Lawrence Weschler: Art and Science as Parallel and Divergent Ways of Knowing
Sponsored by the UNLV Department of Art and the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute
Artists and scientists tend to think of their ways of probing the world as distinctly different. But such was not always the case. In fact, the divide is only a few centuries old. (Think of Leonardo, think of the wonder cabinets of the seventeenth century). Nor may the differences be all that distinct—or even real. In a lecture originally developed for a conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation, longtime New Yorker writer Lawrence Weschler—director emeritus of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU (where the sciences were emphatically included as part of and central to the humanities) and author, among others, of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder and Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences—will extrapolate on such themes, with side-meanders into the thinking of artists Robert Irwin and David Hockney (subjects of his two most recent books) and a whole new interpretation of Rembrandt's "Anatomy Lesson."
LAWRENCE WESCHLER (born 1952, Van Nuys, California), a graduate of Cowell College of the University of California at Santa Cruz (1974), was for over twenty years (1981-2002) a staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies. He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award (for Cultural Reporting in 1988 and Magazine Reporting in 1992) and was also a recipient of Lannan Literary Award (1998).
His books of political reportage include The Passion of Poland (1984); A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (1990); and Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas (1998).
His “Passions and Wonders” series currently comprises Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin (1982); David Hockney’s Cameraworks (1984); Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (1995); A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces (1998) Boggs: A Comedy of Values (1999); Robert Irwin: Getty Garden (2002); Vermeer in Bosnia (2004); and Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (February 2006). Mr. Wilson was shortlisted for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Everything that Rises received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
Recent books include a considerably expanded edition of Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, comprising thirty years of conversations with Robert Irwin; a companion volume, True to Life: Twenty Five Years of Conversation with David Hockney; Liza Lou (a monograph out of Rizzoli); Tara Donovan, the catalog for the artist’s recent exhibition at Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art, and Deborah Butterfield, the catalog for a survey of the artist’s work at the LA Louver Gallery. His latest addition to “Passions and Wonders,” the collection Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative, came out from Counterpoint in October 2011.
Weschler has taught, variously, at Princeton, Columbia, UCSC, Bard, Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, and NYU, where he is now distinguished writer in residence at the Carter Journalism Institute.
He recently graduated to director emeritus of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, where he has been a fellow since 1991 and was director from 2001-2013, and from which base he had tried to start his own semiannual journal of writing and visual culture, Omnivore. He is also the artistic director emeritus, still actively engaged, with the Chicago Humanities Festival, and curator for New York Live Ideas, an annual body-based humanities collaboration with Bill T. Jones and his NY Live Arts. He is a contributing editor to McSweeney’s, the Threepeeny Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review; curator at large of the DVD quarterly Wholphin; (recently retired) chair of the Sundance (formerly Soros) Documentary Film Fund; and director of the Ernst Toch Society, dedicated to the promulgation of the music of his grandfather, the noted Weimar emigre composer. He recently launched “Pillow of Air,” a monthly “Amble through the worlds of the visual” column in The Believer.
Once, happening upon a Portuguese edition of Weschler’s 1990 book on torture in Latin America during a photo opportunity in a Rio shopping mall, Chilean General Augusto Pinochet flipped through its pages for a few moments, whereupon he pronounced, “Lies, all lies. The author is a liar and a hypocrite.”