History’s Carousel

Kodak carousel slide projector, 80 slides, looped
Variable dimensions

In History’s Carousel, a carousel slide projector presents a picturesque selection of family holiday photographs. The work is a nostalgic throwback to a time when families gathered to watch slideshows displayed on wobbly screens in home living rooms. Scenes of ancient ruins, quaint rural vistas, sandy seaside towns, and candlelit dinners become an evocative compendium of leisurely moments. Only the distinctive features of today’s social media and its aesthetics, which these photographs occasionally still exhibit, interrupt the allusion to times long past.

The carousel slide projector was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1961. The design was originally conceived by the Italian-American inventor, Louis Misuraca. Instead of earning royalties for his design, however, he received a one-time payment from Kodak, which he then used to take his family on a trip to Italy.

Louis Misuraca’s reward for what soon became a widely popular consumer product would seem incommensurate and inappropriate today. Yet, using his earnings for a family holiday trip was timely, since the carousel slide projector was mostly used, especially in the first decades after its invention, as a favorite device to display photos from similar holiday trips.

Carousel, the name of this device, also helps us understand Misuraca’s decision. A carousel, as Don Draper sentimentally pitched to Kodak executives in an episode of Mad Men, is a time machine that preys on nostalgia. It offers a “circle” of experiences that are memories that both amuse and entertain, indeed experiences that we can return to easily again and again at the flip of a switch.

Misuraca’s decision does seem to reflect a certain lack of business acumen, but it also suggested his inherent preference for leisure, pleasure, and creating memories. Instead of speculating about the royalties he might receive, Misuraca immediately saw his invention as an opportunity to exchange work for family leisure.

Almost 60 years later, Andrés Ramírez Gaviria used the advance commission he received for the sale of an artwork to be titled History’s Carousel to also take his family on holiday to Italy, essentially recreating Misuraca’s trip. The photographs Gaviria took to document that vacation became the actual commissioned artwork, along with the Kodak Carousel projector then used to display those unique photographs.