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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Romantic Rembrances of Research

Sometimes you are told as a child about the transformations that will occur in your life. The suggestions that you will outgrow your childish things and ways-they sometimes amount to wishful thinking.

Sometimes they are inevitable.

I think I got into the art biz, because of love for the game. I had dreams of playing for a living, celebrating life in the glory of personal expression. Somehow, that naive love has become replaced. If congratulations are in order, this resulted from a deeper understanding of duty. If aspersions are what you want to give me, consider me another jaded practitioner- a sell out to survival in an imperfect world.


I flip through the channels to mentally cleanse my palette before revisiting dense theoretical theories. I think I am seeing an episode of THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY in which the style and plot of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL is emulated (the original not the two sequels), while the cast of characters perform a sing and dance number on a basketball court for a audience of other cast members- a Disney Channel sitcom that was imitating a Disney channel made-for-TV movie that was a homogenized version of an intentionally kitschy send up of Hollywood's own Rebel-with-out-a-cause Greaser culture in the movie GREASE and later HAIRSPRAY. The levels of mediation here is either the symptom of a creatively bankrupt corporate hack machine or its the latest example of a necessarily simplified culture pedagogy for a new generation of human beings who are just trying to understand the structure of an Aristotelian story arc while learning gender roles, familial expectations, and the contemporary tastes of an confused nation that is both the figure head of western culture and the self-destructive example of an overly democratizing civil service system. Hell, why not both?

(game on)

A story within a story. A riddle within a riddle. How is my day is like asking the question: What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?

I began my day with the simple goal of "crawling" to the Lyndon House to paint a nude woman. I packed my sumi ink, brushes, and rice paper from Beijing, fully prepared to bring eastern techniques to the academy of classical portraiture. I began to lose my innocence, "standing on my own two feet" as I called ahead and found out the open drawing/painting studio had been canceled. It was postponed until the first week of December ostensibly for Thanksgiving, but I was promised that the next session would be extra special and extra long in duration. "Special," she said, laughingly, in ways she didn't herself, understand. I can choose between, portraiture and something else. How irresistibly cryptic.

Finally, I tottered into the library, "leaning on the cane of the establishment." It began on the ground floor, relegated to the skid row of scholarship. Non-University affiliated lovers of wisdom sitting all in a row on stools besides the doorway. Yes, a door way. You can take this one to other worlds or you can pass through air and come out just as mundane on the other side. I am trying to describe a vulgar slice of life and although there carries a negative connotation to "vulgarity" I only mean "people" in the Roman sense of the word. This distinction becomes necessary to precede the cold analytical recitation of sights and sounds, observations of my vulgar elbow-rubbers:

To my immediate right a couple of young black boys GOOGLE images of Barack Obama and then later images of gang members in the "Crips" and in the "Bloods". To my left a black gentleman in his 20's looking up video game codes on GAME FAQ's and later WIKIPEDIA. Covering our flanks were two elderly white men window shopping for boots and copies of "Chinese Democracy" on AMAZON.COM they conferred with each other quite often. Too often for my taste...

I leave them all to take the elevator 3 floors skyward towards the Rare books Section. I stammer for my words, trying to explain what I want-what I need from them, these guardians of available yet largely unknown truth.

There are almost too helpful, I cannot thank them and I can hardly decide where to start. The kind woman who greeted me sent for a man who had even more answers. This grand paternal looking fellow I recognize from article about him in the current edition of the FLAGPOLE, thought I cannot bring myself to remind him that he is locally and temporarily famous.

I may be using my metaphorical cane at this point, but I walk erect into the most sumptuously decorated room I have seen since I interviewed the President of the World Wildlife Fund on the other side of the world. Maybe I am partial to life-sized oil paintings in elegantly ornate frames, but the antique ledger waiting for my signature is enough to melt anyone's heart.

They bring me boxes full of priceless manuscripts as well as copies of brochures, newsletters and advertisements dating back to the 1920's. I scribble furiously trying to save morsels of knowledge like a man surrounded by gold yet only able to carry so much.

Time slips into the future desperately as I move backwards with my fingers, they pass over the manila colored folders labeled "2005" - "90's" - "80's" and finally they find "1940-?"

As they are about to close the doors, I find something promising, " Newsletter, 1952." There on the front page I see rather humble seeming announcement: Due to a $250,000 grant from the GENERAL EDUCATION BOARD... blah, blah, blah,...George Nelson will be giving a talk to the faculty, Charles Eames, and Alexander Girard have been named as Collaborators. "

Its impossible for me to fully explain the way my heart swells as I find tangible evidence of the half forgotten history I have made my life's work. Maybe, just maybe, I have something here that will keep the University from destroying one of maybe three laboratories in the world to make way for Economics students.

The Director of the Art school warned me on Thursday, that the "Marketizing" of Universities in Contemporary America just doesn't leave much respect for the "Old Humanities", but maybe we can save this little slice of history. This is the literal place where the generally accepted fathers of Modernism dreamed of how we could teach in the future. Let me repeat that:

This is the literal place where the generally accepted fathers of Modernism dreamed of how we could teach in the future.

Either way, we will have to wait until another day, "We close at five."


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