Zoë Sofoulis

Bowl, depicting shark, 180 BC – 500 AD, from Nazca, Peru. Art Institue of Chicago.

Dr Zoë Sofoulis, writing as Zoë Sofia, in Hypatia vol. 15 no. 2, Spring 2000, builds on the urbanist Lewis Mumford’s work on ‘utensils’ to write about Container Technologies.  She’s broadening the field, as “the prototype tool on which philosophers meditate is not usually a cup or bowl but typically some kind of probe or stick.”

“I conducted a survey of the kitchen/dining/living area of the shelter technology I inhabit, from the vantage of a “machine for sitting in” at my dining table.”

She noted: pots, pans, vases, dish-rack; drawers, cupboards, garbage bin; the “strategically inefficient” sieves, colanders, paper coffee filters; sofa-bed, letter rack, envelopes. “Books, photographs and albums, telephone directories, the television, the stereo, cassettes and CDs: all these media technologies, I decided on reflection, had their container-like aspects […] these electronic and print media are storage technologies for other spaces and experiences. A CD or tape can open up a whole concert or an aural landscape of feelings; a book can disclose another world.”

Then there are “the utilities: the gas pipes and valves, the electricity conduits, the plumbing – all so many containers for channeling dynamic flows and ensuring supply, unobtrusively linking this domicile to vast grids of energetic and institutional power (so long as I keep paying the bills).”

Jugs, mothering, Heidegger’s standing reserve: it’s a really good article.

More containers from the fabulous Nazca collection at the Art Institute of Chicago: