Alison Reiko Loader applies her interests in old media technology and scientific visual culture to making short animated films and manipulated moving image installations. A lapsed National Film Board of Canada filmmaker that specializes in 3d and digital animation, Loader reimag(in)es connections between old media apparatuses, representation and spectatorship by applying research-creation and feminist theories to media archaeology. Fascinated by optical technologies and the liveliness of the nonhuman, her doctoral research (Communication Studies, Concordia University, Montreal) explores the nineteenth-century founding of the Edinburgh Camera Obscura by Maria Short.
Mobile Media Archaeology, DIY Research-Creation & The Claude Mirror
Media Archaeology posits a materialist and non-teleological approach to the history of media technology that helps illuminate current practices through the revelation of reoccurring phenomena through time. However, it often universalizes or even disregards users in the privileging of object-oriented analysis, and because its objects are often lost, obsolescent or rare, this neglect is exacerbated when the study’s only sources are potentially exaggerated or misleading accounts by inventors and promoters. Practice-based feminist media archaeology addresses this challenge in two ways: first, it considers producers and users as situated and embodied, co-meaning-makers of technology; and second, it employs the remaking of objects to facilitate and communicate research and analysis through direct physical engagement. Whereas newer technologies can pose challenges for this DIY method, old optical media are relatively simple to build with readily available materials. An example of easy-to-make mobile media archaeology is the Claude Mirror—a popular tourist accessory from the end of the eighteenth century—that conference participants are invited to fashion out of magnifying glasses and black adhesive. Named for Claude Lorraine, the seventeenth-century painter of ideal landscapes, these convex and blackened mirrors “enhance” vision by distorting space and reducing image contrast and saturation, enabling the sightseer to transform any vista into a handheld vision of the picturesque. Centuries before digital photography and apps, Georgians with an eye for Romance turned their backs on the scenery before them in favour of a mediated view of their surroundings through these special compact mirrors. This “18th Century Instagram” was a veritable real time painting-in-a-pocket that today’s media archaeologist can make, experience and discuss in a snap.