©1996 Adrianne Wortzel
In the Beginning...................
MY FOURTH BIRTHDAY!
Even today, they don't leave me alone for a minute.
I'd like to be left alone thank you very much.
In front of the mirror.
There I can think about how:
I own many sets of two
identical, but opposite:
eyes, hands, arms, legs....
In the mirror, they are four and opposite again.
So I wonder....
JUST HOW MANY WORLDS ARE THERE?
I wait to see....
December, same year:
I give up on all direct forms of communication.
I am 16. I visit the Fine Arts Department at Brooklyn College and watch a man in blue overalls installing an exhibition of student paintings.We had dreams . .
This man is painstakingly "thinking through" the paintings in order to install them in their best relationship to themselves and each other. This immediately draws me to him and I congratulate him on his exquisite discretion, confessing that I am surprised to find so much aesthetic sensitivity in a municipal janitor.
He thanks me for the compliment and introduces himself. His name is Ad Reinhardt. Later, he said he never wore overalls to teach again.
The work of Alexander Marshack is excerpted in New Yorker Magazine. Subsequently - I buy his book: "The Roots of Civilization, The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation."
Mr. Marshack is a scientific journalist who had a leap of faith about the markings on a group of Ice Age bones. He didn't think the markings were indicative of a game or a numerical count but of a lunar calendar, and he proved it. In doing so, he proved that man was cognitive in very sophisticated ways before the time anyone else thought it was possible. He also is famous for analyzing images in Paleolithic cave paintings.
The book was written while Mr. Marshack was a Research Fellow of The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Many artists related to his work and contacted him. Artists often suffer form a similar form of infantilization and a re quite misunderstood. I am so moved by Mr. Marshack's writings, I write a poem and send it to him.
Note Found In a Bottle at Peche Merle
©1979 Adrianne Wortzel
We passed along the wall
and made marks,
striding our hands through time,
one over the other;
we went to the wall
and we wrote.
Years would pass and we would
return to renew the process
over and over again
amazed each time to find how
we had grown into it
and how it could grow
to accommodate us.
You passed in ships
through the navy blue night
men in huge arrows - Flint-shaped
masses holding hundreds of you
off to the moon and the stars
and further on out
through the navy blue night
you saw our marks;
and we suffered in our dreams
from the agony of not being
able to reach you
and the rage of seeing our
as the work uncertified shamans.
I speak for all of us when I say:
What you know now,
What you are sure of
we absolutely had the courage
We moved, we flowed,
we created disciplines
and recognized love
we spoke to everyone
before us and after
we did this
before there were sedimentsAlways remember,
between layers, before there
were tolls to bridge gaps,
before there were gates
between pastures where
Mr. Marshack responded with a very nice handwritten note: "We scientists work to understand, but it is the artists who make us see." I was so nervous and embarrassed that I had actually sent the poem, I read it as "it is the artists who make us 'ill'". Years later, Mr. Marshack got a chuckle out of that! [see below - 1995]
I begin to write a play called "NewsReal":
A CHRONICLE OF LATE 20TH CENTURY BROADCAST JOURNALISM
A major television network, concerned about the drooping ratings of their news broadcasts, decides to dramatize the news rather than report it. They form a repertory company of actors to act out the news, on site whenever possible. Their rationale is th at too often actual details of a news event are left to the viewer's imagination. Producing the news as:
guarantees leaving nothing to the viewer's imagination, it is a prophylactic process against the dissemination of misinformation.
The Gulf War News coverage.
The minute you imagine a world, it emerges in the real world.....
I put "Newsreal" aside; it being now rendered a genre piece.
Begin a work in MacroMindDirector on issues of views of history as fable, journalism and image; the beginning of The Electronic Chronicles.
Here and There: Telecommunications, taught by Ken Feingold:
from my own marginal notes, Class 1:
Oz = Kansas, Kansas = OZ
Here and There is Where
all worlds can be simultaneously.
If I wasn't a person, I'd surely be a packet.
The Internet Reduces Everything To A Common Denominator That Is Sublimely Uncommon.
So many worlds, so little time, but now much more room for place.
In this class I begin a Macromind Director piece about "Newsreal". This a piece viewed through a simulated World Wide Web browser and presented as a news report. The subject is nuclear testing in Nevada, and the recently released data on radiation leaka ge from those tests. The music is "Happy Talk", from the musical South Pacific, sung by Juanita Hall.
December 1994 - Trip to Toronto to visit my friend Ann, a writer and filmmaker. We discuss working together on a feature film of our own about a group of investigative reporters using new technology to broadcast journalism over the internet.
