Writer's TalkDan Smith: Traces of Modernity
Dan Smith presents his new book Traces of Modernity, an archaeology of the legacy of the Great Exhibition of 1851, published in June by Zero Books.
Critical engagements with four remnants of the nineteenth century — the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum and the H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine— provide different forms of encounter with the immense spectacle that helped forge our contemporary understanding of display, surveillance and commodity.
This legacy can be detected in the development of the modern museum and gallery as well as the shaping of spaces and structures of trade, commerce and political display, denying any possibility of conceptually separating these sites. Linked by a cumulative narrative that binds the mid nineteenth century to the early twenty first, these four objects are identified as formative traces of the past within the present. They provide models for critical thought and suggest answers to the problematic conditions that they present as ideologically specific relics from a previous age.
Dan Smith is currently Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at Chelsea College of Art and Design. Having studied fine art in the early 1990s, he went on to develop a collaborative curatorial practice concerned with notions of collection and display under the name Wunderkammer. He has written extensively on contemporary art in publications such as Art Monthly, as well as engaging with theoretical approaches to notions of archive, material culture, science fiction and utopia.
He is currently writing Agamben Reframed, to be published by I.B. Tauris, and A World of Uncertain Seasons: Contemporary Art and Utopian Impulse, to be published by Peter Lang.