Where better for an alchemical exercise than a building with invisible walls on a day fogged in by history, in a town floating between majestic past and gritty present?
Dan and I are in Toledo, Ohio to scout pop-up gallery and workshop locations in advance of the June 2012 GAS conference. As magic happens, our visit collides with a project at the Toledo Museum of Art’s stunningly hallucinogenic Glass Pavilion.
The order of the day, March 23, 2012, is to replicate – as best as sketchy surviving notes suggest – the furnace built in March 1962 for Harvey Littleton’s first Toledo workshop – the event that is generally acknowledged to have ignited the American Studio Glass Movement.
What the project honors is certainly more than a moment in time. It honors the energy of exploration, of going against the grain (or the family, or the industry), to rip something new and personal out of the status quo.
That Toledo and the Minkoff Foundation have chosen to sponsor a residency of young artists – were it not for the body-ornamented hunky Matt, a certain vestal-virgins-in-the-mists might suggest itself – charging them with building, then charging, this iconic little oven. We are grateful to watch.
And to be watched. Because it’s not 1962. It’s 2012 – and the energy of this moment is all about watching. It’s impossible to miss the arsenal of smart phones and laptops and digital cameras. Monitors abound. Everything being taped. Dan is tugged off to be interviewed about being a student of Littleton’s.
Websites are accessed in search of technical data. FedEx is enlisted to speed a Johns-Manville 475 marble off to Bullseye’s research team for a dilatometric test. That it will take 12 hours to move this little marble across the continent seems an unspeakable shortcoming of 21st century technology. Where is astral-projection when we need it?
The event, of course, begs the question: is it magic if it’s reproducible? There are other questions: what really is the role of history in this kind of exercise? Are we robbing the future of a past if we hold it this close? What happens to imagination when we document so much?
1962 is a few grainy photos and a stack of mud-stained bricks. Oddly, they seem so much more magical to me than my own iPhone which at the same time is miraculously sucking up hundreds of megabytes of moments that I’ll look at days, months and maybe years from now and think that I was here.
Well, my smart phone was. Was I? Really?
It’s all too much. I think I’m suffering from a debilitating strain of arch-e-tectural intoxication. So we wander across Monroe Street, back to the older part of the museum where I collide with Anselm Kiefer’s remarkable “Athanor” .
….and start musing all over again on self-fueling furnaces, alchemy and …and…and…where I misplaced Dan…..
…who is eventually found….back-dropped by history, talking to a factory on the other side of a continent….he has furnaces of our own to tend. Which reminds us to Just Go Home.
But, Toledo, we loved you – and we’ll see you again in June (if the fog has cleared by then).