Pedal Culture is a themed exploration of guitar effects pedals as cultural artifacts, derived from a 2017 design exhibition at San Francisco State University curated by the author. An anthropological quest, understanding how effects stompboxes allow for quasi-supernatural power transference from on high to guitarists is just one of the many themes Ronald Light explores. Exhibits showcase symbolic associations in the branding of sonic effects with cultural touchstones from popular arts and culture: material manifestations of noir literature, retro-futuristic cinema, and Japanese anime; graphic metaphors for female pudenda; explicit reference to murder and mayhem; and all too obvious associations to guacamole and chips.
The curatorial tone of Pedal Culture employs an irreverent sensibility expressed in a whimsical and ironic attitude toward its subject. In the expansive (and expensive) world of guitar gear, this richly photographed volume fuses form, content, and aesthetics. This is Pedal Culture!
Ronald Light had a varied career developing innovative and influential programs in arts, culture, and technology—often in service to very human needs for personal and community development. He has a BA in anthropology from San Francisco State University and an MFA in design from California Institute of the Arts. Light lives in San Francisco, where he plays guitar, badly.