“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Jonathon Keats has been described by The New Yorker as a “poet of ideas.” Keats’s latest project is the Millennium Camera, a custom-built pinhole camera with a one-thousand-year exposure time that will remain inside Amherst College’s Stearns Steeple until 3015. In May 2015, the college’s Mead Art Museum documented the intellectual and material creation of Keats’s camera, displaying its blueprints and predecessors alongside the camera itself in an exhibition titled Jonathon Keats: Photographing Deep Time. To commemorate the opening of the exhibition, Keats spoke with Vanja Malloy, the Mead’s curator of American art, about deep-time photography and about the rapidly changing nature of humanity’s relationships with its environment and its descendants. This essay has been adapted from that conversation.
When I first heard of the Nicaraguan Canal Project, I thought of the 19th-century artists Martin Johnson Heade and Norton Bush. It was winter, and I was driving through Wisconsin, early evening, listening to the news. The canal, the reporter said, would be three times as long and twice as wide as the Panama Canal. It would fit extra-large container ships. It might stimulate Nicaragua’s economy. Environmental groups were protesting potentially large-scale disaster.
In his 1838 “Essay on American Scenery,” Thomas Cole—the celebrated “founding father” of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting—wrote that American landscapes are:
a subject that to every American ought to be of surpassing interest; for, whether he beholds the Hudson mingling waters with the Atlantic—explores the central wilds of this vast continent, or stands on the margin of the distant Oregon, he is still in the midst of American scenery—it is his own land; its beauty, its magnificence, its sublimity—all are his; and how undeserving of such a birthright, if he can turn towards it an unobserving eye, an unaffected heart!
Emma CroweRobert S. Duncanson and the Birthright of Landscape
In reference to photography, Roland Barthes wrote that its unique position among art was that it referred directly to something “that has been.” Erik Hougen’s paintings hint at that premise; they offer places both familiar and alien, which forces the part of our brain that codifies and organizes images to guess where and when. This dialogue, or rather confusion, between viewer and image is exactly what the artist is working towards. Hougen invites us to a location and time that may not exist. The mind attempts to classify the exact place, but ends up submitting to a notion of place.
In August 2013, Amherst College acquired one of the most comprehensive collections of books by Native American Indian authors ever assembled by a private collector. This collection, from Pablo Eisenberg, consists of about 1,500 books that include poetry, fiction, history, philosophy, and many other works. Even texts by some of the first Native American Indian writers to be published in their lifetimes, such as Samson Occom, William Apess, and Elias Boudinot, are a part of this vast collection. The Robert Frost Library seeks to show as much as possible of the history of Native American writing and philosophy in their exhibit: The Younghee Kim-Wait Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection.
Lagos, Nigeria is growing fast but travels slow. The city, which is Africa’s largest, has doubled in population within the past seventeen years, crowding its roads and bridges with many millions of people – too many for the city’s recent infrastructure investments to keep up. Traffic jams, called go-slows, ensue. But while Danfos, the yellow minibuses that are public transportation in Lagos, tend to get stuck, its passengers don’t. While buses crawl, Lagosians move: playing street music, revving engines, hawking products, shouting directions and taking phone calls.