Friday, June 10, 2016

Event 4: Fowler Museum (UCLA)

The Fowler Museum is an ideal place to visit for UCLA students not only because of the cultural heritage it contains, but also because of its proximity since it is housed on campus. It is for that reason that I decided to pay the museum a visit, in midst of finals week. Fowler Museum was established in 1963 with its purpose to consolidate various collections of non-Western artifacts on campus, with particular focus on art and material culture from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, as well as the Americas. Through exhibitions, publications, and public programs, Fowler Museum aims to instill an appreciation of diverse peoples, cultures, and religions of the world. 
Headrests in East and Central Africa
When I first walked into the museum, these hemispherical objects immediately caught my attention. As it turns out, they are in fact headrests constructed in East and Central Africa by wooden supports to cradle the neck during sleep. Because our head serves as a "medium" in which we can communicate between human and ancestral realms during dreams, the head is usually associated with spiritual power and the concentrated essence of a human being. As a rest, the artifact on which the head rests is often revered as an art form. 

The Fowler Museum also contains an impressive amount of silverware. These collections of silver mainly originated from the British, but also include items from Western Europe, Russia, and America. Most of these silverware date from 17th-19th centuries, where industrial revolution had led to increased slave labor in the mining of gold and silver, and the craftsmanship of gold and silverware was consequently reinvigorated. Since the use of silver by the imperial and wealthy families have perpetuated in China throughout almost its entire history, people would undoubtedly wonder how silver-crafting technologies have changed since then. As it turns out, modern technologies have done little for artists other than to provide some mechanical aids. In fact, a negative consequence of advancements in technologies that enabled the mass production of silver also inadvertently led to the devaluation of silver as an art form. Regardless, we once again observe the intricate link between technology and art. 
Silverware in Fowler's collection
The most salient changes that advances in technologies have brought us are captured in a series of photographs captured by Stephen Verona in his series Mao to Now. From rickshaws to Maglev trains, and from roadside barbers to beauty salons, we see how technology brings us both convenience and luxury. In the lower right corner of the picture below, the evolution of fashion with technology can also be observed, though admittedly this may be due more to changes in fashion sense than to technology per se. However, we note that technology does in fact shape fashion, as we recall the 3D printed fashion garments on display at the Architecture and Design Museum.  
Mao to Now by Stephen Verona
Here's a photo of myself at the museum ;D

"About the Museum". Fowler Museum. N.d. Web. 10 June 2016.

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