Real life twin-engine piston airplane, the Adam A500, makes an appearance in 2006’s logistical tour de force Miami Vice.
Life, courtesy of an Ikea catalogue, in Fight Club (1999).
Recently I’ve had the chance to give some talks on the history of trade infrastructure, bills of lading, factories, and the intellectual history of “supply.” I shared a similar version of this talk at both the Neil Postman Conference and the Media, Materiality, and Infrastructures workshop here at NYU, so I thought I’d do so here.
For the past year Ben Mendelsohn and I (with the support of Nicole Starosielski) have been organizing a series on “Infrastructure Aesthetics” to explore representations of infrastructure in the workings of modern life. This has taken the form of artist talks, discussions, and film screenings. While I’m most looking forward to the events we are planning for next year, which I hope will include some more of my colleagues, I wanted to share the last event of this term as an introduction. This event, “Corporate Imaginaries,” was an experimental screening curated primarily from short-form advertisements, manifestos, and branding videos scattered across the web.
During my fellowship this past summer I had the opportunity to take a trip to the archives of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall. On my way back to Penzance, I decided to stop off at the Geevor Tin Mine.
I recently came across an interesting post Andrew James Myers produced as part of his participation in Henry Jenkin’s PhD seminar on Public Intellectuals. Myers writes about the visual representations Apple deploys to narrate that consummate object of modern consumption, the iPhone.
The most meaningful realization about working on the history of production is seeing how ragged and disjoint it can be. Rather than a smooth flow toward anonymous production, we see not only pockets of alternative modes that persisted long into the present, but moments where these alternatives seemed positioned to retake the future of production. One such pocket of production can be found in accounts of the “Little Mesters” of Sheffield. Here the “factory” becomes not a collection of generalized unskilled production, but a site for the compilation of craftwork.