Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Wonder Cabinet at The New York Institute for the Humanities, Curated by Lawrence Weschler, Free!

I just recieved an email from the associate director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU asking if I would post information about their upcoming Halloween Wonder Cabinet event, curated by Lawrence Weschler. I do so with great pleasure, having already had plans to attend this wonderful (and free!) conference that will run from 11AM-9PM tomorrow (Halloween).

Lawrence Weschler, the curator of this day-long collection of illustrated talks, screenings, and multimedia presentations, is best known (at least to me!) as the author of the deeply influential Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder, which recounts the mysterious and fascinating story of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, and which went on to inspire countless numbers of pilgrims (myself included) to make the trek to experience the fabled museum in person. To my great excitement, I see that the "Mr. Wilson" behind the Museum of Jurassic Technology, David Wilson, will be featured in this lineup, where, the invitation tells us, he will evoke "the Russian mystical origins of the Soviet space program, subject of a trilogy of heartrendingly lovely short films." Having never heard the man speak before is reason enough for me to attend this event, but Weschler has provided plenty of other compelling reasons to spend your Halloween indoors, as you can see in the full line-up you will find below.

This looks to be a stellar event. Hope to see you there!
The New York Institute for the Humanities
& the Humanities Initiative at NYU
present an all-day

curated by Lawrence Weschler

A day of illustrated talks, screenings, and multimedia presentations with Laurie Anderson, Michael Benson, Chandler Burr, Walter Murch, David Wilson and many others

Saturday October 31
11 am till 9:30 pm

NYU's Cantor Film Center
36 East 8th Street, NYC

Free and Open to the Public
{on a first-come, first-in basis}

Every once in a while, Lawrence Weschler, the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and author, among others, of the Pulitzer-nominated Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (a work of “magic-realist nonfiction” arising out of an investigation of the premodern roots of the postmodern Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles), gets it into his head to contrive a day of sublimely odd, wonderflecked and just plain cool presentations, braided one after the next in a thematic order intermittently evident to himself, if no one else. This year, he proposes to do so on Saturday October 31, which is to say Halloween.

As you will see from the program below, the first half of the day will focus generally on the stellar, the planetary, the cosmological and the astronomic. Later in the day, presentations will begin to morph into a consideration of the experience itself of drop-jawed amazement. Toward the end of the procession, attention will turn to things somewhat more infinitesimal: the molecular basis of smell, insect camouflage, and (to round out the day, Halloween after all) the downright hallucinogenic.


11:00 am
A celebratory fanfare by avant garde, downtown (and well nigh breathless) saxophone player COLIN STETSON

11:10 am
LAURIE ANDERSON, the celebrated performance artist and hipster sage, who will dilate on her days, a few seasons back, as visiting artist-in-residence with the good folks at NASA. (Note: She will be replacing the previously announced bead-artist Liza Lou in this slot.)

11:45 am
Filmmaker and photographic archivist MICHAEL BENSON will be evoking the entire universe as seen from the point of view of the Hubble and other deep space observatories, subject of his latest book, Far Out, which in turn follows on from his last, the critically celebrated, Beyond, which took the same sort of survey of the photographic legacy of interplanetary space probes.


1:45 pm
The eminent film and sound editor WALTER MURCH (Apocalypse Now, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The English Patient, The Conversation, etc.) will reveal a whole other side of his famously overbrimming curiosity, which is to say his excavation and systematic rehabilitation of a long discredited theory as to the placement of planets and moons in relation to the bodies around which they orbit, a formula which turns out to accurately predict 85% of such orbits, and which, when properly rejiggered, turns out to coincide with the formula for the Pythagorean octave (talk about the music of the spheres!).

3:00 pm
DAVID WILSON, the MacArthur winning Jurassic Technologist himself, will evoke the Russian mystical origins of the Soviet space program, subject of a trilogy of heartrendingly lovely short films, a full decade in the making, currently coming to closure at the fourteen-seat Borzoi Theater atop his LA museum.

4:00 pm
A rarely screened short, filmed during the last months of the Khrushchevite Thaw, in which the Soviet master PAVEL KOGAN trains a hidden camera on a succession of common Russians at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, as they gaze, positively awestruck, at Leonardo’s rendition of a Virgin and Child. That film will in turn be coupled with an uncanny set of recent shorts in which JOSH MELNICK trains a highspeed high-definition excruciatingly slow-motion digital camera upon wayfarers on the New York city subway, staring, positively dumbstruck, at nothing in particular.

5:00 pm
A similar pairing, as in the above, this time two vantages of life on earth; the first in which the renowned avant garde filmmaker PETER HUTTON, of Bard College, trains his attention on the play of light dappling an Icelandic fjord; and the second in which MATT COOLIDGE, of LA’s Center for Land Use Interpretation (sister institution to David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology) trains his camera out the side of a helicopter for a jaw-dropping twenty-minute single-take survey of Houston’s petrochemical channel, arguably the most ecstatically industrialized swath of real estate in the world.


6:30 pm
New York Times scent critic CHANDLER BURR (The Emperor of Scent and The Perfect Scent: A Year inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York), singing the Nose Fantastic, which is to say plumbing the still mind-boggling mysteries involved in how it is that we smell anything at all (complete with blotter-swatch demonstrations).

7:30 pm
Entomologist Extraordinaire MAY BERENBAUM of the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana (Ninety Nine Gnats, Nits and Nibblers; Bugs in the System; and The Earwig’s Tale: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-Legged Legends), who in honor of the evening’s festivities will consider Insects that Ape Shit (which is to say exceptionally novel, if creepy, insect disguises).

8:30 pm
HAMILTON MORRIS, the disconcertingly enterprising young pharmacopia correspondent of Vice Magazine, will round out the evening by reporting on all manner of oddities (penis mushrooms, Amazonian frog sweat, etc.) that he has ingested and that you might want to avoid.

Times above are approximate at best.

{We hope as many of you as possible will be able to spend the day with us, feasting on the Wonder Cabinet in its entirety. However, should you be unable to stay for the whole program, we strongly recommend that you come for each session in full—you’ll understand why when you do.}

Nearest Subway Lines to Cantor Film Center,
located at 36 East 8th Street (btw University Pl. & Greene St.),
(with caveat to check MTA's weekend service advisories prior to heading over!)
A, C, E, B, D, F, V to West 4th Street (6th Ave.)
R, W to 8th St.--NYU (Broadway)
6 to Astor Place

For further information, visit or contact the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU at
You can find out more about the event by clicking here. You can find out more about Weschler's inestimable Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder by clicking here. To find out more about the Museum of Jurassic Technology, click here.

Image: A micromosaic by Henry Dalton shown at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, found here.


holly aka golly said...

One of my favorite books! Wish I could attend the seminar!

Anonymous said...

The smell of death is in on my breathe; Halloween is finally upon us... Positive vibes to you and yours this Halloween!

Aimee Marieee said...

Oh I am filled with seething envy on Halloween!! I scrolled down and immediately thought the image of the vase and flowers was from the MOJT and so it was! I can't remember on whose recommendation I first went to MOJT, but I realize now how lucky I was to go in by myself (no distractions) and totally cold. I was able to experience the complete, utter wonderment of "WTF???!" Thanks so much for your blog...I always seem to miss the cool stuff when I'm out east. Sigh. :>)