Artifacts…reveal huge amounts of information aboutthe people (and the cultures) that madethem.We can “read” these images to learn aboutother societies, and about ourselves.
One category of artifacts is art. In the West (for example, Europe and the USA), this kind of artifact has been “put on pedestal” as the most exalted kind of artifact. Here we tend to privilege art above other kinds of artifacts. (E.g., Krannert vs. Spurlock Museum)Augustus St.-Gaudens, Diana,1892-4, in Philadelphia Museum of Art
Objects coded differently throughhow they are presented
The value of “anonymous history.”Jules Prown Siegfried Giedion“…works of art constitute a large “We shall deal here with humble and special category within things, things not usually artifacts because their granted earnest inevitable aesthetic and oc- consideration, or at least not casional ethical or spiritual valued for their historical (iconic) dimensions make import. But no more in history them direct and often overt or than in painting is it the intentional expressions of impressiveness of the subject cultural belief. The self- that matters. The sun is consciously expressive mirrored even in a coffee character of this spoon.” material, however, raises (Giedion, “Anonymous problems as well as History,” p. 294) opportunities; in some ways artifacts that express culture unconsciously are more useful as objective cultural indexes.” (Prown, “Mind in Matter,” p.2)
Relationships not facts“Facts may occasionally be bridled within a date or a name, but not their more complex significance. The meaning of history arises in the uncovering of relationships. That is why the writing of history has less to do with facts as such than rvith their relations. These relations will vary with the shifting point of view, for, like constellations of stars, they are ceaselessly in change. Every true historical image is based on relationship, appearing in the historians choice from among the fullness of events, a choice that varies with the century and often with the decade…” (Giedion, p. 295)
The historian’s task“His role is to put in order in its historical setting what we experience piecemeal from day to day, so that in place of sporadic experience, the continuity of events becomes visible. An age that has lost its consciousness of the things that shape its life will know neither where it stands nor, even less, at what it aims. A civilization that has lost its memory and stumbles from day to day, from happening to happening, lives more irresponsibly than the cattle, who at least have their instincts to fall back upon.” (Giedion, p. 295)
Another category of things is“vernacular” objects. Shaker side chair, maple with rush seating, c. 1880
These are ordinary objects which have wide popularity and whose specific origins are obscure.Shaker side chair, maple with cane seating, c. 1880 Plastic outdoor chair, c. present
Bryan Ropar with a small sample of his plastic chair collection
Maarten Baas, in collaborationwith Contrasts Gallery, ShanghaiPlastic Chair in Wood, 2008elm wood
Today we’re going to look at a thirdcategory of artifacts…Design objects.
What is design?We use this word often, for example: Fashion design Interior design Product design Packaging design Automotive design Web design User interface design
Packaging design: compare/contrast1. What stylistic choices are made here? Let’s list as many as we can.2. What meanings do we attribute to those stylistic differences?
We need a distinction between: Design Something made through a process of careful consideration, often but not always credited to a specific maker. Something made with both function and aesthetic appeal in mind. Styling Relativelysuperficial, minor changes made to enhance the novelty of an existing product.
Design is:“the human capacity to shape and make ourenvironment, to serve our needs and givemeaning to our lives.” —Heskett, p. 6
Design defined“Very few aspects of the material environmentare incapable of improvement in somesignificant way by greater attention being paidto their design. Inadequate lighting, machinesthat are not user-friendly, badly-formattedinformation, are just a few examples of baddesign that create cumulative problems andtensions.” —Heskett, p. 2
There’s a relationship…Between us, as people, andthe objects that surround us.Good designers try to makethis relationship a happy one.
Formal Analysis/Semiotic AnalysisWhat formal/functional features do these chairs possess?What do they signify, culturally?
Side Chair, circa 1880, maple, cane seatLebanon, Massachusetts Name three visual/functional elements of the chair.
Compare/contrast: form Side chair, gilt and Beauvais tapestry, c. 1780
Briefly describe the visual form of the seating pictured in this photograph. Thenspeculate: what set of functions are implied in this design? What meanings can weinfer about the people likely to be seated in each chair?