Tuesday, June 15, 2010

time warp

the circus came to town

Victor, Claire, Jean-Luc, and Diane
I can't believe its been a week since my last post. We have another day off today and I should be up in the mountains hiking but the weather is not very good so I'm just hunkering down and getting some needed rest. Lauren, my roommate and I got up at 8 to have breakfast with Diane and Victor before they left for home. It was so fantastic to have time with them. Besides being great thinkers and teachers, they are fantastic humans and fun to be around.
Since my last post, I completed two more seminars, first with Victor Vitanza http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Vitanza
The seminar was on Lyotard and called "Hesitating Thought". I felt like I learned so much. Victor is has the heart of an artist and he is able to make such amazing connections between ideas.
After Victor's class we had a seminar with the philosopher Jean Luc Nancy, a contemporary and friend of Lyotard and Derrida. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Luc_Nancy
It was another amazing three days. As we all sat spellbound, he lectured on art, mystery, the sacred, and sex among other things.
On Sunday evening, french filmmaker Claire Denis http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0219136/ screened her newest film, "White Material" for us. It is the story of a white french woman played by Isabelle Hupert who owns a coffee plantation in Africa as rebel armies of child soldiers are moving in and violence is erupting. Its a really powerful film and most of us were left speechless.
After the screening, Diane, Victor, Jean-Luc, and Claire came up to our apartment and had some wine while we talked about her film. It was amazing to sit next to an artist I have admired for so long and who's films I know so well. I think it was the first time at EGS that I really felt star struck.
We wrapped up the seminar with Nancy yesterday and he again came up for wine and answered our questions about fascism, dreams, architecture etc. with enormous generosity.
I had a great sauna after breakfast and am now getting ready to do some yoga. If the weather is clear, I will go for a run before going out to dinner with Lauren, Steve, Mariluz and Jared. The food here is dreadful and we try to get away now and then for something resembling life.
I forgot to mention that the circus was in town for a few days. It was a little surreal to see the big top with the Alps looming over it.
Tomorrow, back to class with Hubertus von Amelunxen: photography and philosophy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day off!

Tobias leads the tour

The original hotel sign in storage

The other tour guide


Sweet! Another great class with Dr. Diane Davis from UT Austin. Here's a link to her publications page: http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~davis/pubs/index.html. The class was on the philosophy of Jacques Derrida a former faculty member here at EGS. Here's his wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Derrida. A really comprehensive class with Diane, she's a fantastic teacher and really nice person to boot. I'm feeling very inspired!
Last night some of the boys threw a party in their funky 70's Swiss chalet and I ended up staying up until 3am. I may have been one of the early to bed people, the party went well past 4am. I have a new roommate, Lauren a really cool architect from Clemson who is here with Victor Vitanza our next faculty.
Lauren, Steve (another Clemsonite and Washington State native) and I are about to take a hike down to Saas Balen which is a hamlet (I called it a town and Tobias the hotel owner corrected me) a ways below us. If we are too tired to walk back we can take the post bus. Today is the first day I haven't gone jogging so I think I'm ready for the trek. Tonight we are going out to dinner with Victor and Diane at the local Italian restaurant.
Last night after dinner Tobias took us on a tour of the house his father was born in and talked about what life used to be like here in the valley. His family has been here since the 13th century. It used to take them seven years to build a house because all the materials have to come from the valley and since everything is covered in snow much of the year they could only build a portion each season. Can you imagine?
I'm off now to get ready for our hike and get out and enjoy the beautiful day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Class #1

Paul Miller and me

the class

Today we finished the first session. It feels like we've been here for a month but its only been three days. Our first class was with Dr. Mitchell Joachim and Paul Miller a.k.a DJ Spooky. Mitchell is a MIT grad. architect and teaches at NYU. He also has a non-profit called Terreform http://www.terreform.org/ He works on sustainable design for cities and autos among many other things. He has advised the Obama administration on sustainability and the environment and worked for Frank Gehry. Its really worth checking out the web site. Fascinating!
Paul is a famous DJ and is considered one of the people who helped to make sampling a legitimate art form. He's also a philosopher. He's recently performed and exhibited at the Guggenheim, The Tate Modern, and just before he was here with us was in the Sudan with the UN working to bring music to former child soldiers. Check his website out here: http://www.djspooky.com/
All in all, it was a great class to kick off the year. Lots of ideas and possibilities. Tomorrow: Derrida!

Saas Fee!

view 1 from my balcony

view 2

my outdoor office

On Tuesday I arrived in Saas Fee. The journey started early in Como after the best croissant I've ever had in my life. Don't tell the French... I found a pasticceria in town that had these amazing marmalade filled croissants which the Italians call brioche. I had one every morning in Como with a cappucino. Oh, how I miss them...
Anyhow, I digress. My train leaving Como for Milan was quite late as is the norm in Italy so I arrived in Milan only to see my connecting train to Brig pulling out of the station. Swiss trains are never late! I had lunch in Milan before getting another train and two hours later I was in Brig which is just over the Italian border.
In Brig I boarded a bus for Saas Fee which is about an hour from Brig and one of the most exciting bus rides I've ever taken going up up up winding roads. Saas Fee is the highest town and the last stop. There are no automobiles allowed inside the town so when the bus gets to the station, it pulls up to an enormous wooden door that slides open and the bus pulls inside. From there I walked a short distance to the hotel and checked in. I got a suite upstairs all to myself! Yay!
After checking in I went for a run on the trails that go above the town before dinner and our meeting at 8pm. It was great to see some of the friends I made last year and meet the new students. As it turns out one of the students is Jared Pappas Kelly who used to run the Critical Line Gallery in Tacoma and went to Evergreen at the same time as I did. He's been living and teaching in the UK for the past few years. Small world!

Bellagio and Lake Como

Como waterfront by night


a new friend

On Monday I took the ferry up the lake to Bellagio. The way there took only an hour but the return journey was almost 2. Another impossibly beautiful place. Lake Como is out of a fairy tale, each 18th century villa is more beautiful than the next...


light house

houses on the hillside

view from the lighthouse

going up

Brunate is a little village in the hills above the town of Como. It has been occupied since the 6th century but because it is difficult to access it remained very small until the 1850's when they built the fununculare-a vertical train going up the hill. It became a favorite vacation spot for lots of artists and writers and slowly grew. It is still small, and very quaint but also with old expensive villas. I fell completely in love with the town. The flora and fauna were very lush. I spent an afternoon and evening here after taking the fununculare up the hill from Como. It takes about 5 minutes. I walked all the way up to the voltaic lighthouse which is really high above the lake and a killer walk. There were lots of little lizards in the stone walls and the sound of birds was everywhere. I had the best dinner at a tiny bistro where the owner and his wife prepare everything from scratch daily and use local and organic ingredients. After a glass of his homemade limoncello for dessert (the best I've ever had) I made the descent back down to Como and bed.


evening stroll

from my hotel balcony

I arrived in Como at around noon on Saturday. Como is the largest town on the lake at the southern end. It is the only town that has train service. There are two stations Nord Lago and San Giovanni. San Giovanni has the best service from Milan but is a 15 minute walk from the lake which is where I was staying but it is only a 30 minute ride from Milan versus a little over an hour to Nord Lago. I schlepped my massive luggage through town to the hotel. My hotel was shabby but clean with a shared bath. Como is incredibly beautiful and I spent the first day walking around before returning to my room to crash for a while. Saturday was full of Italians visiting for the weekend and everyone was out walking and eating gelato.