17 September 2016

Walden on the harbor

How would Thoreau have dealt with a grand view of New York harbor from his cottage?
A group of us art librarians (and a few hangers on) went on a tour of Governors Island today. The Hills opened this year and the southern end of the island is taking shape as a park looking out into the harbor and back at the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City. The Hills are part of the landscape plan by West 8, a Dutch urban design and landscape architecture firm, who have also done proposals for helping NYC handle the rise of sea level.

Hiding in the Hills, well, not really hiding, is the Cabin by Rachel Whiteread. It's similar to some of her other ghost, inside-out, memorial projects. A conglomeration of bits and pieces from several buildings, including some corrugated metal bits.
So I'm thinking how different Thoreau's writings might have been if he had walked out of the front door of his cottage and looked out over the expansive view of New York harbor. Or maybe it's just that I went over to the NY Art Book Fair after our tour of Governors Island. There, I ran into a couple books by Elisabeth Tonnard which played with biographical re-creation. One was a collection of events from the lives of American Renaissance writers called Song of Myself and another was a collection of sentences on death and dying from different books printed on successive pages of a book, turning into a new narrative. The dealing with death reminded me of my current book -- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. It took the dean about 200 pages after his apoplexy to finally die. And when I was looking for a link to Elisabeth Tonnard's work, I mistakenly typed "elizabeth tunnard" into Google and got obituary notices for a person of that similar name.

After the tour and lunch, and before we returned to Manhattan on the ferry, we visited the "Michael Richards: Winged" show, sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Richards had a studio in vacant space in the World Trade Center in September 2001 and was working all night on his upcoming show. He died in the morning's attack. A good friend of mine at NYU was a dear friend of his and that made his death especially poignant. His work dealt with the Tuskegee airmen, and airplanes and flight were recurring themes. Eerie and moving.

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