new internet/life pastime: retronauting which leads to an art history discourse

Most of my internet life is spent doing one of two things: actively facebooking or passively waiting for my facebook to reload. I am trying to kick this habit, like a lot of my friends. But I don’t think I could do internet cold turkey like I used to do my myspace days because I rely so much on the internet to a. communicate with my college b. get information from my college c. do research for college [and my pet side projects]. The internet is a big part of the college education! Especially at a school where we have an AMAZING Digital Design Fellow, Shannon, who helps students understand how to use the internet to their advantage in their education and completely inspires me to keep blogging [and happens to be my lovely boss!]

So I’m now on the look out of more life-enriching internet hobbies. I like Runner’s World because I almost always go running afterwards. And if you’ve read “The Goals”, you know that oee of my long-term goals is to run a marathon and Runner’s has great blogs by runners who are in the process of training.

I used to like Etsy a lot for the inspiration, but now that I have a somewhat disposable work-study income, I try to steer away from anything that smells of online shopping.

Well, How to be a Retronaut appeals to my need to be both motivated and inspired. It is basically a super, disorganized and wonderful encyclopedia of photographs, film, music, design, with the goal of rethinking what is iconic of and associated a certain period. Maybe this appeals more to my art history side. But it is lovely and inspiring none the less.

One that I adored was “The summer of 1910 caught in a delicate colour...” focusing on the autochromes of Etheldreda Laing of her two daughters Iris and Janet. Maybe because I’ve obsessively watched A Room with a View five times in five days but I love their clothes and the art in these images. I would love to see a resurgence of autochromes but apparently [according to Wikipedia] there has been interest in it, but people have had trouble recreating the unique additive technique on the glass plates that were used.

I just love the painterly quality to the images. This one is by far my favorite because Janet and Iris look about the same age as my younger sister and me now and it such a tender moment of sisterly love, along with parental love because I feel like the viewer can tell that Laing cared deeply for her subjects, contrasting to my favorite John Singer Sargent painting,

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, image from Wikipedia

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, where the girls are so distant and disengaged from the viewer, each looking like she has some secret and something better to do.

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez, image from Wikipedia

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez, image from Wikipedia, click through for larger picture

“Daughters” in turn is often compared to “Las Meninas” by Velazquez. So much so, that the Sargent is going to the Prado until mid-May 2010 to hang next to its predecessor. Which reminds me how much I want to go to Spain to just stare at Velazquezs and Goyas for hours. I personally like the Sargent more, though I do really love Velazquez, simply because Sargent creates this world of isolation for the girls but the painting at first glance is four sisters in a room, not the strained, yearning place that Sargent depicts. And while Sargent uses subject matter to create ambiguity, Velazquez uses visual trickery, with his imposing canvas and self portrait and mirror that reflects where the viewer is standing as the subject of picture Velazquez’s painting, the king and queen of Spain. Somehow, I feel using the subject to exemplify its own ambiguity is more sincere than Velazquez technique, though his is no less impressive.

Still GOAL OF POST. Check out How to be a Retronaut, or look for your own inspiring websites! Explore the internet outside of JSTOR for school and Facebook for avoiding school.

Other posts I found inspiring:

Vivid colour pictures of London’s Peace Day, 19th July 1919… [first image just replaced “Daughters” as my background image

Beautiful colour shots of the streets of Dublin 50 years ago…

64 exquisite colour miniatures of Cornwall, August 1913… [Can I be invited to your next party, people in first photo?]

Haunting colour pictures of England before the First World War…

10 pictures conjuring the past from thin air…

Most of the posts that piqued my interest were the ones about the World Wars in England and the times immediately before and after. Maybe because my perception of the time then is so romanticized by films. I don’t know if it is just me, but these high resolution pictures are jarring because so many of the pictures look different from today’s film that is hard to imagine the world looking that way, even if I can tell myself over and over that they saw with the clarity that I do. A bit of an existential photo crises on my part as I view them.

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2 Comments

Filed under Art

2 responses to “new internet/life pastime: retronauting which leads to an art history discourse

  1. great advice emma about using the internet for education outside of school and facebook! I’m inspired. (and thanks for the shout-out…;) )

  2. Pingback: favorite blogs | miss woodhouse goes to college

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