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The most influential college you’ve never heard of, why it folded, and why it matters | Scalawag
"But Black Mountain College was not, strictly speaking, an art school. And it certainly didn’t start that way. In 1933, classics professor John Andrew Rice tossed the snowball that kicked off a decades-long avalanche, foregoing more pointed Latin and Greek coursework at Rollins College to lead his students on Socratic journeys about topics from religion to “What is Art” and bad-mouthing academic hierarchy. The Rollins College president, a self-proclaimed “experimenter in education,” was nonetheless displeased. For this curricular skullduggery, and for Rice’s generally winking attitude toward authority, he had Rice fired.

Popular as Rice was, his exit caused a scandal. When the dust settled, eight professors had left Rollins, and a number of students with them. After some uncertainty, Rice and his colleagues decided to put their rebellious philosophies to test. Thanks to a local professor, property was located in western North Carolina, a grand colonnaded hall atop an Appalachian hill in the shadows of the Blue Ridge; funders were secured to support the endeavor; teachers were recruited. From a pedagogic schism, Black Mountain College was born.

The goal was from the outset to approach education in an unregimented way. There were no required courses, no extensive examinations, no formal grading. The school was not even accredited, “graduating” only sixty students throughout its lifetime. Yet its alums were accepted by graduate schools and as transfers, from Harvard to Princeton to the Pasadena Playhouse College of the Theatre, despite their lack of certificates.

To ensure an open curriculum, the founders decided to avoid top-down control, instead granting ownership of the school to the whole faculty evenly, including new hires. Meanwhile, the school decided to make no decisions without student input—student officers could be present at faculty meetings and would sit on the governing Board of Fellows (constituted otherwise of a subgroup of the professoriate). Discussions of school policy were typically open affairs attended by all. Collectivism was applauded; democracy reigned.

This opened space for BMC’s idea that learning and living should interlace. As Louis Adamic, who spent three months at the school as a curious visitor, described the method in a breathless 1936 article for Harper’s: “At BMC there is no head-cramming. There education is experience that involves in action the whole person.”

To that end, Rice and his cofounders made art a core piece of the Black Mountain experience, in an effort to get each student to “put the same faith in doing that he has been taught to have in absorbing,” as an early school catalogue put it. Serendipitously (for Black Mountain, anyway), the year of the college’s founding, the Nazis closed down the radical Bauhaus art school in Germany. Josef and Anni Albers, looking to escape the rising tide of fascism, agreed to come on at BMC to teach art, despite the fact, as Josef wrote, that he did not “speak one word English.” In subsequent years, many Germans would follow.

The Albers’ arrival was a coup for the school. It immediately provided a strong artistic spine and influenced the pedagogy greatly: Josef was a champion of a humanistic approach to education, of art as a way to engage the world completely. So while art was central, everyone was not to become an artist, per se; instead, art looked more like the core of a liberal arts education today. BMC alum Will Hamlin described the result to historian Martin Duberman: “I think we had this in common with the painters and weavers and musicians, that we were trying to make some kind of order out of things, I mean really trying, not just pretending to be… I think we were—with a few exceptions—really working at creating our own universes of meaning.”

The decision to avoid any sort of administrative board cut both ways. The educational model was open as the sky. But the school was constantly scrambling for money, seemingly always on the verge of closing—although it still maintained a pay-what-you-can system (sometimes counterbalanced by accepting wealthier students for that reason alone).

The “precariousness, though deplored and decried at the time, may well have contributed to the community élan,” as Duberman writes. “The severity of the struggle for economic survival helped to knit the community together.” The upshot was a focus on collectively tending to the college: a work program was instituted early on, and students and professors alike worked a farm that provided food for sustenance and sometimes sale, constructed new school buildings, washed dishes, and maintained the grounds. This was cause for grumbling in some corners—it was work, after all—and romantic reverie in others. Rice, the school’s cheeky founder, perhaps summed up the ambivalent attitude best in his autobiography. “Untoiling poets may sing of the dignity of toil;” he wrote, “others know there is degradation in obligatory sweat.”

Nevertheless, there was definite communal buy-in among the Black Mountaineers. When psychologist John Wallen joined the faculty in 1945, he broadened the question of collective responsibility by reaching out to the largely bemused and distrustful surrounding community. (There was a bit of a cultural gap between the school and its environs. A maintenance man on BMC’s first campus described the student body to me as many contemporary locals would: “nothing to do but moonshine and sex.”)

In many ways, the experiment was successful. Students volunteered in town, worked in the Southern Negro Youth Conference, registered voters, gathered signatures for petitions. But it was also short-lived, as Wallen left BMC contentiously not two years into his appointment, taking his ideals with him.

Still, while insulated at times from its surroundings, the school tackled the social issues of its day. It offered a home to German Jews, artists and intellectuals during another era when immigration vexed the United States. In 1944, ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Alma Stone, a Black musician from Georgia, attended BMC’s summer institute in the Jim Crow South. The following summer black artists began to teach, and Black students enrolled full-time, some back from the war on the GI Bill. When the students went into town, they abided by segregation laws; but when outsiders came to Black Mountain for concerts, theater productions, and the like, everybody sat where they pleased.

Democracy proved hard. Immediately upon BMC’s founding, a more powerful group of faculty emerged at its helm: John Rice, Josef Albers, engineer Theodore Dreier, a few compatriots. Soon, some of their colleagues began to resent the group’s authority as at odds with the school’s mission; when Rice had a very public affair with a student in the late ’30s, it provided a catalyst to put him on leave for a time. He never returned.

Sans affair (although that continued to happen every so often), this process repeated itself throughout the school’s history: groups of professors were forced out or resigned, sometimes taking significant portions of the student body with them. Eventually even Albers fell victim to such a dispute after a younger crop of professors decided that he and his ilk had become too stuffy.

The infighting shaped life at the school and gives a sense of the easy-come-easy-go nature of the work. Professors were appointed initially to two-year terms, and later to one-year terms; there was no tenure. Faculty could be asked to leave for the vaguest of reasons—complaints about classroom technique became shorthand for any number of nebulous collegial gripes. Yet because they were part of steering the college, because of their great freedom in implementing their visions of education, professors came. And they stayed.

Josef and Anni Albers, despite the consistently meager pay, taught at the school for 16 years. Co-founder Theodore Dreier, too. Poet Mary Catherine Richards stayed seven years and continued to be involved with the school after she left. The poet Charles Olson stayed six years, until the school closed. (Some students stayed about as long.) The pay was bad, yes. But to be architects of education, rather than grunts on its front line, was for many worth the shortfall.

Albers’s exit in 1949 began the last, most incandescent period of BMC’s history, under the rectorship of Olson, a six-foot-seven-inch whirlwind of a man. After a (comparatively) more staid period in the late ‘40s, the school under Olson lived up to its ideals of radical experimentation. Any semblance of traditional course structure was scrapped, seminars ran until the wee hours of morning, the lines blurred fully between students and faculty. The literary arts took central importance, and the “Black Mountain School” of poets emerged, buoyed by Robert Creeley’s publication of the Black Mountain Review, a journal whose contributors also included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

The Olson years were BMC magnified: yet more cash-starved, yet more experimental, yet more soul-searching. Yet more famous alumni—painter Dorothea Rockburne emerged from this period as well—yet more piercing thought. But the lack of structure had its costs; dwindling enrollment meant emptier coffers, and finally, in 1956-7, the school’s closure. Professors and students spun off to more traditional universities, to new experiments in communal living, to Abstract Expressionist New York and the San Francisco of the Beats.

Black Mountain College’s troubles stemmed from staunch opposition to centralized hierarchical governance. The UNC system’s current issues lend credence to those fears. Early last year, after the NC Board of Governors reviewed 240 academic institutes and centers across the UNC system, they decided to close down three—the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, at UNC Chapel Hill; East Carolina University’s NC Center for Biodiversity; and … [more]
northcarolina  2016  sammyfeldblum  hierarchy  education  highered  highereducation  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  johnandrewrice  charlesolson  democracy  art  arts  curriculum  openness  experience  experientialeducation  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  governance  politics  precarity  rollinscollege  authority  opencurriculum  living  lcproject  openstudioproject  louisadamic  martinduberman  precariousness  community  collectivism  responsibility  theodoredreier  marycatherinerichards  robertcreeley  history  horizontality 
6 days ago by robertogreco
26 | Black Mountain College — Do Not Touch
"We're going back to school and learning about an arts college in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. For 24 years the college attracted famous teachers and produced students who would go on to achieve their own fame. I have two guests speaking to me about Black Mountain - Kate Averett from the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and Professor Eva Diaz from Pratt Institute."
bmc  2018  blackmountaincollege  bauhaus  annialbers  johndewey  art  arts  education  highered  highereducation  alternative  experimental  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  horizontality  evadiaz  kateaverett  history  arthistory  pedagogy  lcproject  openstudioproject  form  exploration  liberalarts  roberrauschenberg  willemdekooning  abstractexpressionism  howwework  discipline  self  identity  johncage  mercecunningham  self-directedlearning  self-directed  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  vision  cognition  expressionism  expression  music  dance  buckminsterfuller  technique  chance  happenings  anarchism  ego  spontaneity  unknown  improvisation  radicalism  transilience  northcarolina  transience  hippies  communes  integration  jacoblawrence  almastonewilliams  outsiders  refugees  inclusion  inclusivity  openness  gender  rayjohnson  elainedekooining  karenkarnes  dorothearockburn  hazellarsenarcher  blackmountaincollegemuseum  susanweil  maryparkswashington  josefalbers  charlesolson  poetry  johnandrewrice 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Black Mountain College: "The Grass-Roots of Democracy" - Open Source with Christopher Lydon
"Our guest, the literary historian Louis Menand, explains that B.M.C. was a philosophical experiment intent on putting the progressive philosopher John Dewey‘s ideas to work in higher education. The college curriculum was unbelievably permissive — but it did ask that students undertake their own formation as citizens of the world by means of creative expression, and hard work, in a community of likeminded people.

The college may not have lived up to its utopian self-image — the scene was frequently riven by interpersonal conflict — but it did serve as a stage-set to some of modern culture’s most interesting personalities and partnerships."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  rutherickson  louismenand  teddreier  theodoredreier  sebastiansmee  taylordavis  williamdavis  2016  robertcreeley  jacoblawrence  josefalbers  robertrauschenberg  annialbers  davidtudor  franzkline  mercecunningham  johncage  charlesolson  buckminsterfuller  johndewey  democracy  art  music  film  poetry  cytwombly  bauhaus  experientiallearning  howwelearn  education  johnandrewrice  unschooling  deschooling  schools  schooling  learning  howelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  christopherlydon  abstractexpressionism  popart  jacksonpollock  arthistory  history  arts  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  leapbeforeyoulook  canon  discovery  conflict  artists  happenings  openness  rural  community  highered  highereducation  curriculum  willemdekooning  small  control  conversation  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  mitmedialab  medialab  chaos  utopia  dicklyons  artschools  davidbowie  experimentation  exploration  humanity  humanism  humility  politics 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Critic and poet Fred Moten is profiled by Jesse McCarthy | Harvard Magazine
"IN 2013, a manifesto entitled The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study began making the rounds among the growing pool of nervous graduate students, harried adjuncts, un-tenured professors, and postdocs whirling through the nation’s faculty lounges. The Undercommons was published by the small anarchist press Autonomedia and made freely available for download; in practice, however, it circulated by word of mouth, copies of the PDF forwarded like samizdat literature for those in the know. On the surface, the text is an analysis of alienated academic labor at the contemporary American university. But it’s also more radical than that: it is a manual for free thinking, a defiant call to dissent within educational institutions that betray their liberal credos, filling their coffers even as they prepare students, armed with liberal arts degrees and “critical thinking” skills, to helm a social and economic order in which, “to work…is to be asked, more and more, to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to desire without purpose, to connect without interruption.”

For those with little or no knowledge of black studies, the text’s deployment of terms like “fugitivity” and “undercommons” may seem baffling. To those in the circle, however, this lexicon of continental philosophy, remixed with a poetic and prophetic fire resembling Amiri Baraka’s, bears the signature of one of the most brilliant practitioners of black studies working today: the scholar and poet Fred Moten ’84."



"This past fall, Moten took up a new position in the department of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, arriving from Los Angeles and a teaching appointment at the University of California at Riverside. In early September, his office was still a bare room with a single high window looking out over Broadway. He hadn’t had a chance to unpack his library, but already a small stack of books on jazz theory, performance, and quantum mechanics rested in a pile near his desk. It soon became clear, however, that he is the kind of thinker who keeps all his favorite books in his head, anyway. His Paul Laurence Dunbar is always at his fingertips, and he weaves passages from Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, or Hortense Spillers into his conversation with equal facility.

In someone else this learnedness could come off as intimidating, but in Moten it’s just the opposite. Something about his composure, his relaxed attentiveness, the way he shakes his head with knowing laughter as he pauses over the direction he’s about to take with a question, instantly erases any stuffiness: one can imagine the exact same conversation taking place on the sidelines of a cookout. And then there’s his voice: warm, low, and propelled by a mellow cadence that breaks complex clauses into neat segments, their hushed, conspiratorial air approaching aphorism. At one point, Moten asked about my dissertation, which I confessed, sheepishly, was kind of a mess. His eyes lit up. He leaned back with a wide grin, his hands spreading out in front of him. “You know what a mess is?” He said. “In Arkansas, a mess is a unit of measure. Like of vegetables. Where my people come from folks might say: ‘You want a bushel?’ And you’ll say, ‘Nah, I want a mess.’ You know, like that great James Brown line: ‘Nobody can tell me how to use my mess.’ It’s a good thing to have. A mess is enough for a meal.”"



"One difficulty for outside readers encountering Moten’s work is that he tends to engage more with the avant-garde than with pop. It’s easy to see why the art world has embraced him: his taste gravitates toward the free-jazz end of the spectrum so strongly it’s as if he were on a mission, striving to experience all of creation at once—to play (as the title of a favorite Cecil Taylor album puts it) All the Notes. This spring, Moten is teaching a graduate course based on the works of choreographer Ralph Lemon and artist Glenn Ligon. In recent years he has collaborated with the artist Wu Tsang on installation and video art pieces, where they do things like practice the (slightly nostalgic) art of leaving voicemail messages for each other every day for two weeks without ever connecting, just riffing off snippets from each other’s notes. In another video short directed by Tsang, Moten—wearing a caftan and looking Sun Ra-ish—is filmed in “drag-frame” slow motion dancing to an a cappella rendition of the jazz standard “Girl Talk.”

By way of explanation, Moten recalls his old neighborhood. “I grew up around people who were weird. No one’s blackness was compromised by their weirdness, and by the same token,” he adds, “nobody’s weirdness was compromised by their blackness.” The current buzz (and sometimes backlash) over the cultural ascendancy of so-called black nerds, or “blerds,” allegedly incarnated by celebrities like Donald Glover, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Issa Rae, leaves him somewhat annoyed. “In my mind I have this image of Sonny Boy Williamson wearing one of those harlequin suits he liked to wear. These dudes were strange, and I always felt that’s just essential to black culture. George Clinton is weird. Anybody that we care about, that we still pay attention to, they were weird.”

