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Elegy To A Slide Projector

With little fanfare, Eastman Kodak announced that they will stop manufacturing slide projectors this year. In the mid-1970s, over 300,000 slide projectors were sold annually; this year the company looks to sell less than 18,000.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of our dear friend the slide projector. The Ektagraphic. The Ektapro. The Carousel. At times, these projectors have shone brightly, but for now their bulbs have dimmed for the last time. Many of us are too young to remember the slide shows of family vacations and luxury cruises, yet these yawn-riddled, darkened excursions into the projected image haunt our collective imagination. Born from the ashes of the magic lantern, our late friend the slide projector taught us how to see. How many art students would have never seen the Venus of Willendorf, Nighthawks at the Diner, or The Origin of the World were it not for its halogen luminescence? How many times were we lured to slumber by the gentle hum of its cooling fan, the rhythmic chk-chk of its carousel advancement setting the beat for our head-bobbing sleep?

Many devotees will cling to your celluloid fantasies, no doubt. To this day, my own mailbox is peppered with jewel-like slides, each a miniature translation of a larger dream. Surely their senders know that we use no projector here. And it is only through willful denial that they could envision a slide scanner that was anything more than a noble failure.

We knew that autumn had come for our friend the projector when that art critic of great distinguish, Peter Schjeldahl, refused to consider it's use, even for the conveyance of imagery. "Slides," we may recall him declaring, "are an absolute blight on visual culture--lies that you believe." But rather than dwell on those who loved her not, let us turn our thoughts to the artists who fetishized her so, whose works were paeans to her flat, static beauty. Let us think of Nan Goldin, Marcel Broodthaers, Fischli & Weiss, and of course, the lovable Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. And finally this afternoon, let us thank Apple Computers, creators of iPhoto, for including the slideshow feature on every Macintosh sold. As our analog brother slides into the sunset, let us weep not at the loss of luminescence, but rather celebrate these beams of shining pictures.


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