Author Archives: Haidy Geismar

Haidy Geismar

About Haidy Geismar

Lecturer, Digital Anthropology and Material Culture, UCL

On Scanning Fluff

Haidy Geismar, UCL

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I’ve been working on a paper for a workshop on “Transforming data: drawing otherness into data debates” next week. I will be talking about one of  my current research projects, Te Ara Wairua – Pathways of the Intangible. In collaboration with Kura Puke and Stuart Foster of Massey University and Te Matahiapo Research Organization in Aotearoa New Zealand we have been exploring how digital technologies can connect to a Maori Korowai (cloak) held currently in the UCL Ethnography Collections.

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Tukutuku roimata, I.0013, see, ethcat.museums.ucl.ac.uk/detail.aspx?parentpriref=[/caption]

Together we are developing a critical perspective on the ways in which digital technologies can, or cannot, be used to connect communities to far away collections. We all have different interests and investments in the project, and these have generated different research questions. Kura Puke and Te Matahiapo have brought the Maori conception of Wairua (meaning spiritual energy), to the project. This is a category that instantiates Maori philosophies of the virtual within which the digital fits neatly inside. Wairua is understood as a form of connectivity across space and time connecting people, through taonga such as the Maori cloak. Stuart Foster, a spatial designer, is interested in creating virtual environments in which people can simultaneously experience the same events and objects. As curator of the Ethnography collection and director of the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology, I am interested in thinking about the process of digitization and exploring different digital modalities in order to critique the world view and subject position that is all too often celebrated unthinkingly in contemporary efforts to reconstruct objects as 3d Digital surrogates.

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Huirangi Eruera Waikerepuru, Mereiwa Broughton, Te Urutahi Waikerepuru, Tengaruru Wineera being projected through Facetime into UCL Octagon Gallery from Wharenui Te Ururongo, Pouakai, on June 17, 2014

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Representatives of Ngati Ranana, and UCl Museums and Collections engaging with Te Matahiapo in the UCL Octagon Gallery, June 17 2014

 Together our project has had a number of different events and outputs. We have held several virtual powhiri – ritual environments in which Maori elders have been able to connect to communities in London through real time broadband and cellular connections. We have exhibited the cloak within a digital environment using specially developed sound carrying light. These LEDs channel live sounds to bathe the cloak with light drawing attention to the materiality and environmental qualities of the digital and creating a DIY method of facilitating connection between communities and artefacts across time and space. We have experimented with 3D imaging of the cloak, using laser scanning, photogrammetry, and different software platforms.

cloak

An attempt to create a 3D image of the cloak using photogrammetry

In the places I’ve presented this already we have started to think a lot about deconstructing the positivism of 3D scanning in museum projects. The Korowai, made up of flax, wool, and the hair of the polynesian dog is remarkably resistant to digital data capture – its very difficult to scan textiles or to recreate the exact form of hair tassels. I’m interested to explore this process in terms of what the digitization process can illuminate about the object even if it is a failure in terms of creating a perfect simulacrum. Do my “failed” scans and photogrammetric representations of the cloak expose something else about the object? A sense of loss and disconnect? or do they open the door to alternative ways in which digital technology may represent the cloak?

I’ve therefore been thinking about failed scanning and failed digital representation. I took a piece of wool, similar to that on the cloak, from the Ethnography Collections to UCL’s Institute of Making and have spent some time trying to scan it with the intention of showing the limits of current technologies to represent certain kinds of objects. Working with the Institute employee and artist Zachary Eastwood Bloom we struggled to scan the fluff to various degrees of failure.

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3d scan of a piece wool from the ethnography collections

Whilst there are craftspeople who could create a perfect simulacrum of wool using digital tools, the photographic metaphors currently used to describe 3d museum collections failed us in trying to understand the kinds of images of wool and fluff we generated directly from the 3D scanner. The conversation turned at the Institute of Making in the same direction my conversation with Kura and stuart had turned – what other properties of digital materialities could bring us closer to these objects?