Weirdness for Moten can refer to cultural practices, but it also describes the willful idiosyncracy of his own work, which draws freely from tributaries of all kinds. In Black and Blur, the first book of his new three-volume collection, consent not to be a single being (published by Duke University Press), one finds essays on the Congolese painter Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu and C.L.R. James, François Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a comparison between Trinidadian calypso and Charles Mingus records composed in response to the Little Rock Nine, David Hammon’s art installation Concerto in Black and Blue, Wittgenstein and the science fiction of Samuel Delany, a deconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s writings on music and a reconstruction of Saidiya Hartman’s arguments on violence. Sometimes the collision can happen within a single sentence: “Emily Dickinson and Harriet Jacobs, in their upper rooms, are beautiful,” he writes. “They renovate sequestration.”

Taken together, Moten’s writings feel like a Charlie Parker solo, or a Basquiat painting, in their gleeful yet deadly serious attempt to capture the profusion of ideas in flight. For him this fugitive quality is the point. We are not supposed to be satisfied with clear understanding, but instead motivated to continue improvising and imagining a utopian destination where a black cosmopolitanism—one created from below, rather than imposed from above—brings folks together.

For Moten, this flight of ideas begins in the flight of bodies: in the experience of slavery and the Middle Passage, which plays a crucial role in his thinking. “Who is more cosmopolitan than Equiano?” he asks rhetorically, citing the Igbo sailor and merchant who purchased his own freedom, joined the abolitionist movement in England, and published his famous autobiography in 1789. “People think cosmopolitanism is about having a business-class seat. The hold of the ship, among other things, produces a kind of cosmopolitanism, and it’s not just about contact with Europeans and transatlantic travel. When you put Fulani and Igbo together and they have to learn how to speak to each other, that’s also a language lab. The historical production of blackness is cosmopolitanism.”

What can one learn from the expression of people who refuse to be commodities, but also once were commodities? What does history look like, or the present, or the future, from the point of view of those who refuse the norms produced by systems of violence: who consent not to be a single being? These key concerns course through the entirety of Moten’s dazzling new trilogy, which assembles all his theoretical writings since In the Break. At a time of surging reactionary politics, ill feeling, and bad community, few thinkers seem so unburdened and unbeholden, so confident in their reading of the historical moment. Indeed, when faced with the inevitable question of the state of U.S. politics, Moten remains unfazed. “The thing I can’t stand is the Trump exceptionalism. Remember when Goldwater was embarrassing. And Reagan. And Bush. Trump is nothing new. This is what empire on the decline looks like. When each emperor is worse than the last.”

* * *

A THESIS that has often been attractive to black intellectuals (held dear, for example, by both W.E.B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison) was that the United States without black people is too terrifying to contemplate; that all the evidence, on balance, suggests that blackness has actually been the single most humanizing—one could even say, slyly, the only “civilizing”—force in America. Moten takes strong exception. “The work of black culture was never to civilize America—it’s about the ongoing production of the alternative. At this point it’s about the preservation of the earth. To the extent that black culture has a historic mission, and I believe that it does—its mission is to uncivilize, to de-civilize, this country. Yes, this brutal structure was built on our backs; but if that was the case, it was so that when we stood up it would crumble.”

Despite these freighted words, Moten isn’t the brooding type. He’s pleased to be back in New York City, where he’ll be able to walk, instead of drive, his kids to school. He’s hopeful about new opportunities for travel, and excited to engage with local artists and poets. His wife, cultural studies scholar Laura Harris, is working on a study of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who is currently being “re-discovered” by American artists and critics. “I circulate babylon and translate for the new times,” opens another poem in The Feel Trio, … [more]
fredmoten  2017  2013  highereducation  highered  work  labor  anarchism  race  slavery  blackstudies  dissent  radicalism  via:javierarbona  resistance  blackness  bodies  aesthetics  amiribaraka  dukeellington  adrianpiper  billieholiday  nathanielmackey  poetry  scholarship  academia  rebellion  subversion  karlmarx  marxism  hortensespillers  kant  paullaurencedunbar  attentiveness  messes  messiness  johnashbery  ralphellison  webdubois  everyday  writing  undercommons  margins  liminality  betweenness  alternative  preservation  uncivilization  decivilization  consent  empire  imperialism  body  objects  cosmopolitanism  charlieparker  basquiat  weirdness  donaldglover  neildegrassetyson  issarae  georgeclinton  tshibumbakanda-matulu  charlesmingus  samueldelany  saidiyahartman  clrjames  françoisgirard  davidhammon  héliooiticica  lauraharris  charlesolson  susanhowe  criticism  art  stefanoharney  jacquesderrida  jean-michelbasquiat  theodoradorno 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How John Cage made performance the true heart of Black Mountain College - LA Times
"A month after the New York Times had listed John Cage (along with Leonard Bernstein) as one of the six most promising young American composers, and just as Cage was starting to become an avant-garde celebrity in New York, he used his exceptional powers of persuasion to borrow a car from Sonia Sekula. The edgy Swiss Abstract Expressionist painter and the 35-year-old Cage happened to be neighbors in a Lower East Side tenement building that the composer had encouraged starving young artists to inhabit.

Cage thought it high time that he and dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham drove across country to see how the West Coast, where they were both from, reacted to their radical ideas about music and dance. In April 1948, the pair set out for California in Sekula's jalopy.

The trip began with a five-day stopover at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. That visit doesn't merit more than an aside in the catalog of the Hammer Museum's exhibition "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957." There is a lot of important territory to cover in the 24-year history of the uniquely influential liberal arts college where noted artists and thinkers held forth. Nor is there much in the way of decent documentation of the visit.

Cage had finished Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, his most ambitious work up to this time and one for which he would finally be taken seriously as a composer and not be seen merely as the beguilingly inventive mastermind of musical novelties. A main motivation for heading west was an invitation to play Sonatas and Interludes at the Monday Evening Concerts series in Los Angeles.

But it was at Black Mountain where Cage gave the first public performance, if you want to call it that. This was Sonatas and Interludes at a makeshift concert in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on a makeshift stage with a modest piano and before an audience of the tiny college's student body and faculty. (If everyone showed up, at best 100 were on hand.)

The school couldn't afford to pay Cage and Cunningham — they taught as well as performed — but the morning they left, they found Sekula's car overflowing with artwork and food, the students' and faculty's expression of gratitude. Cage and Cunningham got something else, as well: an invitation to return and teach that summer.

They did, and thanks to Cage, neither Black Mountain nor American art would ever be the same.

By its nature, an art exhibition cannot fully convey what that meant or how Cage did it. "Leap" does not look away from the importance of music, dance, theater and literature at Black Mountain, and beginning Tuesday, the Hammer will make an eight-day leap into Black Mountain performance through concerts and lectures and dance performances.

Although visual art must understandably be a museum's core concern, there is validity to curator Helen Molesworth treating it as central to Black Mountain. Founded in 1933, the school was modeled after the Bauhaus in Germany, and the émigré German Bauhaus painter, pedagogue and color theorist Josef Albers guided Black Mountain through some of its early years.

Albers and his wife, textile artist Anni Albers, are as central to the exhibition as they were to the school. Because of the couple's great curiosity, they avidly explored a range of attitudes and cultures, which were shared throughout a school where students and faculty lived, ate, worked and socialized in an environment of inescapable conversation and inevitable argument. Molesworth captures this chattering zeitgeist by displaying carefully chosen artworks in such a way that they talk to one another.

