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David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

September 15, 2008

Saddened to read that David Foster Wallace was found dead on Friday, an apparent suicide. I first encountered his writing during my freshman year at Kenyon and immediately became a dedicated fan. I recall reading his collection of short stories, The Girl With Curious Hair, a minimum of three times that year. It was my first in encounter with a writer who spoke in terms both erudite and accessible, humorous and heartbreaking. Ten years later, Wallace came to Kenyon to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class. A quote from that speech:

Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education—least in my own case—is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me. … I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.

One can only assume that it was this tendency to over-intellectualize that led Wallace to end his life. Readers of his work will know that the struggle of daily life, the real, post-ironic business of how to feel worthy and maybe even proud of oneself, has always been present in Wallace’s fiction. In the last section of Girl With Curious Hair, he writes: “To be a subject is to be Alone. Trapped. Kept from yourself. … You can kiss anyone’s spine but your own.” That story ends with three words that Wallace must desperately have wanted to hear: you are loved.

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The Goodbye Scholz Series

September 12, 2008

Me and the people who I worked with….

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The Illegal Operation

September 11, 2008

Ed Kienholz created his piece, The Illegal Operation, in 1962 as a comment on back-street abortions. Said to be one of the most important post-war sculptures in LA, the tableau was purchased by Kienholz’s friends Monte and Betty Factor soon after the artist had made it. Believing in the meaning and spirit of the piece, they had purchased it from Kienholz for a modest sum, throwing in an old boat and some clothes to sweeten the deal. The sculpture was then kept in a private upstairs dressing room in the couple’s home for the next 40 odd years.

“Many of our friends were not heavily into art, and they thought we were a little nuts anyway,” Factor said. “Few other people went up to our dressing room, but I walked by the piece every time I went to the bathroom. I thought it was the most deeply affecting work of art I had ever seen. It struck very deep into me.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently purchased the piece for their permanent collection for $1 million.

via The Los Angeles Times

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Deka Ray

Eugenie Huang creates beautiful, architecturally-inspired jewelry.

Designing without literal representation of iconic ornamental forms, Ms. Huang creates objects that are familiar but not precisely realistic. Her work is otherworldly and technological in thought-process, yet imbued with the ambiance of natural environment as a tactile, material influence. Inspired by Edwin Abbot’s notion of humankind being the privileged inhabitants of “Spaceland”, Ms. Huang imagines she is reeling in glimpses of extra dimensions in her 3D manifestations.

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Beijing Taxi

September 10, 2008

A new documentary about the lives of Beijing taxi drivers from Three Waters Productions.

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September 9, 2008

Apartamento is a new editorial project dedicated to the world of interiors. It’s special.

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116 Suns (in honor of CERN)

Mariah Robertson, 116 Suns. 2007. C-Print, 30″ x 40″. Edition of 5, 2APs

But apparently, it’s not a problem.

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Knitting with Kevlar

Some new work by Dave Cole at the Judi Rotenberg Gallery. The show is entitled All American.

Dave Cole, Knitting with Loaded Shotguns (Safties Off). 2008, spun statuary bronze with 12 gauge shotguns, 72″ x 66″ x 10″.

Dave Cole, Kevlar Party Dress. 2008, Kevlar (Used Gulf War Bullet Proof Vest) cut, sewn, hand knit and hand woven, 22” x 15” x 6”

Dave Cole, Bullet Flag Study #2. 2008, recovered bullets and bullet fragments, 15.5″ x 29″ x 1.5″

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September 8, 2008

From an article by Theresa Brown in the New York Times. Ms. Brown is a staff nurse at a hospital in Pennsylvania. Below is an excerpt from an article she wrote about trying to save someone who was suddenly dying. In the hospital, these deaths are referred to as “Condition A,” the “A” standing for arrest, as in cardiac arrest.

I am 43. I came to nursing circuitously, following a brief career as an English professor. Often at work in the hospital I hear John Donne in my head:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.

But after my Condition A I find his words empty. My patient died looking like one of the flesh-eating zombies from “28 Weeks Later,” and indeed in real life, even in the world of the hospital, a death like this is unsettling.

What can one do? Go home, love your children, try not to bicker, eat well, walk in the rain, feel the sun on your face and laugh loud and often, as much as possible, and especially at yourself. Because the only antidote to death is not poetry, or drama, or miracle drugs, or a roomful of technical expertise and good intentions. The antidote to death is life.

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Lebbeus Woods and the Architecture of the Impossible

Great article in the New York Times by Nicolai Ouroussoff about the architect Lebbeus Woods.

Some critics condemned the design for its coldblooded imagery. But it also turned cold-war Modernism on its head. In the 1950s American architects were striving to retool wartime military production for the construction of a peacetime paradise. One result was the mind-numbing conformity of suburban subdivisions. Mr. Woods, by comparison, has never been so utopian. In his drawings society seems to be coming apart at the seams. His glistening pods, armored against the surrounding mayhem, are intended as sanctuaries for society’s most vulnerable: outcasts, rebels, heretics and dreamers.

Berlin Free-Zone 3-2. A proposal from the early 90’s for an abandoned building in Berlin.

Terrain 1-2. A series of designs that reflected the effects of earthquake-induced seismic shifts.

A design for an unrealized pavilion in China. “..a dense Piranesian space in which people can climb out to peer out at the urban sprawl of the new China.”

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