Eastwood Bloom’s own work mirrors that of our work within Te Ara Wairua. He has been interested in converting 3D digital scans of objects by editing the scans to create new kinds of objects and like us is interested in the process of translation that the digital affords – converting light into shape, two dimensions into three. Uncannily just as we were converting the cloak into a landscape using gaming software, converting sounds channeled from New Zealand into light to connect to the Cloak at UCL, and converting images of the cloak into sound,  Zachary was experimenting with creating digital terrains from audio outputs.

This convergence shows the benefits of having a make space like the Institute of Making on campus  enabling academics to move their ideas into material realm no matter what their discipline or skills set. These experiments, and our research project with the cloak, are increasingly working with the digital as a medium of translation rather than a technique of perfect visualization which has important effects for the possibilities of how we may use digital collections to connect objects to communities in ways other than that of the simulacrum, using discourses other than that of “virtual” repatriation.

Survivor Objects

“Survivor Objects” considers the meanings of material objects that have been tempered by trauma. By bearing historical witness, such objects can come to hold a privileged place in cultural memory and, as a result, play a powerful role for present-day communities. The symposium features faculty, graduate students, curators, and conservation specialists from across the country.  Please see the full program for panel and paper topics.

Details are available on the website

 

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Craft Museum: Ideals and Practice

March 13, 2015, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Keynote: Sir Christopher Frayling, former Rector, Royal College of Art

Paper submissions from senior and emerging museum professionals, scholars, and educators are invited for this symposium, which will examine the role of the craft museum in modern culture. Coinciding with the renovation of the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian’s national craft museum, this program seeks a lively dialogue on craft’s institutional mission, and the execution of programming devoted to the collection, conservation, presentation, and study of craft. The issue of how to interpret the field of craft in a museum setting is increasingly urgent as the boundaries of its teaching, practice, reception, and the discipline’s very definition shift dramatically in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Potential topics include:

-       The museum as an engine of craft research and scholarship

-       Diversifying audiences for craft

-       Materiality and the digital museum

-       Viewing craft: new approaches to museum design

-       Evolving interpretations of skill

-       The conceptual turn in an aesthetic field

-       STEAM? Museums and craft education

-       Competing interpretations of craft in museums of art, anthropology, and archaeology

-       Museum citizenship, ethics, and the public trust

-       Interpretive and collection strategies for post-studio craft

-       The future of studio craft collections

-       The relationship between museums and the academy

-       Craft’s position within large institutions

-       The state of the dedicated craft institution

-       The history of craft museology

Please submit a 300-word abstract and short CV to Nicholas Bell, The Fleur and Charles Senior Curator of American Craft and Decorative Art, and Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, at CraftSymposium@si.edu. Proposals are due by December 5, 2014. Applicants will be notified of their status by January 2, 2015. The symposium will be webcast.

RAI Horniman Museum Collecting Initiative (2014-2015)

As part of Collections People Stories: Anthropology Re-Considered, an Arts Council England (ACE) funded project taking place at the Horniman Museum, 2012-2015, we are seeking PhD Students or Postdoctoral Fellows, who plan to carry out fieldwork in 2014-2015 to make small collections for the museum.

Deadline: 30 September 2014

Collections People Stories: Anthropology Re-Considered is undertaking a detailed review and documentation of the Horniman’s Anthropology collections, highlighting the range, scale and importance of both its stored collections and those on display. The project sets out to investigate new and innovative ways of collections research, engagement and interpretation. It will facilitate academic and community consultation and debate, to both unpack the legacy of the anthropology collections and unlock their values for communities and visitors today. The different activities and events over the course of the project will feed into establishing a vision, and funding bid, for a major new anthropology gallery at the museum.

The Horniman has had a long legacy of fieldwork collecting. As part of the Collections People Stories project, they are keen to further expand on their remit of contemporary collecting at the museum.

We would like applicants to collect a single object or small selection of objects related to their own research area that would be of interest to the museum. The object needs to be visually appealing and culturally significant, an object that would easily lend itself to being displayed at the museum. The object/s collected should also have a rich context and we strongly encourage the use of photographs and videos showing the object being used and/or being made.

