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An Art PSA

July 10, 2013 by Lauren Van Schaik in Blog 0 comments
  Apartment Therapy makes us want to clutter our walls with framed art and all your cool friends of friends with art history degrees and jobs want to know who your favorite artist is. Avoid making your apartment look like a dorm room, post-campus center poster sale, by knowing the all the art clichés and moderately impress gallery hawks with some mainstream, less hackneyed alternatives. 1. Art Nouveau Posters Art nouveau’s spaghetti lines, elementary French banners, and sinuous lady lumps have been hanging around dorms and bathrooms like an absinthe hangover since the 1890s. They’re the most intractable eye worm of the Art.com age: stumble upon one on a thank you note or the wall of a high end grocery store and you’ll be plastering your notebooks and kitchen walls with that terrifying, underfed Chat Noir for the next eighteen months. Late Victorian ad men kept trotting out the same Medusa-haired, vaguely pre-Raphaelite princesses to foist opium-laced tonics on the plebes of Paris in poster after poster and if we’ve kicked the patent medicine habit, we’ve become obsessed with those ladies and their conveniently draped dresses. Yes, the posters are slinky and stylish, with a whiff of chi-chi imperialism and […]

Tumblr, History, and the Memefication of the Past

May 28, 2013 by Lauren Van Schaik in Blog 0 comments
The recent history meme, with its aestheticization of horrific historical events and the reduction of wars and massacres and natural disasters to a series of stylized images, flattened and filtered, is seriously unsettling this historian. I’m frequently disturbed by the fetishization of monarchy and imperialism on Tumblr’s constellation of nostalgic history blogs, their uncritical enshrinement of all of the splendor of being wealthy, white, and landed. I do reblog some of this stuff without critical engagement because I like pretty historical images, although I do try to find “normal” people (although almost inherently anyone in a historical photograph—who isn’t being objectified or reduced to an anthropological specimen for gawking—is likely in a position of power and privilege) and you will probably never see me reblog an image of royalty (although I may have in the past: my archives date back to 2009 and who knows what i was thinking then). Being a historian on Tumblr is difficult—whether you’re generating original content or just reblogging— because you have to somehow strike a balance between assembling a curio cabinet of historical oddities and pretty things, documenting the historical events you think are important but maybe unsavory, and engaging critically with a brutal past, accessible only through documentation mostly produced […]

Man Machine: Wearable Tech and the Male Gaze

May 26, 2013 by Lauren Van Schaik in Blog 0 comments
Fans of wearable computers can capture what is happening around them with a wink or a subtle click, which raises the question of whether bystanders have a say in being recorded. Kudos to the New York Times for dismissing people’s—women’s— very real concerns about the voyeuristic potential of Google Glass and other wearable or inconspicuous computer devices as hysterical Luddism or a Ms. Manners huffiness about social appropriateness. Nowhere in this article, written by a man, quoting men, and about a product likely developed mostly by men (if the accompanying image and general tech demographics hold true) is there any explicit discussion of the exploitative potential of Glass and similar products. That fear is the glaring absence, present in its conspicuous elision and in the overblown chattering about ruined social dynamics and vague “privacy issues.” The article hedges around women’s concerns—and then immediately dismiss them as hysteria. The woman who pulled a knife on the “Kodak fiend” in the 1890s news article and “demolished” his camera is reduced to a Yook or a Zook battling over buttered bread. Author Bilton gives an example of a woman driven to violence by the intrusion of the male gaze, now with a photographic permanence, and then immediately dismisses […]

On Ros, Sex Work, and Exploitation

May 07, 2013 by Lauren Van Schaik in Blog 0 comments
I’m usually a shameless Game of Thrones apologist but I am genuinely disturbed and offended by the gratuitous, sexualized murder of Ros this week. Just reviewing screenshots of the scene is making me a little ill in a way that has nothing to do with their (negligible) gore and everything to do with the exploitation of a disadvantaged woman by a sadistic king male-run, wank banking show.  I liked Ros: she was a prostitute with a voice and, by this season, genuine character development. I loved that exchange between Ros and Shae: she talked about where she’d come from, actually discussed the hardship of being poor and female in Westeros. That scene even passed the Bechdel test! This fandom constantly (and justly) decries the fetishization of mute, unnamed female bodies and while Ros’ portrayal was frequently problematic and riddled with gratuitous nudity, she spoke and she improved her situation and she became, in her own small way, a power player by the end. So I was always confused by the hatred directed at Ros, a hatred I don’t think can solely be ascribed to her being a compilation character of a number of faceless book prostitutes or of Chataya and Alayaya. I think some of fandom’s hatred of Ros emerged from a classism and […]

Exceptions, Schmescheptions: Why We Need to Stop Reversing the Right’s Rhetoric on Abortion and Write our Own

August 20, 2012 by Lauren Van Schaik in Blog 0 comments
The great Republican party bus has yet to pull into Tampa but progressives and lady-part owners everywhere are already bracing themselves for the fallout from this brotastic, beachside blowout of free market masturbation, embryo rights, and hurricane force winds. The party platform wouldn’t be official until Monday but drafts indicate the GOP is holding strongly and stubbornly to its “human life” constitutional amendment, a provision that brandishes the 14th Amendment and “the sanctity of human life” to prohibit abortions in all cases, no exceptions. This promise of an airtight banning of abortion is hardly a new development for the right’s cadre of self-righteous Fetus Warriors. The provision has appeared in every Republican platform since the heady Reagan days of 1980. John McCain called unsuccessfully for the inclusion in the platform of explicit exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother in 2000 but caved to the party’s more fervent embryo lovers during his own 2008 run. The plank is only newsworthy now, the ninth time it has been featured in the Republican campaign program, because loudmouth Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin let the woman-hating cat out of the big bag of moral dudgeon last weekend. Akin, of course, […]

Girdled: Mad Men and Gender Role Nostalgia

June 01, 2012 by Lauren Van Schaik in Blog 0 comments
Season Five Reconsidered Seen through Banana Republic-branded opera glasses, Mad Men is a girdled and chi chi little performance, all teak side boards and New Wave cuts of chain smoking and conversation. Matthew Weiner’s little baby hit the sun-fried airwaves in the summer of 2007 like a cold and stylish splash of gin and it owed its success as much to its impossibly kitschy-cool interiors as to its tack sharp writing. Even as Mad Men was exposing the sordidness under and on Sterling Cooper’s retro couches, the tedium of life in Betty’s plaid kitchen and hot curlers, and the steel-plated undergarments beneath Joan’s vavavoom, we were fetishizing and merchandizing its impossible look. Shirtwaist dresses, wiggle skirts, and midcentury décor flooded malls and a thousand slick editorials pined after 60s fashions and their stitched-in gender relations (http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/2010/05/vogue-uk-far-from-heaven-2.html). Apparently decades of comfortable women’s wear and sober employment had us yearning for the bullet bras and permed posturing of another era, for workplace drinking and gentlemen’s accounts. Our favorite characters were chafing, sometimes literally, under their clothes, their narrow gender roles and expectations just as we were eagerly buying into them. We forget that Mad Men is about unraveling this atomic age idyll—a […]