Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Steadier thrums than this one


I've been meaning to post about my final project for cultural theory for awhile now. (I know you've all been anxiously waiting to hear all about it). I wanted to write about an optical toy and didn't have much time for historical research, so I decided to pursue the View-Master--particularly its depiction of American national parks in its Guided Picture Tours of the 1960s and 1970s. Someone named Kip Brockman has done an amazing job archiving and making the booklets available (the park images are from his site).

Here was my central premise:
"This paper seeks to reveal the ideological workings of the View-Master’s Scenic Picture Tours, highlighting an ideological framework that positions the spectator within the legal discourses, classificatory structures, and infrastructural elements of American national parks. Thus situated, the View-Master supports an ideology of an unspoiled nature over which humans maintain dominance and hold a stewardship. Further, the discontinuation of these scenic picture discs in March of 2009 also raises the question of the View-Master’s continuing efficacy as a visual medium, and prompts consideration of what media may have supplanted it as popular entertainments and modes of imparting ideological content." Fascinating, I know.

I was particularly struck by the similarity of this project and Zoe Leonard's You See I am Here After All (2008), which we saw at Dia:Beacon. Lynne Cooke's fabulous essay articulates a comparable sentiment to the position I attempted to take in the paper:
"By foregrounding the techniques and means of representation of one of the most popular subjects ever to be found on picture postcards, Leonard's project draws attention to the ways in which cultural conventions and artifacts have mapped and defined both the natural world and our understanding of it."
What better time than the beginning of spring to contemplate the world's natural wonders and our representations of them.

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