We are also interested in proposals that employ different models of field collecting, for instance asking local people what they would collect to represent themselves etc.

Please send us a proposal (up to 1,500 words) outlining, in brief, your research interests, fieldwork plans, including a proposal of objects you would like to collect for the museum.

£500 in expenses will be given to 3 people, selected by the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Please note: This fee includes object acquisition, packing and transport costs, so please take this into account within your proposal. Please also bear in mind museum conservation and storage issue when choosing your object. The Horniman’s Acquisition Policy can be found here: www.horniman.ac.uk/media/_file/Policies-Acquisition.pdf

Those selected will be expected to meet with Horniman curators before fieldwork, write a short report for the museum and an object narrative which will be posted on the museum’s website, www.horniman.ac.uk/.

If you have any questions regarding the Horniman Museum collections, or want to know more about the holdings from your specific research areas, please contact Sarah Byrne,sbyrne@horniman.ac.uk

All submissions should be sent by 30 September 2014 to: Amanda Vinson, Royal Anthropological Institute, 50 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 5BT (emailadmin@therai.org.uk).

Made in Palestine

Christopher Pinney, UCL

[Please note: this  post was written before the intensification of the current Israeli offensive on Gaza]

I decided to transgress the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) injunction and attend a conference on ‘The Photographic Imagination’ in Tel Aviv in June 2014 for several reasons.  The two central ones concerned, firstly, the Apartheid analogy. Having taught a short course at the University of Cape Town in 2000 it was quite apparent that there were many courageous dissident academic intellectuals that had been a key element of the resistance during the 1980s and earlier. Collaboration with them would have been quite different from buying South African produce. The second reason has an element of illogicality, which is repeatedly pointed out to me: Syria. At a time when a nearby regime is murdering so many of its opponents (albeit opponents increasingly gripped by a fanatical politics), it seemed disproportionate to single out Israel for one’s disapproval.

So I went, in the spirit of openness, empathy and wanting to be challenged, not knowing what might unfold. In the previous three weeks I taught in Krakow and spent much time in Kazimierz and the ghetto, and read Tadieusw Pankiewicz’s Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy and Wladyislaw Spzliman’s The Pianist. I felt I was in no doubt about the profound historical shadow that would inform much of what I would encounter in Israel/Palestine.

We flew El Al (a condition of the conference organisers) and (I was subsequently informed), because I was half of a married couple, did well in the psychological profiling at London’s Heathrow Airport (it seems single females have the hardest time). Getting on the El Al flight was considerably more straightforward and hassle-free than boarding any flight to the US or India. There were no preliminary checked baggage x-rays, pat downs or random extraction for additional lengthy screening — all of which have become frequent features on those other routes.  Similarly on arrival — a few hours after the Pope’s visit had closed Ben Gurion (other conference participants complained of circling over the airport until it re-opened) — security and immigration was courteous and rapid, nothing like the totalitarian protocol of which the guide books warned.

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Our first experience of what a Palestinian cab driver we would subsequently spend a lot of time with called ‘the situation’ came after we left a visit with other members of the conference group to the Israel Museum (in West Jerusalem) and attempted to take a taxi to East Jerusalem (where we were booked into a Palestinian hotel). Several taxis plain refused to take us, proof as an Israeli friend later observed that the ‘green line’ which is ignored politically (Israel absorbed Palestinian East Jerusalem after the second Intifada) is strictly enforced socially. Finally one taxi driver agreed to take us, but with the proviso that he didn’t know the area and we would probably get lost (we gave him a detailed street map with directions). En-route he wanted to know how why it had taken us so long to visit Jerusalem (‘the origin of the world’) and how come we had made such a terrible mistake booking into a hotel on the wrong side of town (‘filthy’, ‘chaotic’: I told him I spent several months of the year in rural India and was used to such things). This was our first experience of ‘the situation’. The Old City is a textbook palimpsest of overlapping and disjunctive identities, all increasingly subject to military regulation since the second Intifada. But it is only in Bethlehem, on the other side of the Wall, where you start to experience the rhizomic involution of territory. Through the presence of massive settlements, one is shaken by the intractability of an invasion that has been fully sanctioned by the present regime, and it is only then that one can start to grasp the political dimensions of material culture in Palestine. The estimated 300,000 West Bank settlers make their presence felt through serried, semi-fortified encroachments  around much of Bethlehem whose alien architecture stands as a very visible political demand.