What was all that chattering about? Attitudes toward music, Molesworth notes in the catalog, were one way to distinguish artistic differences at Black Mountain. Music, according to a Black Mountain brochure, represented "a world of inner order [that] can help toward developing that community for which we all toil." The noted Viennese violinist Rudolf Kolisch, invited in summer 1944 to take part in Black Mountain's celebration of Arnold Schoenberg's 70th birthday, taught a course called Democratic Principals of Ensemble Playing.

But it was Cage who advocated true democracy, which meant throwing a monkey wrench into such high-minded musical conceit, and Cunningham was the monkey.

Cage had become fascinated by Erik Satie, the then-obscure, feisty French composer who wittily defied the German deification of structural logic. In summer 1948, in response to the Schoenberg Festival four years earlier, Cage produced a Satie Festival that included a lecture defending Satie. He used the very ideals that Black Mountain professed to "oblige" German refugees to listen to his half-hour presentations of Satie's piano music for 25 consecutive evenings.

Creating an uproar

Cage's attitude was that Beethoven had been in error because he created music defined by harmony. Cage proposed following Satie's example of music defined on time lengths.

This defense was essentially personal. Cage always liked to say he had no gift for harmony, and here he hit home. Albers' pedagogic philosophy was that art didn't require talent as much as it did understanding and technique. But Cage, one of the most gifted musicians of all time, never felt comfortable with the harmony on which Western music was said to depend.

The defense of Satie created the expected uproar and led to a famous food fight among distinguished artists, the Beethoven camp armed with sausages, Satie-ists with crepes.

The climax of the festival was the staging of "The Ruse of Medusa," Satie's surreal farce with piano interludes called monkey dances, which featured, of course, Cunningham.

Buckminster Fuller, who attempted to build his first geodesic dome at Black Mountain that summer (he failed but succeeded the following summer), portrayed the nonsensical baron. A theater student, Arthur Penn (the future filmmaker), directed. Décor was by Willem and Elaine de Kooning, then young artists Cage had brought along to Black Mountain. A small acting role was assigned to student sculptor Ruth Asawa, whose works are among the highlights of "Leap."

The levity of "Medusa" lightened the atmosphere but in no way lessened Cage's challenges to the Black Mountain belief system. His target was not harmony but memory, the idea that for music to be followed you must be able to remember what came before. But what is necessary for Beethoven and Schoenberg is not for Satie. Cage wanted a contemporary art that reflects life as it was led. To the Black Mountain traditional modernists, and especially for the émigrés, memory must always be honored, one must never forget.

Rather than disremember, Cage simply called for action. He used performance to bring together a community of artists through their work without the compromise of collaboration. Essentially, Cage made "Medusa" an extension of breakfast. He and Cunningham began each morning at Black Mountain with Fuller, discussing ideas and telling stories about themselves. For Cage, memory wasn't a required prescription for consuming art but a deeper one for making it, bringing the experiences of many into the moment.

Four years later, in 1952, Cage returned to Black Mountain, and this time he staged what has become the most celebrated of all the college's activities. It wasn't called anything, just announced as a concert. There were entertainments of all sorts given almost daily, most often evening dances, excellent for letting off steam and fostering romances.

It was a strange summer for Cage. He was working on "Williams Mix," what came to be the first American piece of electronic music made by splicing recording tape. This had a Black Mountain association, having been commissioned by Paul and Vera Williams, who met and married as students there. Cage had intended to employ his students to help him with the laborious business of splicing tape. But the kids were too clever to be lured into that, and no one signed up for the class.

Instead, Cage hung out with them at meals, the dining hall being the principal place on campus for discussion. One morning the topic was French dramatist Antonin Artaud's ideas about theater reflecting the immediacy of experience, and Cage suggested making an illustrative theater piece to be performed that day using the resources of Black Mountain.

He asked artists to do their thing somewhat simultaneously. He quickly sketched out a layout with the audience surrounding the performers and created the timing for the participants. They were not told what to do, just where and when.

The poet Charles Olson read, probably on a ladder. Cage delivered a lecture he had written earlier for Juilliard. Cunningham improvised a dance. Avant-garde virtuoso David Tudor played something or other on the piano. Robert Rauschenberg, who had been a student of Albers, hung his white paintings and maybe a black one. There were projections of film and a painting by Franz Kline overhead.

This is widely credited as having been the first Happening and the inciter of performance art. Retrospectively it has been given the title "Theater Piece No. 1," although it is not an official part of the Cage catalog. Though a pack rat, Cage considered it such a classroom-casual event that he never even bothered to keep the "score." No one bothered to take a photograph.

And no one is sure exactly what happened at the first Happening. Witness accounts vary. An enormous literature has sprung about theorizing why that could be, what it all means and how we deal with a fleeting historic event we can't pin down. But Cage's revolutionary intention (or non-intention) was to defeat memory.

The participants couldn't remember because they were too focused on their own work. There had been no rehearsal, other than Cunningham testing the space so that he wouldn't accidentally kick someone. Not all artists are afforded the luxury of leaping before they look.

The lack of structure, moreover, meant it was impossible to take everything… [more]
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2015  johncage  history  eriksatie  mercecunningham  buckminsterfuller  soniasekula  education  democracy  annicalbers  josefalbers  helenmolesworth  leapbeforeyoulook  art  music  highered  highereducation  robertrauschenberg  happenings  williamdekooning  elaindekooning  arthurpenn  charlesolson  davidtudor 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Mapping BMC
"Crossroads and Cosmopolitanism at Black Mountain College chronicles the stories of fifteen students and teachers. Select any artist to begin their story."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  robertcreeley  robertrauschenberg  ruthasawa  mercecunningham  johncage  jeancharlot  josefalbers  margueritewildenhain  rayjohnson  rolandhayes  trudeguermonprez  willemdekooning  charlesolson  annialbers  buckminsterfuller 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Learn By Painting - The New Yorker
"What made Black Mountain different from other colleges was that the center of the curriculum was art-making. Students studied pretty much whatever they wanted, but everyone was supposed to take a class in some kind of artistic practice—painting, weaving, sculpture, pottery, poetry, architecture, design, dance, music, photography. The goal was not to produce painters, poets, and architects. It was to produce citizens.

Black Mountain was founded by a renegade classics professor named John Andrew Rice, who had been kicked out of Rollins College, in Florida. Rice believed that making something is a different learning experience from remembering something. A lot of education is reception. You listen to an expert explain a subject to you, and then you repeat back what you heard to show that you learned it. Teachers push students to engage actively with the material, but it’s easy to be passive, to absorb the information and check off the box.

Rice thought that this made for bad social habits. Democracy is about making choices, and people need to take ownership of their choices. We don’t want to vote the way someone else tells us to. We want to vote based on beliefs we have chosen for ourselves. Making art is making choices. Art-making is practice democracy.

Rice did not think of art-making as therapy or self-expression. He thought of it as mental training. As anyone who has tried to write a poem knows, the discipline in art-making is exercised from within rather than without. You quickly realize that it’s your own laziness, ignorance, and sloppiness, not somebody else’s bad advice, that are getting in your way. No one can write your poem for you. You have to figure out a way to write it yourself. You have to make a something where there was a nothing.

