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Posts Tagged ‘Extinct

“What you remember saves you”*…

Observations on obsolescent (or otherwise “over”) objects…

“My mother possessed a superlative ashtray,” writes architecture critic Catherine Slessor. It had a waist-high stand and a chrome-plated bowl, and, she writes, “faintly reeking, it stood to attention in our 1960s suburban living room like some engorged trophy.” Slessor goes on to describe other ashtrays of note: a Limoges porcelain limited-edition ashtray that Salvador Dalí designed for use on Air India, in exchange for a baby elephant that the airline transported for him from Bangalore to Spain; the ashtrays at Quaglino’s in London that reportedly used to disappear at a rate of seven per day in the 1990s, snatched by diners as souvenirs of a society locale. In doing so, she conjures the material world of the twentieth century, inhabited as it was by ashtrays of all shapes and sizes. Then, with the dawn of the millennium, this category of object—part functional décor, part objet d’art—all but disappeared.

Slessor’s short essay on the ashtray appears in the new book Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects, a collection of illustrated essays on eighty-five objects that, its editors write, “once populated the world and do so no longer.”…

The essays in Extinct often answer two questions: What was it that has disappeared and why? And then, what was the significance of this loss? Some, like Slessor’s, are lucidly personal meditations, stuffed with anecdotes and design history; others are more technical treatises on the reason a particular technology failed to take root. The editors identify six general reasons why things become extinct and categorize each object in this way. Certain objects are deemed “failed”; they simply didn’t work. Many more, though, are “superseded” by more advanced models of similar things. Some dead objects, especially commercial products, are “defunct”—these have failed to gain widespread adoption, or couldn’t be mass-produced, or have simply gone out of style. Others are “aestivated,” meaning that they disappear but are revived in a new form. Still others are classified as “visionary,” in that they never quite came into being at all. The rest are “enforced,” basically regulated into disappearance…

From “Mementos Mori,” an appreciation by Sophie Haigney (@SophieHaigney) of Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects, in @thebafflermag.

See also “Heritage out of Control: Disturbing Heritage,” by Birgit Meyer, from which:

… waste, is in many respects the Other of heritage. Things that have lost their value, were left to decay or targeted for destruction can be scrutinized for alternative understandings of how past things matter in our global entangled world: as haunting shadows, shady specters, or hidden time bombs, challenging how histories have been written, and the narratives and powers condoned by them.

* W. S. Merwin

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As we deliberate on disappearance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958, above the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, that an F-86 fighter plane collided with the B-47 bomber carrying a nuclear bomb. To protect the aircrew from a possible detonation in the event of a crash, the bomb was jettisoned. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost somewhere in Wassaw Sound off the shores of Tybee Island. It has never been found. (That said, nuclear weapons are, sadly, still with us.)

An Mk 15 nuclear bomb of the type lost when jettisoned after the collision (source)
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