In the Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour you look across a valley to the Har Homa colony in which vast tower blocks, regiments of condominiums, are advancing towards Palestinian territory. They are monolithic and endlessly repeated: dwelling paces but also ideological embodiments of an unstoppable state-sanctioned invasion: material culture mobilised in the cause of politics.

 

A Fateh-proseltysing (and decidedly anti-Hamas) cab driver took us under his wing, and after a chilling slide show delivered on his smart phone (young child cavorting on the beach of Tel Aviv juxtaposed with a Palestinian child in Hebron having an IDF machine gun pointed at his head), we departed for Herodium and Hebron. It was there that two other kinds of settlement presence can be experienced. The first involves sporadic land-grabs fuelled by an extraordinary frontier spirit: settlers will occupy hill tops overnight and wait for the Israeli Defence Force to install water and electricity supplies. Tents become portacabins which rapidly become houses, forming the nucleus for whole new towns built in months. Central to this process is a politics of invisibility in which the near-total Israeli military control of much of the West Bank is denied. On the road up to Herodium (in an Oslo Accord Area C, under full Israeli military control), for instance, you pass a large IDF base on your right, filled with armed personnel carriers and surveillance equipment. At the top of what remains of Herod’s extraordinary creation (from where you can see the Dead Sea and Jordan in the distance) there are helpful photographic panoramas, provided by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority which identify topographical features and nearby towns. The Bad Fulah ruins are identified and also Solomon’s Pools even though they are, as the legend says, ‘hidden’. But in the foreground (such exorbitance being one of the inconvenient conditions of photography) lies the un-named sprawling military camp, built to protect several recent settlements nearby and new kibbutz. On another of the photographic panoramas an unknown visitor has helpfully hand-written the word ‘settlement’ below the printed name of Tko’a.

 

Departing Herodium we encountered another aspect of ‘the situation’ that seemed to give some insight into the the subsequent abduction and murder of three youths that resulted in the lockdown of Hebron. A Settler resident and her adolescent child approached our driver and asked whether she could get a lift to the bottom of the hill. We said fine, no problem (it was very hot, she looked parched). Our driver explained that he would like to help but that legally he couldn’t (the fine for driving Israeli citizens in a Palestinian green licence plated cab was 50,000 shekels and two years arbitrary detention he later told us). We were starting to get a sense of the existential dilemmas and anxieties that both Palestinians and Settlers face in this extraordinary occupied landscape where the occupation itself is made invisible and the occupied are forced to apologise to the occupiers.

 

As a casual visitor to the West Bank you encounter the tyranny that Palestinians are living with on a daily basis in relation to their material culture. I heard plenty of stories from the conference in Tel Aviv from participants and friends of theirs who had been strip-searched, forced to miss flights, and in extreme cases, detained for two days and then formally deported because of evidence of West Bank visits. A Polish friend told me she had been required to check in five hours before departure and that every item in her luggage meticulously inspected before each book was held upside down and shaken vigorously in ways that reminded her of 1980s martial rule in Poland (don’t take any books she said).

 

Driving further south, toward Hebron (El Khalil), where we would encounter another form of Settler presence, we criss-crossed in and out of Area A — nominally Palestinian Authority-controlled zones — where it is illegal, as numerous large red road-side sings declare, for Israeli citizens to enter (‘at risk to their lives’) and I noticed that our driver would, as a form of bodily hexis, unbuckle his seat belt whenever we passed a red Area A sign. After a while I started to do so too.  Hexis, so Bourdieu argued is ‘political mythology, realised and embodied [and] turned into a permanent disposition’. In this case the unbuckling seemed to perform the mythologised possibility of political freedom, promised by the red road-side signs but obliterated everywhere else.

