Surfaces: A History
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.
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 5. 33. For a classic volume seeking to integrate the invention and development of the ship into the history of technology, see S.C. Gilfillan, Inventing the Ship (Chicago: Follett, 1935). For an excellent outline of seminal Egyptian ship construction, see Cheryl Ward, “Boatbuilding in Ancient Egypt,” in Hocker and Ward, eds., The Philosophy of Ship Building, 13–24. 34. The Battle of Salamis was immortalized by Herodotus in The Histories,
relays, most affects society. 4. Paul Valéry, “The Intellectual Crisis” (1919), in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry (New York: New Directions, 1950), 120. 5. Henry Petroski, Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design (New York: Knopf, 2003), 13. Also of interest is idem, The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts—from Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers—Came to Be as They Are (New York: Vintage, 1992). 6. For a collection of classic statements on design, see
terms, self, body, society, and world exist reciprocally. Humans incorporate world into self and community, and as body, habits, images, decorations, and representations, they transpose individual and communal selves into the world. The individual and corporate human body speaks of selves and meanings to other animals, humans, and divine beings. Gestures, which can be expressive, confessional, communicative, or directive, display and reveal humans in action, will, and intention. Humans express
thinker Isaiah Berlin would argue, the embryo of totalitarianism. SIX Courts, Gardens, and Mirrors SEEING AND BEING SEEN A forest of mirrors, or a “desert of mirrors,” overwhelmed the twentieth century, constantly reminding men of the lesson forged in the seventeenth century: Man is nothing other than a reflection and vanity. But the mirror had been stripped of the mystical significance it once had. “Mute surface” is what Borges called the mirror—“uninhabitable, impenetrable, where all is
significance during the revolution.) Words, money, and revolutionary paper overflowed the banks of the Seine. The number of printing establishments in Paris tripled in the revolutionary period, with fifty-five new shops opening in the years 1789 to 1790 alone. Pamphlets on every subject were the sails of the racing ship of France. They ranged from treatises on finance and public administration to philosophical essays, political denunciations, eulogies, and Les Cris de Paris, the array of