Ann and I visit the McLuhan Center at the University of Toronto to meet some people and see a new multimedia software in development for the net. I videotape demos of the new software, pretending I'm a hacker/spy. Obviously, I have permission.
The McLuhan Center was Marshall Mcluhan's place of work for many years. His own old and tattered leather chair is still in residence. I sit in Marhsall Mcluhan's very own work chair. Ann sits in it. We feature it in a short video. We videotape in terviews with the entire McLuhan Center staff, seating each in turn in Marshall's chair.
We are invited to dinner by the professor developing the software. We now have hopes of featuring his software in our feature film. We arrive at his house in a suburb of Toronto. Drinks are served in the overheated basement, where we are surrounded b y black velvet paintings of landscapes so far over the horizon they are hardly discernible. These are hung in the wall space left between several colossal lacquered credenzas.
At dinner I have the good fortune to be seated next to the guest of honor; the woman who married Marshall McLuhan, bore his children, typed his manuscripts, and now fiercely looks after every aspect of her late husband's reputation. Across from me is her son, Erik McLuhan.
Mrs. Mcluhan is a southern belle, beautiful, charming and wily. She lingers over details about the first time she ever saw Marshall - at a southern summer lawn party. He was wearing a white suit and he was very tall and handsome. She liked that he wa s very smart. They eloped. Her family disapproved of the religious differences and disowned her forever. I have absolutely no idea why she is telling me all this. The wine, however, is very good.
Mrs. McLuhan has never heard of Donald Theall, the University of Trent professor in Toronto who has written intensely about Marshall McLuhan's relationship with the works of James Joyce. I came across his work on-line in cyberspace. [He has also writt en "James Joyce And The History Of Cyberbase" and "The Hieroglyphs Of Engined Egypsians: Machines, Media and Modes of Communication in Finnegans Wake."] Upon my return to the States I download these papers and send them to Erik McLuhan. [I never hear from him. But that evening, Erik McLuhan tells me that Marshall thought of "the medium is the message" on a flight to Vancouver for a speech he was to make there. He says Marshall thought it was a good phrase but not as good as it got when it rolled all over the world like tumbleweed accruing accolades.
For some reason, I associate that evening to Bernal Diaz' real-time account of the first meeting between Cortes and Montezuma. That meeting took place in the suburbs outside of Mexico City.
Cortes presented Montezuma with some garish costume jewelry with great ceremony. Montezuma allowed him to put this necklace around his neck. Permitting this intimacy horrifies Montezuma's accompanying courtiers and somewhat compromises Montezuma in th eir eyes. Montezuma invites Cortes and his party to follow him back into Mexico City. Bernal Diaz is writing this account twenty years after the fact, now retired to his ranch (in the suburbs of Madrid). As he writes this, he comments marginally: "... it all comes before my eyes as though it had happened but yesterday. "
I have digitized and put part of Bernal Diaz's account of this meeting on the World Wide Web in The Electronic Chronicles. I don't know if this preoccupation with the suburbs had to do with the fact that we will probably all be telecommuting and theref ore returning to cottage industries, work at home, and even, maybe, some form of ....the suburbs.
I telephone Alexander Marshack in New York to tell him I am making art on The World Wide Web and that everything in regard to the kinds of meanings images convey will change with this new technology. Mr. Marshack, who has analyzed the meanings conveyed by prehistoric images for the last thirty years, is skeptical, but quite a sport, as he comes and visits to see what I am doing and to check out "The World Wide Web.". He stays over 3 hours, looking at sites, really appreciating The Mercury Site (telero botic archaeological dig). He thinks I am right about images shifting their position in terms of meaning, but he's not sure how.
He also likes my work a lot, is a little concerned about the scope of the project and how one part will relate to another. He suggests I create a storyboard for my imagination. I explain why I think that is NOT the thing to do in this new medium- the links or linkages will have a life of their own, and add the appropriate "content" to bridge the gap. We make a bet!
Weeks later, the cave paintings at L'Ardeche are discovered, and the French Ministry of Culture immediately puts pictures and text up on their Web site at http://www.culture.fr/gvpda.html. I download the photos into Photoshop and call Alex. Alex and E laine Marshack come over to see the web site and are totally amazed that "it is just like being in the caves." Alex has an invitation from the French Ministry of Culture to go to L'Ardeche as soon as a floor is laid in the caves. That will take months.
The three of us sit huddled in front of the monitor discussing who may have made what mark and whether the hyena is really a bear.