 

Hebron has a peculiarly bitter and contested history. It was the site of the massacre, in 1929, of sixty-seven Jews following rumours of attacks on Arabs in Jerusalem, and in 1994 of the murder of twenty-nine worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque by US-born member of the Kach movement, Baruch Goldstein. Apparently one tour company offers a day tour of Hebron starting with a Jewish guide who narrates ‘their’ history, followed by an afternoon with a Palestinian who provides the competing, and incommensurable account. The Ibrahimi mosque was initially closed but has now been partitioned with both Muslim and Jewish access heavily controlled both spatially and temporally. The old town has been completely reconfigured by the conflict. Most of the Palestinian markets are closed, the majority of shops having been welded shut by the IDF. Despite the notices prominently displayed in the Jewish sector which complain about the thriving Arab market, it is a desolate picture, the open parts ‘roofed’ with wire netting to protect those below from the garbage which Settlers throw down on their new neighbours in an attempt to drive them out.  Security turnstiles control access to the mosque and the Settler-controlled part of the town is off limits to Palestinians. Foreigners can get through after an inspection of passports and Israeli border entrance stamps and can mingle with Settlers who openly carry semi-automatic weapons in the largely deserted streets along which IDF vehicles frequently zoom.  After Sabbath many dozens of Settlers march with cordial IDF protection through the Arab old town raising slogans about how this will become part of Israel. Closely scrutinised by many peace observers (from Temporary International Presence in Hebron, among others) this was a ritual-political occupation of space of the kind that is familiar from Northern Ireland.

 

Hebron is full of amazing things: embroidered cushions, beautiful kaffiyas and amazing glass work with a distinctive striated green sedimentation that reflects the quality of sand from the village of Bani Na’im and the sodium carbonate from the Dead Sea. The glassworks were established in Roman times and Hebron glass beads (especially efficacious in the protection they provided against the evil eye) were traded throughout many parts of Africa (becoming known as Kano beads). Export restrictions mean that this local industry now faces exceptional difficulties.

 

We threw away the wrapper for the Hebron kaffiya which proudly said made in Palestine and hid it in an internal zipper in my suitcase (it was a ‘fashionable’ red one, not the politically ‘authentic’ black and white variety). My book on old Hebron, which detailed the full-blown Apartheid division of the town, I could at least say was bought in the Educational Bookstore in East Jerusalem, now a de facto a part of the Israeli state. The assistant there had said it was easier to import class A drugs than books sympathetic to ‘the situation’. The Hebron glass was bought in the old city of Jerusalem (‘a small shop’ I would say if necessary), although I would be unable to remember its exact location. As it happened, we passed the profiling. I had been thinking that next time I visit the West Bank I’ll go via the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, in order to ensure that I can fully consume the extraordinary riches that are made in Palestine. But I now understand that Israeli border controls there are even more severe. I departed with a sense of the double politics of material culture in this part of the world. Landscape and the built environment are fiercely contested in ways that make disputes about the future of Stonehenge seem positively parochial. The built environment and its aesthetics (condominiums versus olive groves) are centrally important. And then there is the question of the distribution of the sensible, what is made visible and invisible in a traumatic politics of appearance (and non-appearance).  But there is also the question of Palestinian material culture in a more prosaic sense, those made objects, material manifestations of Palestinian endurance and resilience which the visiting anthropologist (or indeed any visitor) is unable to consume because of the impending shake-down at Ben Gurion International Airport or the Allenby Bridge. The Israeli state has tacitly declared these to be taboo, contaminating artefacts that reveal unauthorised itineraries or illegitimate sympathies. Never has a politicised study of material culture been more necessary.

