Tag Archives: may berenbaum

Special Halloween Wonder Cabinet at NYIH!


The New York Institute for the Humanities & the Humanities Initiative at NYU present an all-day

curated by Lawrence Weschler

A day of illustrated talks, screenings, and multimedia presentations with Laurie Anderson, Michael Benson, Chandler Burr, Walter Murch,David Wilson and many others.

Saturday October 31
11 am till 9:30 pm
NYU’s Cantor Film Center
36 East 8th Street, NYC

Free and Open to the Public (on a first-come, first-in basis)
Every once in a while, Lawrence Weschler, the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and author, among others, of the Pulitzer-nominatedMr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (a work of “magic-realist nonfiction” arising out of an investigation of the premodern roots of the postmodern Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles), gets it into his head to contrive a day of sublimely odd, wonderflecked and just plain cool presentations, braided one after the next in a thematic order intermittently evident to himself, if no one else. This year, he proposes to do so on Saturday October 31, which is to say Halloween.

As you will see from the program below, the first half of the day will focus generally on the stellar, the planetary, the cosmological and the astronomic. Later in the day, presentations will begin to morph into a consideration of the experience itself of drop-jawed amazement. Toward the end of the procession, attention will turn to things somewhat more infinitesimal: the molecular basis of smell, insect camouflage, and (to round out the day, Halloween after all) the downright hallucinogenic.


11:00 am

A celebratory fanfare by avant garde, downtown (and well nigh breathless) saxophone player COLIN STETSON

11:10 am

LAURIE ANDERSON, the celebrated performance artist and hipster sage, who will dilate on her days, a few seasons back, as visiting artist-in-residence with the good folks at NASA. (Note: She will be replacing the previously announced bead-artist Liza Lou in this slot.)

11:45 am

Filmmaker and photographic archivist MICHAEL BENSON will be evoking the entire universe as seen from the point of view of the Hubble and other deep space observatories, subject of his latest book, Far Out,which in turn follows on from his last, the critically celebrated,Beyond, which took the same sort of survey of the photographic legacy of interplanetary space probes.


1:45 pm

The eminent film and sound editor WALTER MURCH (Apocalypse Now, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The English Patient, The Conversations, etc.) will reveal a whole other side of his famously overbrimming curiosity, which is to say his excavation and systematic rehabilitation of a long discredited theory as to the placement of planets and moons in relation to the bodies around which they orbit, a formula which turns out to accurately predict 85% of such orbits, and which, when properly rejiggered, turns out to coincide with the formula for the Pythagorean octave (talk about the music of the spheres!).

3:00 pm

DAVID WILSON, the MacArthur winning Jurassic Technologist himself, will evoke the Russian mystical origins of the Soviet space program, subject of a trilogy of heartrendingly lovely short films, a full decade in the making, currently coming to closure at the fourteen-seat Borzoi Theater atop his LA museum.

4:00 pm

A rarely screened short, filmed during the last months of the Khrushchevite Thaw, in which the Soviet master PAVEL KOGAN trains a hidden camera on a succession of common Russians at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, as they gaze, positively awestruck, at Leonardo’s rendition of a Virgin and Child. That film will in turn be coupled with an uncanny set of recent shorts in whichJOSH MELNICKtrains a highspeed high-definition excruciatingly slow-motion digital camera upon wayfarers on the New York city subway, staring, positively dumbstruck, at nothing in particular.

5:00 pm

A similar pairing, as in the above, this time two vantages of life on earth; the first in which the renowned avant garde filmmaker PETER HUTTON, of Bard College, trains his attention on the play of light dappling an Icelandic fjord; and the second in which MATT COOLIDGE, of LA’s Center for Land Use Interpretation (sister institution to David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology) trains his camera out the side of a helicopter for a jaw-dropping twenty-minute single-take survey of Houston’s petrochemical channel, arguably the most ecstatically industrialized swath of real estate in the world.


6:30 pm

New York Timesscent critic CHANDLER BURR (The Emperor of Scentand The Perfect Scent: A Year inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York), singing the Nose Fantastic, which is to say plumbing the still mind-boggling mysteries involved in how it is that we smell anything at all (complete with blotter-swatch demonstrations).

7:30 pm

Entomologist Extraordinaire MAY BERENBAUM of the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana (Ninety Nine Gnats,Nits and Nibblers;Bugs in the System; and The Earwig’s Tale: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-Legged Legends), who in honor of the evening’s festivities will consider Insects that Ape Shit (which is to say exceptionally novel, if creepy, insect disguises).

8:30 pm

HAMILTON MORRIS, the disconcertingly enterprising young pharmacopia correspondent of Vice Magazine, will round out the evening by reporting on all manner of oddities (penis mushrooms, Amazonian frog sweat, etc.) that he has ingested and that you might want to avoid.

Times above are approximate at best.


{We hope as many of you as possible will be able to spend the day with us, feasting on the Wonder Cabinet in its entirety. However, should you be unable to stay for the whole program, we strongly recommend that you come for each session in full—you’ll understand why when you do!}

Nearest Subway Lines to Cantor Film Center, located at 36 East 8th Street (btw University Pl. & Greene St.), with caveat to check MTA’s weekend service advisories prior to heading over:

A, C, E, B, D, F, V to West 4th Street (6th Ave.)
R, W to 8th St.–NYU (Broadway)
6 to Astor Place

For further information, visit www.nyih.as.nyu.edu or contact the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU at nyih.info@nyu.edu

The Humanities Initiative at NYU sponsors research, collaborative teaching, conferences, working groups, and outreach by way of fostering a university-wide community in the humanities. Launched in 2007, its mission replaces and significantly expands that of the former Humanities Council. For further information on the Humanities Initiative, please visit www.humanitiesinitiative.org or call 212.998.2190.

The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU was established in 1976 for promoting the exchange of ideas between academics, professionals, politicians, diplomats, writers, journalists, musicians, painters, and other artists in New York City–and between all of them and the city. It currently comprises 220 fellows. Throughout the year, the NYIH organizes numerous public events and symposia.