects (besides the image it portrays) that reveal the brutality of its message, and explain the horrific response of critics. De Kooning painted this woman so feverishly that parts of the canvas are coated in layers of paint, spots to which De Kooning returned to over and over, desperate to communicate the aggressive nature of the modern woman. Compared to the pin-up doll images of its time, Woman, I piles together so many colors that the image itself becomes jarring to view. The woman’s large breasts are disarmingly emphasized, whereas her smile is frightening in its mindless eroticism. Her feet appear to be hooves. Such details on the ragged texture of the canvas as well as some of its more bulging features provide a context from which a viewer cringes in disgust and horror. Who is this woman, and what is being done to her? Willem De Kooning, Woman, I These are texts that describe Woman, I and its historical context: Additional Analysis of De Kooning's painting Second Additional Analysis of De Kooning's painting This video involves a detailed discussion of the painting and its symbolism, as well as how it was made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=208&v=y0xbZTe1JSM
Only if we slow this process down do we find ourselves enabled to recognize and so to evaluate, indeed question, the myriad conclusions we risk otherwise to draw uncritically; only thus can we control for our own-however well-intended-careless or precipitous or culturally-biased leaps to arguably wrong conclusions. Careful deduction buys at least the opportunity to consider a fuller range of possibilities.
The supplemental reading I chose to analyze is entitled “A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube's Strange Afterlife.” Authors Josh Lepawsky and Charles Mather introduce their article with a skeptical probe into the New York Times’ conviction that the “cathode ray tube is dead” (qtd. in Lepawsky and Mather). Questioning what it means for the cathode ray tube (CRT) to have lived and died, Lepawsky and Mather first discuss the origins of the CRT by informing readers of a pivotal 17th-century debate. Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle, a political theorist and aristocrat respectively, disputed the significance of Boyle’s vacuum pump, an apparatus Boyle passionately defended as extensive in its impact. Later in the 19th century, two experimenters fundamental to the field of electromagnetic physics demonstrated why the vacuum was an essential component of the cathode ray tube, and was thus, significant. J.J. Thompson proved that electrons passing through a vacuum form cathode rays; Karl Ferdinand Braun built vacuum tubes that contained an electron emitter and a fluorescent screen that allowed him to view electrical waveforms. These cathode ray tubes had the potential to display information on a screen, and this potential was enough to integrate the technology into the mainstream. As CRTs exited the laboratory, they swiftly found a new home and body in the television. Millions of CRTs were manufactured during the 1920’s, which required the additional mining and collection of plastic, glass, and metal, especially copper. TVs during this time only depicted static, but Americans still bought them. As this new cultural and technological phenomenon approached determinedly from the horizon, society eagerly and promptly began to reorganize itself in response. Advertisers envisioned a TV room as the new centerpiece of family life in the home, rather than a traditional piano, or even a radio. Additionally, CRT technology continued to develop with the advent of the computer in the 1950’s. Once CRTs utilizing a video display terminal (VDT) began to be introduced into the workplace, however, a number of health-related difficulties became apparent in the largely female population that worked with CRTs. High stress levels, skin damage, and miscarriages threatened the workforce. The study and revelation of CRT technology’s harms in the workplace took place in the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s. The discovery was an omen. Together, flat screen technology and advanced computer monitors replaced CRTs in the homes and minds of Americans. CRTs began to rapidly enter the American waste stream, but the lead located in a CRT’s glass screen as well as its other toxic components prompted U.S. states to ban the unwanted technology from their landfills. Landfilling CRTs might cause toxic materials to leach into surrounding soil or bodies of water. Unfortunately, CRTs have been abandoned in warehouses across the country. Though a CRT recovery economy has met demand in places seeking televisions or arcade consoles, the toxicity of the technology is dangerous to those hoping to strip CRTs of their valuable metals by burning them in acid baths or open flames. Are CRTs thus “dead?” Are they worthless? Authors Lepawsky and Mather ominously reference a bacterium found to thrive in toxic electronic waste as they end their article. Clearly, the remains of CRTs continue to circulate and impact, indicating that even outdated material culture does not go away easily.
Lepawsky, John and Mather, Charles. “A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube's Strange Afterlife.” The Atlantic. April 29, 2014. www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/a-terminal-condition/361313/. September 4, 2017.