Poetry Makes Nothing Happen: Thoughts on Ai Weiwei from the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Sarah does not appear in vlogbrothers videos, but you can follow her on tumblr: http://absolumentmoderne.tumblr.com
In which John visits the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where his wife is a curator, and thinks about the work of the artist and dissident Ai Weiwei while walking through “According to What,” his first major retrospective in the United States. If you live in or near Indianapolis, you should really see the show. It’s very special, and will be here until July 21st.
This is a lovely video from John Green explaining the importance of Ai Weiwei’s work. I had the opportunity to see this exhibition when it was at the Hirshhorn in DC, and it’s both stunning and sobering.
It gave me an uncensored window into very foreign modes of thought. There was a lot of inherent cultural relativism in the science fiction I discovered then. It gave me the idea that you could question anything, that it was possible to question anything at all. You could question religion, you could question your own culture’s most basic assumptions. That was just unheard of—where else could I have gotten it? You know, to be thirteen years old and get your brain plugged directly into Philip K. Dick’s brain!
That wasn’t the way science fiction advertised itself, of course. The self-advertisement was: Technology! The world of the future! Educational! Learn about science! It didn’t tell you that it would jack your kid into this weird malcontent urban literary universe and serve as the gateway drug to J. G. Ballard.
And nobody knew. The people at the high school didn’t know, your parents didn’t know. Nobody knew that I had discovered this window into all kinds of alien ways of thinking that wouldn’t have been at all acceptable to the people who ran that little world I lived in.
Most interviews today tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum between lazy conversation and blatant publicity puffery, the truly exceptional interview a kind of near-lost art. But it wasn’t always so. In the spring of 1953, The Paris Review built from scratch a new paradigm for the art of the interview, which endures as a gold standard sixty years later. In the introductory essay to the 1958 anthology Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, First Series (public library) — which also gave us this fantastic anatomy of the four stages of writing — the inimitable Malcolm Cowley, who edited the collection, recounts the Paris Review origin story and examines the secret of what made their interviews such a timeless echelon of the craft:
Most of the interviewers either have had no serious interest in literature or else have been too serious about themselves. Either they have been reporters with little knowledge of the author’s work and a desire to entrap him into making scandalous remarks about sex, politics, and God, or else they have been ambitious writers trying to display their own sophistication, usually at the expense of the author, and listening chiefly to their own voices.
What makes the Paris Review interviewers and their ethos different, Cowley observes, can be boiled down to two essentials [Read more…]