A lot of Rice’s ideas came from the educational philosophy of John Dewey (although the idea that true learning has to come from within goes back to Plato), and Rice was lucky to find an art teacher who had read Dewey and who thought the same way. This was Josef Albers. Albers had not been so lucky. He was an original member of the Bauhaus school, but when Hitler came to power, in 1933, the Bauhaus closed down rather than accept Nazi professors. Albers’s wife, Anni, was from a prominent Jewish family, and they were understandably anxious to get out of Germany. Rice heard about them from the architect Philip Johnson, and he sent a telegram to Albers inviting him and his wife to come teach at Black Mountain. The reply read: “I speak not one word English.” (Albers had read his Dewey in translation.) Rice told him to come anyway. Albers eventually did learn English, and he and Anni, an accomplished and creative weaver, established the mode of art instruction at Black Mountain. Everything would be hands-on, collaborative, materials-based, and experimental.

Bauhaus was all about abolishing distinctions between craft, or design, and fine art, and Black Mountain was one of the places where this aesthetic entered the world of American art. (Another was the Carnegie Institute of Technology, in Pittsburgh, where Andy Warhol went to college.) Albers’s most famous (although probably not his favorite) student at Black Mountain was Robert Rauschenberg, and Rauschenberg is the presiding spirit at the I.C.A. exhibition. Although goofier than most Black Mountain art—there is an earnestness about a lot of the work; this was schoolwork, after all—putting an automobile tire around a stuffed goat is the essence of Black Mountain practice.

Black Mountain College was a holistic learning environment. Teachers and students worked together; people who came to teach (and who stayed—not everyone found the work conditions to their liking) sat in on one another’s classes and ended up learning as much as the students. When a new building needed to be constructed, students and teachers built it themselves, just as, at the old Dewey School, at the University of Chicago, the children grew their own food and cooked their own meals.

It seems as though half the midcentury American avant-garde came through Black Mountain in one capacity or the other. The I.C.A. exhibition includes works by (besides Rauschenberg and the Alberses) Ruth Asawa, John Cage, John Chamberlain, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Robert Duncan, Buckminster Fuller, Shoji Hamada, Lou Harrison, Ray Johnson, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, Charles Olson, Ben Shahn, David Tudor, and Cy Twombly. Black Mountain produced art of almost every kind.

Did it also produce good citizens? That’s an educational outcome everyone embraces but that’s hard to measure. In the case of Black Mountain, the sample size is miniscule, and most students left before graduating. There is also the self-selection issue. People who choose to attend progressive colleges are already progressive-minded, just as people who want a liberal education are usually already liberal (meaning interested in knowledge for its own sake), and people who prefer vocational or pre-professional education are already headed down those roads. College choice tends to confirm prior effects of socialization. But why keep those things separate? Knowing and doing are two sides of the same activity, which is adapting to our environment. That was Dewey’s point.

People who teach in the traditional liberal-arts fields today are sometimes aghast at the avidity with which undergraduates flock to courses in tech fields, like computer science. Maybe those students see dollar signs in coding. Why shouldn’t they? Right now, tech is where value is being created, as they say. But maybe students are also excited to take courses in which knowing and making are part of the same learning process. Those tech courses are hands-on, collaborative, materials-based (well, virtual materials), and experimental—a digital Black Mountain curriculum. The other liberal-arts fields might take notice. Arts practice should be part of everyone’s education, not just in preschool."
blackmountaincollege  bmc  2015  louismenand  johndewey  democracy  practice  experience  education  tcsnmy  progressive  progressivism  art  arts  highered  highereducation  collectivism  learning  unschooling  deschooling  bauhaus  johnandrewrice  making  creativity  josefalbers  annialbers  craft  design  robertrauschenberg  collaboration  ruthasawa  johncage  mercecunningham  buckminsterfuller  willemdekooning  robertduncan  johnchamberlain  robertcreeley  shojihamada  louharrison  rayjohnson  franzkline  jacoblawrence  robertmotherwell  charlesolson  benshahn  davidtudor  cytwombly  kennethnoland  elainedekooning  liberalarts  technology 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Denise Levertov : The Poetry Foundation
"Because Levertov never received a formal education, her earliest literary influences can be traced to her home life in Ilford, England, a suburb of London. Levertov and her older sister, Olga, were educated by their Welsh mother, Beatrice Adelaide Spooner-Jones, until the age of thirteen. The girls further received sporadic religious training from their father, Paul Philip Levertoff, a Russian Jew who converted to Christianity and subsequently moved to England and became an Anglican minister. In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Carolyn Matalene explained that "the education [Levertov] did receive seems, like Robert Browning's, made to order. Her mother read aloud to the family the great works of nineteenth-century fiction, and she read poetry, especially the lyrics of Tennyson. . . . Her father, a prolific writer in Hebrew, Russian, German, and English, used to buy secondhand books by the lot to obtain particular volumes. Levertov grew up surrounded by books and people talking about them in many languages." It has been said that many of Levertov's readers favor her lack of formal education because they see it as an impetus to verse that is consistently clear, precise, and accessible. According to Earnshaw, "Levertov seems never to have had to shake loose from an academic style of extreme ellipses and literary allusion, the self-conscious obscurity that the Provencal poets called 'closed.'"

Levertov had confidence in her poetic abilities from the beginning, and several well-respected literary figures believed in her talents as well. Gould recorded Levertov's "temerity" at the age of twelve when she sent several of her poems directly to T. S. Eliot: "She received a two-page typewritten letter from him, offering her 'excellent advice.' . . . His letter gave her renewed impetus for making poems and sending them out." Other early supporters included critic Herbert Read, editor Charles Wrey Gardiner, and author Kenneth Rexroth. When Levertov had her first poem published in Poetry Quarterly in 1940, Rexroth professed: "In no time at all Herbert Read, Tambimutti, Charles Wrey Gardiner, and incidentally myself, were all in excited correspondence about her. She was the baby of the new Romanticism. Her poetry had about it a wistful Schwarmerei unlike anything in English except perhaps Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach.' It could be compared to the earliest poems of Rilke or some of the more melancholy songs of Brahms.""



"Levertov's American poetic voice was, in one sense, indebted to the simple, concrete language and imagery, and also the immediacy, characteristic of Williams Carlos Williams's art. Accordingly, Ralph J. Mills Jr. remarked in his essay in Poets in Progress that Levertov's verse "is frequently a tour through the familiar and the mundane until their unfamiliarity and otherworldliness suddenly strike us. . . . The quotidian reality we ignore or try to escape, . . . Levertov revels in, carves and hammers into lyric poems of precise beauty." In turn, Midwest Quarterly reviewer Julian Gitzen explained that Levertov's "attention to physical details [permitted her] to develop a considerable range of poetic subject, for, like Williams, she [was] often inspired by the humble, the commonplace, or the small, and she [composed] remarkably perceptive poems about a single flower, a man walking two dogs in the rain, and even sunlight glittering on rubbish in a street."

In another sense, Levertov's verse exhibited the influence of the Black Mountain poets, such as Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley, whom Levertov met through her husband. Cid Corman was among the first to publish Levertov's poetry in the United States in Origin in the 1950s. Unlike her early formalized verse, Levertov now gave homage to the projectivist verse of the Black Mountain era, whereby the poet "projects" through content rather than through strict meter or form. Although Levertov was assuredly influenced by several renowned American writers of the time, Matalene believed Levertov's "development as a poet [had] certainly proceeded more according to her own themes, her own sense of place, and her own sensitivities to the music of poetry than to poetic manifestos." Indeed, Matalene explained that when Levertov became a New Directions author in 1959, this came to be because editor James Laughlin had detected in Levertov's work her own unique voice."
deniseleverton  poetry  writing  writers  autodidacts  unschooling  deschooling  blackmountaincollege  blackmountainpoets  robertcreeley  charlesolson  robertduncan  cidcorman  projectivism  bmc  rilke 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Mythic School of the Mountain: Black Mountain College | Our State Magazine
"In early 1933, John Andrew Rice, an outspoken firebrand and educator, founded a revolutionary new college deep in the mountains of North Carolina’s Buncombe County, just a few miles from the village of Black Mountain. Black Mountain College not only became a legend in its own time, but also established itself during its brief existence as the boldest, most progressive educational experiment in American history.

