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UVC Art 100 Module 10 Objects (by design)


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In this module we study the basic principles of material culture, using artifacts to understand historical values and beliefs. In addition we cover the difference between designed objects and vernacular objects.

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UVC Art 100 Module 10 Objects (by design)

  1. 1. OBJECTS [BY DESIGN] Module 10
  2. 2. “ALTHOUGH ART MUSEUMS, historical societies, museums of history and technology, historic houses, open-air museums, and museums of ethnography, science, and even natural history, have long collected, studied, and exhibited the material of what has come to be called material culture, no comprehensive academic philosophy or discipline for the investigation of material culture has as yet been developed.”
  3. 3. “Material culture is the study through artifacts of the beliefs — values, ideas, attitudes, and assump- tions—of a particular community or society at a given time. The term material culture is also fre- quently used to refer to artifacts themselves, to the body of material available for such study. I shall restrict the term to mean the study and refer to the evidence simply as material or artifacts.”
  4. 4. WHAT IS AN ARTIFACT? O R D I N A R Y O L D P E B B L E P E B B L E T O O L S , O L D U V A I G O R G E , T A N Z A N I A , 1 . 8 M I L L I O N Y E A R S A G O
  6. 6. OBSIDIAN TOOLS Properties of the material are enhanced by human intervention
  8. 8. Why should one bother to investigate material objects in the quest for culture, for a society's systems of belief? Surely people in all societies express and have expressed their beliefs more explicitly and openly in their words and deeds than in the things they have made. Are there aspects of mind to be discovered in objects that differ from, complement, supplement, or contradict what can be learned from more traditional literary and behavioral sources?
  9. 9. WHAT COULD BE CULTURALLY REVEALING ABOUT THE STUDY OF OBJECTS? 1. Cultural value can be understood through multiple lenses when dealing with material objects.  Inherent value.  Value in original context, at a later point, today. (subject to frequent change)  Use value.  Aesthetic, spiritual, relational values.
  10. 10. WHAT COULD BE CULTURALLY REVEALING ABOUT THE STUDY OF OBJECTS? 2. Objects survive and provide direct and tangible evidence of the past. This allows us to “experience” the past through empathetic engagement of our senses.
  11. 11. "This affective mode of apprehension through the senses that allows us to put ourselves, figuratively speaking, inside the skins of individuals who commissioned, made, used, or enjoyed these objects, to see with their eyes and touch with their hands, to identify with them empathetically, is clearly a different way of engaging the past than abstractly through the written word. Instead of our minds making intellectual contact with minds of the past, our senses make affective contact with senses of past.” —Arnold Hauser, Sociology of Art
  12. 12. What different kinds of value can we isolate and appreciate in this pendant?
  13. 13. WHAT COULD BE CULTURALLY REVEALING ABOUT THE STUDY OF OBJECTS? 3. Objects might be more representative of what people in a society are doing, thinking and feeling than words are.
  14. 14. Henry Glassie has observed that only a small percentage of the world's population is and has been literate, and that the people who write literature or keep diaries are atypical. Objects are used by a much broader cross section of the population and are therefore potentially a more wide-ranging, more representative source of information than words.
  15. 15. WHAT COULD BE CULTURALLY REVEALING ABOUT THE STUDY OF OBJECTS? 3. Objects are physically real, capable of empathetic use. “The theoretical democratic advantage of artifacts in general, and vernacular material in particular, is partially offset by the skewed nature of what in fact survives from an earlier culture. A primary factor in this is the destructive, or the preservative, effect of particular environments on particular materials. Materials from the deeper recesses of time are often buried, and recovered archaeologically. Of the material heritage of such cultures, glass and ceramics survive in relatively good condition, metal in poor to fair condition, wood in the form of voids (postholes), and clothing not at all (except for metallic threads, buttons, and an odd clasp or hook).”
  16. 16. R E V E A L H U G E A M O U N T S O F I N F O R M A T I O N A B O U T T H E P E O P L E ( A N D T H E C U L T U R E S ) T H A T M A D E T H E M . W E C A N “ R E A D ” T H E S E I M A G E S T O L E A R N A B O U T O T H E R S O C I E T I E S , A N D A B O U T O U R S E L V E S .
  17. 17. 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 ONE CATEGORY OF ARTIFACTS IS ART.
  19. 19. ANOTHER CATEGORY OF THINGS IS “VERNACULAR” OBJECTS. Shaker side chair, maple with rush seating, c. 1880
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. Bryan Ropar with a small sample of his plastic chair collection
  22. 22. Maarten Baas, in collaboration with Contrasts Gallery, Shanghai Plastic Chair in Wood, 2008 elm wood
  23. 23. Sam Durant, Porcelain Chairs, 2006
  24. 24. Jules Prown “…works of art constitute a large and special category within artifacts because their inevitable aesthetic and occasional ethical or spiritual (iconic) dimensions make them direct and often overt or intentional expressions of cultural belief. The self- consciously expressive character of this material, however, raises problems as well as opportunities; in some ways artifacts that express culture unconsciously are more useful as objective cultural indexes.” (Prown, “Mind in Matter,” p.2) Siegfried Giedion “We shall deal here with humble things, things not usually granted earnest consideration, or at least not valued for their historical import. But no more in history than in painting is it the impressiveness of the subject that matters. The sun is mirrored even in a coffee spoon.” (Giedion, “Anonymous History,” p. 294) THE VALUE OF “ANONYMOUS HISTORY”
  25. 25. W E U S E T H I S W O R D O F T E N , F O R E X A M P L Fashion design Interior design Product design Packaging design Graphic design Automotive design Web design User interface design
  26. 26. PACKAGING DESIGN: COMPARE/CONTRAST 1. What stylistic choices are made in these package designs? Let’s list as many as we 2. What meanings do we attribute to those stylistic differences?
  27. 27.  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. AND relatively minor changes in the appearance of a product
  29. 29. “ V E R Y F E W A S P E C T S O F T H E M A T E R I A L E N V I R O N M E N T A R E I N C A P A B L E O F I M P R O V E M E N T I N S O M E S I G N I F I C A N T W A Y B Y G R E A T E R A T T E N T I O N B E I N G P A I D T O T H E I R D E S I G N . I N A D E Q U A T E L I G H T I N G , M A C H I N E S T H A T A R E N O T U S E R - F R I E N D L Y , B A D L Y - F O R M A T T E D I N F O R M A T I O N , A R E J U S T A F E W E X A M P L E S O F B A D D E S I G N T H A T C R E A T E C U M U L A T I V E P R O B L E M S A N D T E N S I O N S . ” — H E S K E T T , P . 2
  30. 30. B E T W E E N U S , A S P E O P L E , A N D T H E O B J E C T S T H A T S U R R O U N D U S . G O O D D E S I G N E R S T R Y T O M A K E T H I S R E L A T I O N S H I P A H A P P Y O N E .
  31. 31. Name three visual/function al elements of the chair. SIDE CHAIR, CIRCA 1880, MAPLE, CANE SEAT LEBANON, MASSACHUSETTS
  32. 32. COMPARE/CONTRAST: FORM Side chair, gilt and Beauvais tapestry, c. 1780
  34. 34. Whistler, Arrangement in Gray and Black #1, 1871 Ingres, Princesse de Broglie, 1853
  35. 35. Briefly describe the visual form of the seating pictured in this photograph. Then speculate: what set of functions are implied in this design? What meanings can we infer about the people likely to be seated in each chair?