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Stella

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Who is Stella?

            Within FSU’s postcard archive, roughly 210 postcards are addressed to, mention, or are from a woman named Stella. The postcard archive provides an interesting opportunity to explore the ways one medium, one genre of writing can define one ordinary person; here, this exhibit takes up this task. In doing so, while the exhibit will show us something about this specific person, the exhibit also aligns with wider questions concerning identity formation, delivering identity, and how identities are mediated by writing.

            There’s certainty been some concern by some about the ways identities are delivered in writing, particularly in digital and electronic media. James Porter, for example, pays particular attention to how body—central to how he conceives of identity—is remediated in a digital space: namely, in digital spaces, identities are delivered through the composition, representation, and arrangement of images and writing. Others, like Jay David Bolton and Richard Grusin write about the self as remediated, networked, and fragmented across different new media platforms. The construction and delivery of identities through digital media prompts a wider discussion about the ways technology supports—and potentially, itself, creates—our identities. In the words of Donna Harraway, “we are all…cyborgs” (150) or, more broadly speaking, “there are no essential differences or absolute demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation” (3). In other words, the construction of identity is always closely tied to the technologies in which we deliver our identities. While this is most obviously theorized in terms of digital technologies, this exhibit explores how one ordinary person is delivered in an old and familiar technology: postcards.

            In a subtle way, this exhibit hopes to thread old and new media together in order to show how the mediation of identity is not a new phenomenon.

A note on evidence: 

            As is expected, this exhibit is only looking at a sliver of materials that are related to Stella. Our understanding of Stella is limited by the scope offered by the materials from the archive itself: it is necessarily fragmented, partial, and at times, speculative. What’s not seen in the exhibit should be just as present as what’s left behind because it is in these gaps that we begin to see the limits of what a medium, genre, and technology can provide: no single form of writing can ever show the full spectrum of a person. Even more, many of the postcards are written to Stella—again, this limits the exhibit’s scope, but makes this project no less interesting to explore.

The path:

            The exhibit is split into two categories: (1) Meta-data investigation labelled Some logistics and (2) a more speculative exploration of Stella's character labelled Relationships, displacement, and being there. In the first section, the exhibit looks at the logistical information provided on the postcards that includes addresses, names and titles, and dates. In this way, we can track some major life events and movements of Stella. In the second section, the exhibit focuses on Stella’s displacements from those who correspond with her and how this becomes an exigence for writing. In the process, the postcards between friends and relatives demonstrate her motivations to travel as well as demonstrates the kind of relationships she has built and the values that she espouse. 

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Objectifying Women in Beach Postcards

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The postcard offers people a unique way to share significant moments with others, with the common intent being to capture the essence of a person, place, thing, idea or combination of the four and portray it through a single card. Whether depicted through real-life photography or composed illustration, the postcard always finds a way to successfully and appealingly represent. In many cases, the postcard communicates as a form of advertisement. This is especially true in the case of vacation postcards, which are used to not only share the experience an individual is having in a certain place but also to potentially attract future visitors. This type of advertising postcard will incorporate specific aspects in order to attract the audience in a special way.  This exhibit focuses on beach postcards in particular and aims to examine the role that women play in the crafting of these postcards. Women are both directly and indirectly used as objects in these postcards to attract people to the specific beach shown.

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