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Title:Elusive matter, material bodies: American art in the age of electronic mediation, 1865-1918
Author(s):Applebaum, Lauren
Director of Research:Greenhill, Jennifer A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Weissman, Terri
Doctoral Committee Member(s):O'Brien, David; Hamilton, Kevin
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
transatlantic cable
Frederic Church
Enoch Wood Perry
Louis Comfort Tiffany
landscape painting
genre painting
epistolary practice
postal system
communication technology
new media
electronic mediation
Abstract:This dissertation examines how American art engaged new electronic media during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, when techno-utopian desires for global harmony and interconnection surged throughout American culture, encouraged by the advent of the electromagnetic telegraph. While the fluid transmission of information over vast distances offered the democratic ideal of interconnectedness, its dematerialized process eluded public understanding. Responding to this tension, artists and craftsmen of the period adapted new communicative strategies and formal languages to traditional materials and modes of creative expression—from landscape and genre paintings to quilts and decorative desk sets—to help translate this elusive process into material form. By approaching these practices as both artistic mediums and communication media (through the lens of media theory and material culture studies), my project addresses the broader cultural implications of social technologies during the period, still relevant in our current digital age—the porousness of domestic and national boundaries; questions of access and privacy; and the development of global markets and power structures within these seemingly egalitarian spaces. My research contributes to a growing investment across the humanities in the aesthetics—and material manifestation—of electronic media. Within the field of art history, this investment has predominately been devoted to the emergence of the information age and the implementation of New Media in contemporary art practices. My project, however, investigates the understudied formative stage in electronic media. While the prevailing narratives on social technologies in this period address the way in which devices like the telegraph contributed to a new anti-pastoral content in visual culture through the portrayal of telegraph poles and wires, I examine how a diverse range of creative expressions by Frederic Church, Enoch Wood Perry, and Louis C. Tiffany theorized the social impact of communication technologies, as acts of transmission themselves. Beginning in 1865, with the imminent completion of the transatlantic telegraph, and ending in 1918, with the rise of AT&T, this dissertation revises existing notions of how the period’s art communicates to viewers across time and space.
Issue Date:2019-04-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Lauren Applebaum
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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