Finding Media: Recordings From Elsewhere, 1936–1965
Furste, Zachary A.
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CitationFurste, Zachary A. 2017. Finding Media: Recordings From Elsewhere, 1936–1965. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation covers a period in North American and Western European material culture when durational recordings of sound and moving image—namely, photochemical film and lacquer phonographs—passed from novelty into disuse. It considers these media as they found new life across the domains of art and art institutions, amateur collecting, second-hand markets, and government media initiatives. While much of the previous literature on so-called “found footage” has told these stories in terms of formal investigations of an artistic medium, this dissertation explores the layered conditions that enable such recordings to be found and played again.
Finding Media traces a history of repetition through technical means—a key aesthetic problem over the last century—not by interpreting works along a single philosophical perspective or framing within a creative tradition, but rather by reconstructing a series of forgotten material networks. With special attention to the material and processual details of the machines and objects at play, this dissertation examines the practices of innovative figures like Joseph Cornell, Len Lye, Harry Smith, and Bruce Conner. In each case, film and sound recording emerge not as ontologically distinct media with “specific” attributes to be exploited by art, but rather as hybrid forces in a much wider range of communication and sensory technologies. Beyond framing an overlooked set of experiments in modern media history, therefore, the web of actors, objects, and techniques in these four chapters augments the formalist and structuralist readings which have dominated understandings of related avant-garde and neo-avant-garde experiments, from collage to Pop, from the readymade to conceptualism to appropriation. Ultimately, this enriched account of the interplay between people and machines in the 20th century enlivens debates about the politics, and especially the technics, of finding media in an increasingly automated, networked, and algorithmic present.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41142063
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