 

 

Mundane Objects: Materiality and non-Verbal Communication by Pierre Lemonnier

Haidy Geismar, UCL

The latest issue of Hau has a symposium on Pierre Lemmonier’s latest book, Mundane Objects, with commentary by Bruno Latour, Chris Ballard, Tim Ingold, Paul Graves-Brown, Susanne Küchler and a response by Pierre Lemmonier. The series of comments essentially sum up a “state of the art” comment on material culture theory, which Tim Ingold pithily sums up to date:

Perhaps there is something to be said for going back to the anthropological debates of the 1960s and 1970s on such themes as symbolic condensation, the distinction (or lack of it) between ritual and practical-technical actions, and how to do things with and without words. Arguably, our understandings have not been much advanced by subsequent approaches to material culture, for example by treating it as a system of signs whose meanings could be read off from the objects themselves, by entering them as candidates for social life but only as tokens of exchange among human beings, or by focusing on their consumption at the expense of their production.Nor—and here I agree wholeheartedly with Lemonnier—is there anything to be gained from leaving the heavy lifting to such philosophical juggernauts as “agency” and “materiality.” Most agency-speak is as tautologous as the functionalism it replaced: where before, if the presence of a thing has effects (and it would not be present if it did not), these effects were attributed to its functioning, nowadays they are attributed to its agency. The argument is no less circular, and equally ridiculous, especially coming from the mouths of celebrity philosophers. The concept of “materiality” is just as vacuous, no more so than when the abstraction that led from materials to materiality is followed by a counterreification from materiality to materialities, leading to the absurdity of describing a thing made from many different materials as an assemblage of multiple materialities. We have had more than enough of both agency and materiality, and they have got us nowhere. We need to go back to basics. But do we start with objects or affects, artifacts or materials,communication or participation? In each of these pairings, Lemonnier opts for the former. I opt for the latter (Ingold 2012). I wonder whether there might be some way of putting these two perspectives together. Now, that would be an advance.

In other commentary, Latour applauds Lemmonier’s emphasis on techniques and technology as a way to subvert the ethnocentric preoccupation with a crude object focus that comes with many contemporary theorizations of materiality, recognizing the very plasticity of the material world and Susanne Küchler provocatively thinks through the nascent material qualities of computers and other interactive digital technologies.

 

 

Copies, Copyright and Preservation

Special Issue co-edited by Ines Weizman and Jorge Otero-Pailos

Future Anterior invites essays that explore the relationship between copyright and preservation from a historical, theoretical and critical perspective. Both copyright and preservation laws are aimed at protecting unique human achievements, but they point to different, even opposing threats. Whereas copyright is meant to protect private interests from public encroachments, preservation mostly aims to safeguard the public interest against private forces. But as the categories of private and public are redrawn under the pressures of globalization, what challenges and opportunities lay ahead for preservation?

Both preservation and copyright law attempt to answer a basic question: Who has the right to make a copy? This question has a long but unexplored history within preservation. Carlo Fea, the Italian neo-classical jurist and preservationist, passed laws to forbid overzealous collectors form taking original sculptures from churches and using poor replacement copies as payments for cash-strapped priests. But as copying techniques improved, it became common to place copies outdoors and to move original works of architecture and sculpture inside museums (think of the copies that replaced the original capitals of the Doge’s Palace, or the replica of Michelangelo’s David in Piazza della Signoria). These days, preservation and copyright are both challenged by new modes of digital production, which put new pressure on the notion of absolute authorship and ownership.

What makes mechanical architectural copies so interesting is that, even though they emerge at the same time as reproductions in other fields, they escaped the same association as representative phenomena of modernity. Yet, just like the print, the photograph, the film or the digital file, architectural copies are a product of architecture and a media form in themselves, part of an endless series of ‘aura-less’ multiplications. Legal scholar Bernard Edelman has shown how in nineteenth-century France photographs were at first considered to be mere mechanical reproductions of reality, and hence in the public domain. It was only when photography became accepted as an artistic practice that it received legal protection and ‘the real as object in law [became] susceptible to appropriation, sale and contracts’. To what degree does contemporary art still serve as the measure and instrument for the regulation of copies? Can copyright law help explain the opposition to consider preservationists as artists, or even authors? Essays may investigate these questions, as well as critically analyze modes and practices of appropriation in preservation as they compare to other fields.

