Water Under the Bridge   3 comments

LA lower 1

While staying near the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which graciously provided hospitality during some of my fieldwork on the L.A. River, I frequently toured the short, shadowy hallways of David Wilson’s “cabinet of wonders.” The museum puts an emphasis on “muse-” in presenting its odd collection of objects and ideas. Calling itself “a specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic,” the MJT features “unusual or curious” items from diverse areas of inquiry—music, science, folklore, cat’s cradle artists …

Exhibits, with titles such as “Scrupulous Fidelity” (the astronomical paintings of Étienne Léopold Trouvelot) and “The Lives of Perfect Creatures” (dogs of the Soviet Space program), range from the zoological (stink ants of the Cameroon and Myotis lucifugus, a bat that can fly through walls) to the esoteric (theories and practices of the magnetic arts in the work of 17th century scholar Athanasius Kircher) to the archaeological (treasures from Los Angeles Area Mobile Home and Trailer Parks). A visitor can be thrown off-balance by the juxtaposition of the unbelievably micro with the equally amazing macro. One might, for instance, pause before the FRUIT-STONE CARVING exhibit—a tiny seed, into which is carved “a Flemish landscape” that includes “a bearded man wearing a biretta, a long tunic of classical character, and thick-soled shoes” holding a viol held “between his knees while he tunes one of the strings,” with a menagerie “in the distance” (“including a lion, a bear, an elephant ridden by a monkey, a boar, a dog, a donkey, a stag, a camel, a horse, a bull, a bird, a goat a lynx, and a group of rabbits: the latter under a branch on which sit an owl, another bird and a squirrel”), all of which is on the front of the fruit stone, a seed that’s a half-inch high and less than that wide, while on the back is shown “an unusually grim Crucifixion, with a soldier on horseback, Longinus piercing Christ’s side with a lance, the cross is surmounted by a titulus inscribed INRI.” One might then step around the corner from the tiny encased carving and enter a suite of rooms that contain dazzling exempla from Kirchner’s studies involving lights, mirrors, sound, and sculpture. (All quotations from http://www.mjt.org)

But the exhibit that most haunts my memory has to do with forgetting. “The Delani/Sonnabend Halls” occupy a wing of the museum and are centered on the work of Geoffrey Sonnabend, “an associate professor of neurophysiology at Northwestern University,” and particularly his three-volume Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter. Inspired by the multi-chambered exhibit to further research on the professor, I found Bill Domonkos’s short (6 minutes) film, A Song for Sonnabend—itself a haunting little text making ample use of flowing water.




Posted April 29, 2014 by the meaning of rivers in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Water Under the Bridge

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  1. Love this!

  2. Next time I’m in LA, this will be a must see for me.

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