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Science/fiction: habitat dioramas, vision, and postwar American art

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Title
Science/fiction: habitat dioramas, vision, and postwar American art
Name (type = personal)
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Matsumura
NamePart (type = given)
Kimiko
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Kimiko Matsumura
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author
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Sidlauskas
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Susan
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Susan Sidlauskas
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Advisory Committee
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chair
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Yanni
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Carla
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Carla Yanni
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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Zervigon
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Andres
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Andres Zervigon
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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DeLue
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Rachael
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Rachael DeLue
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Advisory Committee
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outside member
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Rutgers University
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RoleTerm (authority = RULIB)
degree grantor
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School of Graduate Studies
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school
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theses
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2019
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2019-05
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2019
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English
Abstract (type = abstract)
Science/Fiction analyzes shifting American relationships to nature in the contemporary period by considering various incarnations of habitat dioramas, the American Museum of Natural History’s revolutionary display type that combines three-dimensional specimens with illusionistic backgrounds in niches behind glass. I examine how both the institution and fine artists have used this form to explore environmental issues since World War II by attending to materiality, histories of vision, and sociohistorical context. Through case studies on the Hall of North American Mammals, Robert Smithson, Mark Dion, and Alexis Rockman, I argue that the habitat diorama occupies a unique role in the American natural imaginary. It is a contested space used to build contradictory narratives about nature and its relationship to patriotic identity, institutional knowledge, and ecological politics.
Throughout the project, I focus on the use of glass to demonstrate the physical ways in which each maker constructs bodily relationships to the environment and how glass’ symbolic associations with competing concepts of vision frame these interactions. Chapter one argues that the diorama’s glass screen serves to unify distracted vision and promote disinterested, observational prowess as a patriotic responsibility. The following chapters then show how each artist changes the position of the glass screen to open the diorama and create new natural history narratives. In chapter two, Smithson’s mirror boxes challenge the museum’s definition of self-contained and enduring nature while the Cold War frayed the American relationship to the environment. In chapter three, Dion creates inclusive spaces, performing an institutional critique that decenters vision in favor of phenomenological encounters with nature that promote wonder. In chapter four, Rockman’s science fiction dioramas propose alternative universes marred by climate change, suggesting that vision may still mobilize productive action.
Ultimately, I trace a politicized conception of nature that simultaneously subverts and reifies institutional knowledge and the role of vision in constructing it. I establish that habitat dioramas and their reinterpretations reflect larger controversies about nature and vision throughout the twentieth century, considering not only the function of the display at the height of its popularity, but also the way it mediates American understanding of the natural world across time. Examining the habitat diorama as a discursive visual technology used across disciplines, I identify the broad significance of these objects to American art and show that these installations have served as vital tools in developing notions of self, science, and the environment.
Subject (authority = local)
Topic
Dioramas
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Art History
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Diorama -- United States -- 20th century
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Diorama -- United States -- 21st century
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Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_9752
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1 online resource (xv, 272 pages) : illustrations
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references
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School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore10001600001
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/t3-eq81-3z45
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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Rights

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The author owns the copyright to this work.
RightsHolder (type = personal)
Name
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Matsumura
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Kimiko
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RightsEvent
Type
Permission or license
DateTime (encoding = w3cdtf); (qualifier = exact); (point = start)
2019-04-10 12:53:06
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Name
Kimiko Matsumura
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Affiliation
Rutgers University. School of Graduate Studies
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Author Agreement License
Detail
I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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Embargo
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2019-05-31
DateTime (encoding = w3cdtf); (qualifier = exact); (point = end)
2021-05-30
Detail
Access to this PDF has been restricted at the author's request. It will be publicly available after May 30th, 2021.
Copyright
Status
Copyright protected
Availability
Status
Open
Reason
Permission or license
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2019-04-10T16:26:22
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2019-04-10T16:26:22
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