Rice, a dissident professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, had been dismissed from his teaching post. He had been accused of many things, chief among them fomenting revolt among the Rollins faculty. Rice held that traditional lockstep academia, and its often anemic curricula, allowed little in the way of independent thought and engagement. Upon departing, he led a band of fellow academic dissidents — as well as a number of Rollins students loyal to him — away from Rollins and established Black Mountain College. Rice had nothing in the way of a plan, much less dollars or even a building. The college’s very first catalog stated that it had been founded “to provide a place where free use might be made of tested and proved methods of education and new methods tried in a purely experimental spirit … ”

The W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection, in the Belk Library at Appalachian State University, houses the John Andrew Rice Papers, a trove of lore and memorabilia. One extraordinary document — tattered, cracked, and with Rice’s own penned-in emendations — is a single page of aged onionskin, at its crest the heading, in all caps, THE PURPOSE OF THE COLLEGE. It begins: “The purpose of the college is to lead on to creative consciousness a carefully selected group of talented young men and young women who are eager to know, to will, and to do.” Across its very bottom edge, in Rice’s penmanship, sprawls “Inner freedom in judgment and action.”

That first semester, fall of 1933, Black Mountain College had 13 faculty members and 26 students. The physical plant materialized, like so many of Black Mountain’s milestones, through serendipity. One of Rice’s confederates, Bob Wunsch, a dramatist from Rollins and a North Carolina native — not incidentally the roommate of Thomas Wolfe for a time at the University of North Carolina — suggested the first site for the college. The Blue Ridge Assembly, a Christian conference and training center, established in 1906, was a cluster of blazing-white buildings, including the august antebellum structure Robert E. Lee Hall. It was utilized in the summer for religious retreats, but unused for the most part during the traditional academic year. Rice and Wunsch engineered a deal and were able to rent The Blue Ridge Assembly for a fantastic bargain. Nevertheless, there was the Depression to contend with. There was little money to speak of. Malcolm Forbes, of the famous Forbes family and a former Rollins professor himself, provided the majority of the underwriting.

Black Mountain College faculty, with liberal input from the students, ran the entire operation. No boards of regents, directors, or trustees. The college was not accredited. Of the roughly 1,200 students who attended during its history, few (approximately 60) ever graduated, and those who did received hand-designed, homemade diplomas. Yet its students, upon leaving Black Mountain, were coveted by the very best graduate schools in America and beyond. The school’s structure was its lack of structure. The pedagogical direction was whatever students and teachers agreed upon. No grades. Process claimed dominion over product. Many local Buncombe citizens regarded Black Mountain with suspicion and disdain.

In the beginning, faculty were paid on the basis of need. When there was enough money, they received small salaries, plus room and board. Much of the food that fed the residents was grown on the college farm. Self-sufficiency, living lean and close to the land in the true pioneering tradition of America, was very much a part of Black Mountain. The college taught that the exchange of creature comforts for freedom was a more than equitable barter. Black Mountain invented itself and in so doing established a paradigm for all educational communities ever after to mimic. It initiated itself by posing tough questions about arbitrary, traditional rules governing education and teaching, questions about the self and various external fetters imposed upon it.

Black Mountain was also a crucible of dangerously volatile social change. Long before the rest of America wrestled with sexual orientation and racial integration, Black Mountain was establishing a forum for discussion and acceptance, but always — and perhaps more important — dissent. During its inception, it became a sanctuary for Jewish intellectuals, many of whom were fleeing the scourge of Nazi Europe.

My intoxication with Black Mountain College began the summer of 1987, when Ronald H. Bayes, my Literary Godfather, laid in my hands Martin Duberman’s Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community. I had just started teaching at what was then St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College in Laurinburg — a little town every bit as obscure as the town of Black Mountain was in 1933 when the first faculty members of Black Mountain College arrived at the rail station on Sutton Avenue and were spirited off to their new home at the Blue Ridge Assembly in the very rural Swannanoa Valley.

Bayes, a longtime distinguished professor and writer-in-residence at St. Andrew’s — by my lights, a fringe Black Mountain poet himself — had been intimates with Black Mountain writers Charles Olson, Ed Dorn, Jonathan Williams, Joel Oppenheimer, and Fielding Dawson, and a very close friend of Robert Creeley until Creeley’s death. Through Bayes’s magical connections, many of those writers had been frequent visitors to the St. Andrew’s campus, and, in 1974, St. Andrew’s hosted the now mythic, actually unimaginable (so large are the names on this list), Black Mountain Festival, which featured the writers already mentioned as well as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, and M.C. Richards.

At the time I read Duberman’s book, I had merely heard of Black Mountain College, which I knew no longer existed. I conceived of it like any other college, like the ones I attended and taught at. As I read, however, I was astonished to learn, page by page, what experimental education and community looked like up close — perhaps what education and community had been meant to aspire to all along. What’s more, I was utterly mystified as to why — having been a North Carolinian and a college English professor for 10 years and pretty knowledgeable, or so I thought, in American literature — Black Mountain College had never crossed my radar.

Today, 27 years after I discovered Black Mountain, it remains among even the well-educated across America — not to mention the citizens of North Carolina — at best an anomaly, but more a well-kept secret. There is nothing to commemorate its considerable glory other than a terse epitaph etched into a silver historical marker on U.S. Highway 70 (State Street) at West College Street, traveling west out of the charming little town of Black Mountain: “BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE: Est. in 1933: Closed 1956. Experimental school with emphasis on fine arts & progressive education. Campus was 3 mi. NW.”"



:Yet, to this day, it remains the greatest experimental academic adventure ever launched on American soil. During its shimmering, stormy history, many of the nation’s greatest thinkers and artists were in residence or paid visits to Black Mountain: Anni Albers, Josef Albers, John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Robert De Niro Sr., John Dewey, Aldous Huxley, Alfred Kazin, Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Goodman, Walter Gropius, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Henry Miller, Charles Olson, Arthur Penn, Francine du Plessix-Gray, Mary Caroline Richards, Robert Rauschenburg, Ben Shahn, Thornton Wilder, and countless others.

However, to associate Black Mountain exclusively with this litany of the renowned remains one of the chief hazards of its legacy. What makes the phenomenon of Black Mountain stupendous is the fact that, apart from its glittering roster, there are any number of famous artists and writers, ones without names in neon, without international or even national reputations, who have made prominent names for themselves across every area of the arts. But not just in the arts. Black Mountain produced some of America’s most profound innovators in education, science, social work, architecture, urban planning, psychiatry, history, politics, on and on. To research a Black Mountain College alumnus is to stumble upon greatness. They became citizens of blazing social consciousness and engagement who put to daily practice what John Andrew Rice imagined for his new college’s students back in 1933: inner freedom in judgment and action. In The Black Mountain Book, Fielding Dawson declares: “Forget about the big names” — more a Zen injunction than a literal one. He goes on to say, in an interview I conducted with him, that “[Black Mountain] had a lot to do with a lot of talented individuals who were really interested in what they were doing. The mystic, the intuitive, the anarchist is much more the fact of Black Mountain …”