As the production of architectural copies is becoming more digital, networked and diffused, we are witnessing more aggressive legal attempts to control the right to reproduce architecture. As Winnie Won Yin Wong wrote (Future Anterior 9.1) recent legal attempts to define “trade dress” signal an attempt to regulate, not just architectural form, but also ambiance and atmosphere as property. From the perspective of preservation, which relies heavily on design guidelines to implement legally binding decisions, what is the future of aesthetic regulation? We welcome essays that explore how objects (and specifically architectural interiors, buildings and cities) have been and are today presented, discussed and contested (in court, or other legal debates) as a dispute over authorial, private or public property.

In preservation, intellectual copyright is hard to define and regulate – harder than in most other arts. Its potential scope is also overwhelming, implying that almost every gesture in the construction of space would have to be protected. What sorts of architectural and urban copies are subject to copyright? If copyright is the right to copy, replicate, duplicate and receive the financial benefits of this act, could one argue copyright law in fact enabled architecture to be copied, replicated, mass produced and exported across the world? How did the circulation of copies help or undermine the idea of preservation in-situ? How could the history of national and international copyright laws inform that of modern preservation?

Future Anterior invites papers from scholars in preservation and its allied fields (juridical studies, architectural history, art history, anthropology, archeology, geography, political science, urban studies, and planning) that explore these and related questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Future Anterior is a peer-reviewed journal that approaches the field of historic preservation from a position of critical inquiry. A comparatively recent field of professional study, preservation often escapes direct academic challenges of its motives, goals, forms of practice and results. Future Anterior invites contributions that ask these difficult questions from philosophical, theoretical, and practical perspectives.

Articles submitted for peer review should be no more than 4000 words, with five to seven illustrations. Text must be formatted in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. All articles must be submitted in English, and spelling should follow American convention. All submissions must be submitted electronically. Text should be saved as Microsoft Word or RTF format, while accompanying images should be sent as TIFF files with a resolution of at least 300 dpi at 8” by 9” print size. Figures should be numbered and called out clearly between paragraphs in the text. Image captions and credits must be included with submissions. It is the responsibility of the author to secure permissions for image use and pay any reproduction fees. A brief author biography (around 100 words) must accompany the text.

For further manuscript guidelines, please visit:

www.upress.umn.edu/journal-division/Journals/future-anterior/manuscript-submission-guidelines-future-anterior

Acceptance or rejection of submissions is at the discretion of the editors.

Please do not send original materials, as submissions will not be returned.

Please email all submissions to:

Future.Anterior.Journal@gmail.com

Material culture in Hungary and everywhere else

Daniel Miller, UCL

 

Krisztina Fehérváry 2013 Politics in Color and Concrete: socialist materialities and the middle class in Hungary. Indiana University Press

Léna Pellandini-Simányi  2014 Consumption Norms and Everyday Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan

Hungary is a good place to take stock of the current state of material culture studies. Because Hungary is simply a good emblem of `anywhere,’ in that it represents neither a vanguard nor a backwater, but works as simply another ordinary place. That is significant to me because the material culture studies that I guess I have always wanted to promote are precisely about this same ordinary whether as blue jeans, or domestic interiors.

Fehérváry’s exemplary scholarship, both historical and ethnographic, takes us through both socialist modernism and post-socialist consumer modernism in the development of contemporary Hungary. We see the discrepancies between the creation of demand and the problems of actually fulfilling the expectations that these gave rise to, a problem in both socialism and capitalism. We see unexpected links between modern organicist appeals to nature and older socialist appeals to collectivism. Above all this leads to her ethnographic sense of the contemporary middle-class. The middle class is always beset by contradiction and ambivalence. It is there is the very words `middle’-class. But it is rare to see the routes and reasons so carefully laid out, or its consequences.

