ESP Biography

SEBASTIAN SCHMIDT, PhD student in the History of Architecture and Art

Major: History of Architecture

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of Sebastian Schmidt

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I am a PhD student in the History, Theory & Criticism (HTC) of Architecture and Art here at MIT. I was born and raised in Germany, but have mostly live abroad for the last ten years - in New Zealand, England, Japan, and Scotland. My research focuses on objects (and that's what my class is on) and cities, esp. postwar reconstruction and urbanism in Japan. I am also interested in visual culture, and have previously studied cyborg representations in Japanese animation and artistic responses to catastrophic events such as the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I am very excited about being an HSSP teacher, and look forward to seeing you in class!

Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)

H5707: The Meanings of Things in HSSP Spring 2012 (Feb. 18, 2012)
Have you ever wondered why there are things everywhere in our lives? Why kings and queens need scepters, why more people collect stamps than bubble wrap, why an original painting may make people cry, but a poster of the same painting is much less likely to do so? In this class, we will be thinking about the many different meanings that things and objects take on in our lives. With people lining up outside Apple stores overnight before a product launch, and outside the Louvre in Paris to see the Mona Lisa, it is obvious that things matter to us, be they mass-produced or unique. From paintings to buildings, from utensils used in rituals to the pen we use to take notes - we use things and objects to make sense of the world around us, and they also carry their own meanings. The reasons why they are meaningful change over time, and many things and objects become part of cultural history once they are no longer in active use or tied to rituals and cultural practices; then they may be collected or we can find them in museums. We will be looking at objects in a variety of contexts, including science, art, technology, consumer culture, and architecture, to get a better understanding of why things matter to us, or why they mattered to our ancestors. Participants will choose their own objects and work on a project resulting in an illustrated class report ('the book of things') to be distributed to participants at the end of the term.