Black Mountain College started with pure intellectual curiosity and radical curricular reform. It rewrote the history of the self, an opus still unraveling as the endless labyrinth of influence that is Black Mountain branches off into tributary after tributary. Black Mountain College was a gorgeous, temperamental hybrid, gone before America even knew it existed. Nevertheless, as Charles Olson proclaimed in a letter to Martin Duberman: “ There’s no end to the story — her flag flies.’ ”"
blackmountaincollege  bmc  northcarolina  asheville  blackmountain  history  progressive  johnandrewrice  josephbathanti  art  bonaldbayes  martinduberman  segregation  integration  fieldingdawson  charlesolson  writing  poetry  tleverettsmith  ncwesleyan  lcproject  openstudioproject  freedom  unschooling  deschooling  learning  education  highered  highereducation 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Black Mountain Poets – Contemporary Poetry
"The Black Mountain poetry movement was centered around a relatively small group of mid-20th century avant-garde and postmodernist poets who were associated with the Black Mountain College. The experimental art school offered a wide curriculum of classes spanning the literary, visual, and musical fields of learning. The school drew its breath from Charles Olson's influential essay, "Projective Verse," which came to define the effort of the movement in general. In his essay, Olson called for a change in form and perception of modern poetry at the time. Olson called attention to the line and the artist's ability to articulate their vision through breath and syllables, rather than rhyme and meter. Although the school only enrolled 1,200 students throughout its lifetime, the school harnessed some of the most creative and influential artists of its time. Amongst the prominent literary teachers were, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan. Famous performing arts teachers included revolutionary composer John Cage and renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham. At times, guest lecturers even included Albert Einstein. Creeley,the most prominent Black Mountain poet beside Olson, moved to San Francisco in 1957 after teaching and working as editor of the Black Mountain Review at the College for two years. Once in San Francisco, Creely operated with Allen Ginsberg as a direct link between the Black Mountain Poets and the Beats. The movement heavily influenced the modernist poets who came to be associated with the Language School. Although the school was short-lived, its influential teaching and the creative minds it produced stirred a movement that revolutionized the avant-garde."
poetry  blackmountaincollege  bmc  robertcreely  robertduncan  deniselevertov  charlesolson 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Seeing from Between: Toward a Poetics of Interloping : George Quasha : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation
"Poetry is translation. It takes one kind of experienced or thought reality and turns it into language—a linguality or language reality that is conscious of itself in a way that’s relatively unusual. Of course this is obvious enough, and yet what’s not always so clear is how much the view of language we hold (actively or passively) determines the outcome. I suppose that, due to the attention given rather specialized emphases in recent poetics (language poetry, conceptualism, Oulipo, etc.), poets often find it necessary to takes sides on, or at least defend, values designated by words like “content,” “politics,” “experience”; this is understandable and may be useful to them and others (recent blogs by Camille Rankine and David Lau are particularly strong statements), especially in a context where respected poetic approaches appear exclusive in one way or another. Yet the simple fact that privileged words like “content” and “politics” do not have consistent meaning (beyond what a poet’s own work or a specific social context supplies) indicates that whatever we defend is not necessarily there the way we might believe it is. There are poets, as well, who center their activity at one level or another on this (post-Wittgensteinian) problematic of language, motivated perhaps by a certain vision of language or by a commitment to conscious language as intrinsically transformative. It should be obvious that focus on the substance of language itself does not mean that these poets are not concerned, even passionately, with issues like gender, racial equality, ecology, or the menace of capitalism, militarized police and State power. They may show up at the barricades, even if their work is not written to be read at the barricades.

Significant new directions in poetry have often come from outside the literary frame as such, and this might alert us to how much innovative poetic values and approaches are not only “literary” in nature, but are conscious attempts to embody radically alternative reality views by way of language. (In an important sense poetry is pre-literary, and it is arguably fundamental to the nature of language itself. Literature, in this perspective, is historically later and is constructed on poetic foundations while often running counter to poetic values. We may come to see as well how poetry can be post-literary.) Looked at in this way, poetry may be seen as language you must learn—learn by way of its implicit poetics—in order to participate in alignment with its principles. To see this more clearly I suggest a liminalist approach, one foot in a literary poetic and one foot not."



"Arakawa, collaborating pervasively with Gins, created charged language spaces on canvas, poetic action zones that challenge habits of reading, viewing and thinking at a level comparable to Blake’s all-out assault on limits of consciousness. Their 1979 The Mechanism of Meaning: Work in progress (1963-1971, 1978) unites painting and book in a way that creates a powerful event in both visual art and poetics. They have worked conceptually in a way related to both Dada and Duchamp’s developments thereof, but they always focused on an inquiry into certain principles, which they thought to have implications far beyond art alone."



"All intelligible connection with the world for Helen Keller is a language event occurring physically between her and another person. She + another create together a liminality that is the known/knowing world. Blank is also the space of an indeterminacy of agency: who/what’s doing the doing—what Arakawa/Gins call “the perceiving field.” I think here of Maurice Blanchot’s fiction with a poetics, Thomas the Obscure (Station Hill Press, 1988), in which at a certain point of shifting textual perspectivity it takes us performatively into the book reading the reader. His notion of récit (story, narrative, a telling) has resonance for all of the above: “not the narration of an event, but that event itself, the approach to that event, the place where that event is made to happen.”"
georgequasha  interloping  poetics  poetry  madelinegins  oulipo  arakawa  autopoesis  buckminsterfuller  happenstance  via:bobbygeorge  hellenkeller  johncage  wittgenstein  melopoeia  metpoeia  liminality  logopoeia  glossodelia  ezrapound  synergy  tensegrity  williamblake  susanbee  phanopoeia  sound  soundpoetry  marcelduchamp  mauriceblanchot  paulklee  charlesolson  axialpriniciple  garyhill  connections  fiction  narrative  translation  alfrednorthwhitehead  poems  writing  liminalspaces 
april 2014 by robertogreco
NEH Project
Black Mountain College existed for a mere 24 years. In that short time this small experimental college in the Appalachian Mountains just outside of Asheville, North Carolina produced a legacy that makes it central to American culture in multiple ways. While often thought of as an art school, in actuality the arts were considered an important aspect of an overarching liberal arts education emphasizing the broader area of the humanities. From the centrally important teachers such as John Andrew Rice, Josef Albers and Charles Olson through other important figures such as Robert Creeley, Mary Caroline (M.C.) Richards, Buckminster Fuller, and John Cage, to the important students such as Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Francine du Plessix Gray, Arthur Penn, Dorothea Rockburne, Jonathan Williams, and Suzi Gablik, Black Mountain College influenced American culture through advances in educational practice, the visual and performing arts as well as literature. Not only was it an experiment in education, but it also was an experiment that was modeled by John Andrew Rice upon the work of the foremost philosopher of education at the time, John Dewey. Combined with the Dewey's influence was the cutting-edge modernist tradition of Europe’s most famous art and design school, the Bauhaus.

Black Mountain College: An Artistic and Educational Legacy will address the fascinating history of the college through presentations by experts in the field as well as experiential workshops and field trips all designed to deepen and enrich the study of this innovative college."

