Archive for June 2010
In February through April, I went to a few lectures given by an old friend, Lawrence Weschler. He’s most well known as an author, and his subjects range from art and culture to politics and poets. What ties all his conversations together is a brilliant mind, one that finds links—and convergences—in images, literature, history and art. His talks were staged at venues around L.A., including the Getty, where Weschler was a scholar in residence at the Getty Research Institute. In his daily life back East, he’s the Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities.
Fortunately, some of the talks were held at Occidental College, just a short hop from my home in Eagle Rock. A small, first rate liberal arts college, Occidental invited Weschler to be an artist in residence, so he enjoyed a kind of dual residency at the Getty and Occidental during the winter of 2010. For me, it was a delight to listen to the talks, and the experience took me back to times in college—when a few professors opened doors and started my curiosity burning. My old classmate Ren (as I know him) recalled those times at U.C. Santa Cruz, too, and referred to our shared college experiences in the updated talk titled “Vermeer in Bosnia”.
But the lecture topic that stayed with me was titled “All Things Solid”—about books, reading and the printed page. Appropriately enough, the lecture was held in the Occidental Library, and Weschler (knowing full well that he was speaking to the Digital Generation on a college campus) shared his love of books. He noted the physicality, the tactility of books—the turning of the page. He extolled a book’s characteristics, in opposition to the internet: a book has permanence and physicality, a book has a spine and is vertebrate, while the internet is amorphous. An author wants you to read things in an order, by chapter, while the internet seems to encourage a kind of wandering from place to place (yes, even here, in this blog).
I think a lot about books, libraries and research these days. I’m one of several essayists working on a project that will be published in January of 2012. Our task is to shed new light on the ceramic sculpture made by John Mason, Ken Price and Peter Voulkos during 1956 to 1968. It’s a subject in need of more attention, and a something that just can’t be found on the internet—as it happened 50 years ago. In doing my research, I’ve found all the best sources to be…books and catalogs. I’m now living with them all, and walking between them, as they are stacked all over my living room floor. In praise of all things solid, and tactile, indeed!