Surfaces: A History

Surfaces: A History

Language: English

Pages: 310


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Human beings are surrounded by surfaces: from our skin to faces, to the walls and streets of our homes and cities, to the images, books, and screens of our cultures and civilizations, to the natural world and what we imagine beyond. In this thought-provoking and richly textured book, Joseph A. Amato traces the human relationship with surfaces from the deep history of human evolution, which unfolded across millennia, up to the contemporary world. Fusing his work on Dust and On Foot, he shows how, in the last two centuries, our understanding, creation, control, and manipulation of surfaces has become truly revolutionary—in both scale and volume. With the sweep of grand history matched to existential concerns for the present, he suggests that we have become the surfaces we have made, mastered, and now control, invent, design, and encapsulate our lives. This deeply informed and original narrative, which joins history and anthropology and suggests new routes for epistemology and aesthetics, argues that surfaces are far more than superficial façades of deep inner worlds.

Ways of Worldmaking

Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory

The Practices of the Enlightenment: Aesthetics, Authorship, and the Public (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)















New Factor in Evolution,” American Naturalist 30, no. 354 (June 1996); 441–51; and Daniel Dennett, “The Baldwin Effect: A Crane, Not a Skyhook,” in Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew, eds., Evolution and Learning: The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 69–106. For a recent application of Baldwinian evolution to toolmaking, language, and underlying genetic dispositions that favor the expansion of the forebrain and the cerebral cortex, see Christine Kenneally, The First

annealed in my generation’s memory by the Wall between East and West Berlin. And, as a rich source of metaphors, walls lead us out into empty space, as Lucretius argues in De Rerum natura [conveniently read in On the Nature of the Universe, trans. R.E. Latham (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1951)]. We cannot postulate coming to the end of one wall without postulating a next wall, and so grasp infinity. 50. For the palaces of Knossos and those of Crete and Mycenae, with illustrations, see Peter

and bull had come to represent the binary symbolic division of being into male and female. Woman and bull, prototheological subjects, were worthy of the keenest decorations. They, and their cohorts and retinues, abounded in Çatalhöyük on painted frescoes, in modeled relief sculptures, and in statues—and such figures were subsequently found across the Near East, as typified by Crete’s royal and bestial genealogy of bull and queen, singularly condemned by the God of Israel.25 As humans settled in

conscious of the possibility of failure. . . . With a new sense of beginnings, descent, and time came also sacred imperatives.”38 Civilizations in the Near East, especially those of Mesopotamia and Egypt, created an order of interactions among societies. Reaching beyond established political boundaries, these interactions rested on the exchange of metals, scented oils, wood, colored stone objects, and other goods. Furthermore, as seen in early Crete and throughout the eastern Mediterranean, the

coarse blankets on roughly sewn straw and hay mattresses. Small, cramped houses meant some people slept outdoors in improvised lofts and dugouts. With only a single table and two corresponding benches for eating, most people learned to sit on their haunches, with their backs against walls. They had only a few pots for cooking, and no fancy utensils for eating—perhaps only a wooden spoon and a knife. Outside, yards were not paved or covered in grass; instead they were worn hard by traffic, blown

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