Commentaries - June 2011

On the reading group, part I

(reading Adrian Piper's Decide Who You Are in Constructing Masculinity, where Pi
(reading Adrian Piper's "Decide Who You Are," in Constructing Masculinity, where Piper's work appears as the endpapers)

Below is an email query I sent last Friday, the results of which will be posted soon as Part 2. I'm grateful to the folks who responded, many with sentence contributions, including: Yosefa Raz, Laura Woltag, Joshua Clover, Melissa Mack, Lindsey Boldt, anonymous, Laura Moriarty, Lauren Levin, Brandon Brown, Alli Warren, Monica Peck, Jackqueline Frost, Jess Heaney, Cynthia Sailers, Andrea Quaid, Scott Inguito, Samantha Giles, Zack Tuck and Anne Lesley Selcer.

A procedural update: the composition / remix of sentence contributions proceeded pretty much as anticipated in the email below. I dropped sentences into excel as they were received, making decisions along the way regarding which longer groups of sentences to leave together, and which seemed most dynamic as individual units. Then I sorted the sentences or sentence clumps in descending alpha order.  I almost went with this ordering device because I am a sucker for list poems and it was beautiful to see so many desires listed in a row.

When the school board was asked to read Wallace Stevens

'They shall know well the heavenly fellowship … '

Harold Levy (left) and Wallace Stevens

Harold Levy was an interim chancellor of New York City's public school system at the end of Giuliani and the beginning of Bloomberg. Levy got his BA from Cornell at a time when people like Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind) and poet A. R. Ammons held forth — and Harold Bloom, too, for that matter (I think). Levy hung out in an intellectually vibrant circle that produced (not surprisingly, when you think of A. Bloom's potential influence) Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives. (Wolfowitz had grown up partly in Ithaca; his father was a professor of statistical theory at Cornell.) Somewhere along the line — from Ammons and maybe Harold Bloom — Harold Levy picked up an absolute love of Wallace Stevens. And, many years later, when he was appointed chancellor he told all the members of the New York City School Board that they would be convened to discuss three poems by Stevens (Levy now recalls that two of these were “The Emperor of Ice Cream” and “Sunday Morning”) and would be given a violin lesson by Isaac Stern. Levy's role (he was a businessperson) was to bring efficiency to the system, but he also brought what might be deemd the opposite — a conviction that Board members should be conversant in the philosophical questions of the sort that one would hope kids in the schools would face if and when presented with probing teaching.

Johanna Drucker on aesthetics & materiality

Johanna Drucker is a book artist, poet, and scholar whose work focuses on the history of the book and print culture, history of information, critical studies in visual knowledge representation, and collection development in book arts. Recent books: Speclab (University of Chicago Press, 2010), Design History: A Critical Guide, with Emily McVarish (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2008), and Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). Drucker is Martin and Bernard Breslauer Professor of Information Studies at UCLA. This is an 8-minute excerpt from a one-hour talk.  Here is an audio recording of the entire presentation, which took place on March 14, 2011, at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia.

Susan Bee Interview

Painting & film noir, masks, women behind bars, collage, fairy tales, & disaster

Susan Bee interviewed by Tom Winchester at Sovereign Nation

Susan Bee‘s Recalculating at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn examines all of art history through a postmodern lens: as if its most epic battles were appropriated then compressed onto a canvas in a style that is similar to the way that David Salle, Nicole Eisenman, and Cindy Sherman have created their compositions. Without losing her style to a sea of reproductions, Bee maintains Recalculating as an exhibition of paintings that makes its two distinct themes battle each other in order to expose their tenuous theoretical commonalities. On the surface ironic fairy tales of domestic disputes and shattered windows build a film noir representative of today’s sobered ideals. Below the surface is a painterly, Bauhaus-inspired formal deconstruction that sometimes hides beneath objects that are fully rendered. The paintings’ formal tension reflects their dissonant narratives, creating a universality that art aspires to.

Susan Bee: The first series of paintings are stills from film noirs, mostly black-and-whites that I’ve made in color. They’re arranged in an abstract narrative with recurring characters like the man with the hat and the blonde woman, driving, windows, guns – there’s a lot of hints of violence in the film noirs. They usually end badly.

PennSound and the Beinecke collaborate

PennSound’s partnership with our colleagues at the Beinecke Library has led to the wide availability of recordings made many years ago by Lee Anderson. Today we introduce our PennSound/Beinecke page within the PennSound web archive. Many thanks, once again, to Nancy Kuhl at Yale.