Autopsies: The Afterlife of Dead Objects
This project explores how objects die. Just as the twentieth century was transformed by the advent of new forms of media--the typewriter, gramophone, and film, for example--the arrival of the twenty-first century has brought the phasing out of many public and private objects that only recently seemed essential to "modern life."
What is the modern, then, without film projectors, typewriters, and turntables? How has the modern changed as trolley cars disappeared and hot air balloons were converted into high-risk sport rather than the demonstration of national pride in science and a crucial tactical mechanism of wartime? But what will our twenty-first century entail without mixmasters, VCRs, or petrol-driven automobiles? Does the "modern" in fact programme the death of objects? What is the significance of death for things that live only through such a paradoxical programme of planned obsolescence? How can cultural historians and theorists participate in the reflection on the ends of objects, from their physical finitude to the very projects for their disposal, the latter increasingly of concern with the multiplication of things that do not gently decompose into their own night. This project attempts to think about modern life through reflections about social change, urban life, and the material things we associate with "modernity."
This project brings together a team of postgraduate students and full-time lecturers, from several humanities and social science disciplines, participating in a biweekly research seminar which is part of the UCL Film Studies Space work on "Cinematic Memory, Consumer Culture, and Everyday Life."
Read more about our work: Autopsies blog | Autopsies projects