Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lawrence Weschler at The Wheeler Centre

So last week I heard the venerable Lawrence Weschler deliver a lecture titled Towards a Taxonomy of Convergences. What do you think when you read this title? 'Interesting' or 'Oh no, a faux intellectual?'  Before I get to the content, let me back track a moment. I often feel like my expectations of an event are in proportion to the effort required to get there. In this case a city rendevous on a weekday at 6.15pm  necessitated a number of phone calls and emails involving both my parents and my husband in an orchestrated combination of drop-offs and pick-ups at two separate locations so that I could get out of the house on time in order to drive and park my car to catch a train in to the city. In the rain.

You are probably thinking, wow, she must be a real fan to make that effort. No. I was not even familiar with his work, not one of his several books on visual culture and museums, or any number of  essays on political upheaval in Poland and the former Yugoslavia. Hadn't read a single one. But occasionally,  I get invited along to things. When that invitation intersects with suburban family life closing in on me I deploy the troops.

Mr Weschler was not aware of my efforts that night. He sat on the stage looking like a well oiled academic, glass of water in one hand and MacBook Pro in the other preparing his 'slides'. I'd picked up a leaflet at the door. It listed the following terms: Apohenia (Projection, Paranoia), Accident, or Coincidence (Chance and the Shuffle of Things, Separated at Birth, Transbstanitated at Death), Affinity, Co-Causation (Fractilization, Simltanaity, Identity, Zeitgeist and Meme) and on and on.

McSweneey's had been publishing Weschler's thoughts on visual culture regularly and this lecture was that material grouped together much like a visual dictionary. There was no doubt that Weschler and the master of ceremonies arts writer Penny Modra, were both delighted. Weschler with himself. Modra with her guest. Between them there was  no one to speak for the sceptics in the room. It's not that it wasn't entertaining. It was amusing. I thought: here is a well-educated entertainer.  I am sure had I been in my twenties (like many in the back rows) I would have been right on side, even secretly impressed with that sassy and neurotic New Yorker and his schtick. At question time someone actually asked "Mr Weschler, what are your thoughts on de-ja-vu?".  It was a question posed in earnest.

On the way back home my thoughts went in two directions: composing a list of family-related tasks and towards John Berger, Weschler's self-described hero. I haven't re-read my Berger books in years. I promised myself I would, and start with To the Wedding, my favourite.

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