Central to this is the appreciation that the built landscape as a palimpsest of various historical periods works to a quite different temporality. It means that having considered how it expresses a relation to ideology we than have the additional problem that as times changes the built landscape becomes at once both anachronistic and yet maintained as the landscape of the present. Her book shows the impact this has on ordinary people’s understanding of their worlds and the betrayal of successive ideals. While also grounding foundational notions of normality and morality, creating what she describes as the normal state of abnormality. These are obviously important issues that can be generalised across the world as people in all regions struggle to literally build their modernity and aspirations in the teeth of failures of all kinds.  I was particularly impressed by the way she blends the descriptions of these material worlds with a sense of humanism and poignancy in respect to their impacts upon ordinary people.

Pellandini-Simányi tackles several of the same themes concerning the normative foundations of contemporary consumption but relates them more to current concerns with `over-consumption’ and sustainability. Rather than using historical and ethnographic sources she focuses on the underlying issues of consumption norms and their moral foundations in a given society. This is a more general, comparative and sociological book though some of the material is from her own research, also in Hungary. What is particularly valuable about that part of the book is that she looked at households which sometimes spanned three generations so she could observe the way these norms change over time.  As in the best of material culture studies this again excavates the most taken for granted aspects of what simply looks appropriate in the same way that Bourdieu examined taste. She has far more emphasis on change compared to Bourdieu with a focus on the reasons that something so engrained is nevertheless subject to change even if this is simply the replacement of one generation by the next. At the same time, as with Bourdieu she retains a strong sense of the link between the normative and practice. She makes good use of comparative studies of how norms of consumption change over time including the Osella’s excellent work in South India, while not ignoring the pressures from commercial institutions. I admit that in some ways I would have liked to see more of her own research findings which here get a bit buried within the more general discussion. But along with Elizabeth Shove she makes an important contribution to seeing consumption as normative pertaining to local ethical debate. She ends with what she calls a qualified liberal approach Habermas and Rawls.

These books are very different with Pellandini-Simányi looking to more sociological debates and Fehérváry exemplifying the depth of engagement and scholarship found in classical traditions of anthropological ethnography. But both speak to the way in which contemporary material culture studies, whether based in Hungary, but equally it could have been Argentina or Australia retain this driving ambition to expose the lightness of materiality. That objects seem to contain a kind of cultural gravity that makes them a heavy burden – they want to remain grounded and foundational and taken for granted as the landscape we live within. It is only by refusing to accept this and giving them an almighty academic kick, that we can excavate underneath to find that actually they came to be there through quite historical, cultural and sometimes fleetingly fashionable reasons. Without this consciousness we lose the ability for introspection with regard to our own material foundations, and granting us this consciousness is the greatest boon that such modern material culture studies has to offer the world.

 

Best of Material World Blog: On Making, Craft, and Unmaking

Haidy Geismar, UCL

In this post, I link to the very best posts in our archive focused on making, doing and craft.

In Fixing, Things, Fixing Ourselves, Lydia Nicholas writes about Suguru, an open source material for extending the life of mass produced (or any other) artifacts.

In Plan B for a Nuclear Reactor, Paul Williams describes the transformation of a nuclear power plant into a heritage site.

Gabriella Coleman outlines her  theory of hackers, liberalism, and pleasure, which became an important part of her book, Coding Freedom.

Ian Ewart was an Anthropologist Looks at Engineering. 

Adam Drazin presents the Mechanical Postcard, an intervention into UCL Ethnography Collections by Mattijs Siljee, of Massey University, New Zealand.

And on the opposite side of making, unmaking, Helen Polson writes about how Death Bear Wants Your Unhappy Things.

 

 

Authoring King’s Cross

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Who will author the future of King’s Cross? You are invited to join us for an in-person and on-location collaborative update to Wikipedia’s entry for King’s Cross Central on 21st June at The Crossing, Central Saint Martins, 1 Granary Square, London N1C 4AA.We will consider the contents of the existing article and identify what is missing and why. Throughout the afternoon, we will update the Wikipedia entry to more fully reflect the history and contemporary dynamics of King’s Cross from a variety of perspectives. Anyone with an interest is welcome to drop by between 2.30 and 5.30pm.This event is part of the Contested Spaces forum at Central Saint Martins and will be immediately followed by a panel discussion on the theme of Gentrification and Regeneration.

Rebecca Ross & Chi Nguyen