Valérie Morisson: From Hinde to Hillen: Postcards and the Issue of Authenticity in Popular Culture
← 180 | 181 → VALÉRIE MORISSON
In 1948, T.S. Eliot opined that ‘even the humblest material artefact, which is the product and symbol of a particular civilization, is an emissary of the culture out of which it comes’.1 Though postcards have been part of visual culture for 150 years,2 they have attracted little scholarly attention in the field of visual culture, with research perspectives being ‘rather narrow and removed from their broader social and cultural contexts’.3 In Ireland, a country much advertised through postcards, they are seldom considered in relation with cultural or art history. However, as David Prochaska argues, ‘postcards form a constitutive part of the way in which the business of art, commerce, history, and identity is negotiated on a daily basis’.4 He holds that ‘rather than their originality, it is precisely their lack of originality that makes postcards significant’.5
← 181 | 182 → Postcards indisputably are emissaries of mass and popular culture. The postcard phenomenon,6 reaching its heyday between 1895 and 1914,7 was tied to mass-consumption, entertainment, and the rise of the middle-class. Photography played a crucial role in their dissemination and facilitated the staging and retouching of idealized views of places and people. In this context, photographs are produced, traded, and circulated commodities.
The wide circulation of John Hinde’s postcards8 and their reutilization in Seàn Hillen’s postcard-like collages9 have contributed to defining Ireland and Irish identity. Hillen’s Irelantis (1994–2005) and Searching for Evidence (2007–2009), works ‘saturated in...
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