[See also the reading list: http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/programs/neh-project/12-programs/neh-project/79-reading-list and
the suggested readings: http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/programs/neh-project/12-programs/neh-project/78-suggested-readings]
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2011  readinglists  johnandrewrice  johndewey  josefalbers  charlesolson  robertcreeley  marycarolinerichards  arthurpenn  dorothearockburne  jonathanwilliams  suzigablik  francineduplessixgray  cytwompbly  robertrauschenberg  education  arteducation  liberalarts  pedagogy  bauhaus 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Maverick Colleges: Ten Noble Experiments in American Undergraduate Education (1993)
[Second edition (1996) of the book with some additional schools here in PDF: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/experimental-study-group/es-291-learning-seminar-experiments-in-education-spring-2003/readings/MITES_291S03_maverick.pdf ]

[Wayback:
http://web.archive.org/web/20130730023648/http://www.mit.edu/~jrising/webres/maverick.txt
https://web.archive.org/web/19961105162647/http://www.gse.utah.edu/EdAdm/Galvin/Maverick.html ]

"This book is a product of a University of Utah graduate seminar conducted in the spring of 1991: "Notable Experiments in American Higher Education" (Educational Administration 728). The contributing authors are professor of educational administration L. Jackson Newell and seminar students, each of whom selected an innovative, or "experimental," college for research and reporting."

"Common Themes:

As seminar participants exchanged findings about the ten selected colleges, several prominent themes emerged that had not been predetermined by selection criteria but appeared to indicate common postures among experimental colleges. These include:

• Ideals spawning ideas. In most cases, the ten colleges appeared to start with the ideals of visionary founders. For some, the ideal concerned the citizens who would emerge from the learning experience …

• Emphasis on teaching; retreat from research. The vast majority of experimental colleges are liberal education colleges where the art of teaching and the development of students are values of high esteem. …

• Organization without specialization. Not unexpectedly, these experimental colleges also tended to turn away from the disciplinary organization of scholarship that had sprung from the German research university model. …

• Administrative innovations. Freedom from traditional higher education bureaucracy and hierarchy have been common pursuits of the colleges studied. …

Divergent Approaches:

Just as common themes instruct us about the aims and aspirations of various experimental colleges, so too do their divergent approaches. Two notable areas of difference among the colleges focus on who should attend and how their learning might best be organized during the college years."

[Bits from the section on Black Mountain College:]

"Its educational commitment--to democratic underpinnings for learning that comes from "human contact, through a fusion of mind and emotion" (Du Plessix-Gray 1952:10)-- was reflective of a larger liberal environment that managed a brief appearance before the 1950s ushered in fear of Communism and love of television."



"Rice and his colleagues had stronger convictions about how a college should operate than about how and what students might learn. Democracy would be paramount in the administration of the college, and structure would be loose. Students and faculty joined in marathon, long-winded decision-making meetings with decisions ranging from a faculty termination to a library acquisition.

Particularly prominent, and vital to the democratic underpinnings envisioned by Rice, was the absence of any outside governing body. Rice had determined that control exerted by boards of trustees and college presidents rendered faculty participation meaningless, limiting faculty to debate, "with pitiable passion, the questions of hours, credits, cuts. . . . They bring the full force of their manhood to bear on trivialities. They know within themselves that they can roam at will only among minutiae of no importance" (Adamic, 1938:624).

The faculty did establish a three-member "Board of Fellows," elected from among them and charged with running the business affairs of the College. Within a year, a student member was added to the Board."



"The 23-year history of Black Mountain College was one of few constants and much conflict. Three forceful leaders marked three distinct periods during the 23 years: the John Rice years, the Josef Albers decade, and the Charles Olson era.

During the first 5 years of the College, a solidarity of philosophy and community gradually took shape. It revolved largely around John Rice's outgoing personality (much intelligence and much laughter mark most reports from colleagues and students) and forceful opinions about education. He was determined, for example, that every student should have some experience in the arts.

This translated as at least an elementary course in music, dramatics and/or drawing, because:
There is something of the artist in everyone, and the development of this talent, however small, carrying with it a severe discipline of its own, results in the student's becoming more and more sensitive to order in the world and within himself than he can ever possibly become through intellectual effort alone. (Adamic 1938:626)

Although he cautioned against the possible tyranny of the community, Rice eventually decided that some group activity would,
…help the individual be complete, aware of his relation to others. Wood chopping, road-mending, rolling the tennis courts, serving tea in the afternoon, and other tasks around the place help rub off individualistic corners and give people training in assuming responsibility. (Ibid, 1938:627)



"Rice soon discovered what he would later call the "three Alberses"--the teacher, the social being and the Prussian. The Prussian Albers decried the seeming lack of real leadership at the College and the free-wheeling, agenda-less, community-wide meetings. Rice noted later, "You can't talk to a German about liberty. You just waste your breath. They don't know what the hell you mean" (Duberman 1972:69)."



"The war years ushered in a different kind of Black Mountain; one where students, and at least some faculty members, started lobbying for more structure in learning, but yet more freedom outside the classroom. Lectures and recitations were starting to occur within the classroom, while cut-off blue jeans and nude sun bathing appeared outside. Influential faculty member Eric Bentley insisted to his colleagues: "I can't teach history if they're not prepared to do some grinding, memorizing, getting to know facts and dates and so on…" (Duberman 1972:198). Needless to say, with Albers and many of the original faculty still on board, faculty meetings were decisive and volatile.

Overshadowing this dissent, however, was a new program that was to highlight at least the public notion of a historical "saga" for the College, the summer institutes. Like much at Black Mountain, the summer institutes started more by chance than choice."



"The summer institutes grew throughout the 1940s to include notable talents in art, architecture, music and literature. And it is probably these institutes and the renown of the individuals in attendance that contributed most to Black Mountain's reputation as an art school."



The excitement and publicity generated by the summer sessions, in addition to a general higher education population explosion spurred by the G.I. Bill, put the Black Mountain College of the late 1940s on its healthiest economic footing yet.

Still, Black Mountain managed to avoid financial stability. Student turnover negated some of the volume gains. Faculty salaries rose substantially, but grants and endowments did not. Stephen Forbes, for example, who had always been counted on to supply money to the College in tough times, refused a request in 1949 because he was disenchanted with the new emphasis on arts education at the expense of general education. The ability to manage what money it had also did not increase at Black Mountain, although Josef Albers proposed a reorganization that would include administrators and an outside board of overseers. In the wake of arguments and recriminations about the financial situation and how to solve it, a majority (by one vote) of the faculty called for the resignation of Ted Dreier, the last remaining faculty member from the founding group. In protest, four other faculty members resigned--including Josef and Anni Albers. By selling off some of the campus acreage, the remaining faculty managed to save the College and retain its original mindset of freedom from outside boards and administrators, while setting the stage for yet another era in its history [Charles Olson].



"What Albers lacked in administrative ability, he compensated for in tenacity and focus. What Rice lacked in administrative ability, he balanced with action and ideas. However, when Olson couldn't manage the administrative function, he simply retreated. His idea about turning the successful summer institutes into a similar series of year-long institutes fell on deaf faculty ears. So he gave up trying to strengthen the regular program."



"The vast majority of former Black Mountain students can point to clear instances of lasting influence on the rest of their lives. Mostly, this seems to have occurred through association: with one or two faculty members who made a difference, with a "community" of fellow individuals who were essential resources to one another, or with a new area of endeavor such as painting or writing or farming. Black Mountain, apparently, was a place where association was encouraged. Perhaps this occurred through the relatively small number of people shouldered into an isolated valley, perhaps by a common dedication to the unconventional, or perhaps to the existence of ideals about learning and teaching. At any rate, the encouragement of association with people and with ideas was not the norm in higher education then, nor is it now. Clearly, it is possible to graduate from most colleges and universities today with little, if any, significant association with faculty, students or ideas.

But at Black Mountain, as at other experimental colleges, association could hardly be avoided. Engagement with people and ideas was paramount; activity was rampant. It was social, and it was educational. As Eric Bentley would remark:

Where, as at Black Mountain, there is a teacher to every three students the advantage is evident. . .a means to … [more]
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may 2013 by robertogreco

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