experts with ideals

Sounds like a band name, doesn't it? Like Sisters with Attitude (a.k.a. SWA). It's actually taken from one of the final sections in Robert Venturi's canonical "Learning from Las Vegas," written in 1977, part of my summer reading collection. I spent most of today so far reading over my annotations in this book and Susan Stewart's "On Longing." Venturi (along with Denise Scott Brown and Steve Izenour) is critical of modernist architects and critics, those "experts with ideals" who "build for man rather than for people," suggesting instead that "sprawl and strip we can learn to do well." Granted, Las Vegas was a different place thirty years ago, but I find the book fascinating, especially considering I have little to no background in architectural history or theory, in the way it challenges readers to reexamine the visual communication and influence of the billboards and signage that make up a large part of the American landscape. I also enjoyed comparisons between American cities like Vegas and Los Angeles to European cities like Rome, Florence, and Paris.

More mind-blowing, though, was Stewart's "On Longing." I think everyone, especially visual artists and "crafters," should read this book as she seems to at least touch on so many of the themes I see in the work around me, both at school and at home, as well as in galleries, museums, films, etc. She writes about "the social disease of nostalgia," longing, desire, memory, the miniature (the dollhouse, for example), the souvenir, differences between the individual souvenir and the collection, amusement parks and historical reconstruction, the landscape, the gigantic (from the Jolly Green Giant to "earth works"), parades, travel writing, Tom Thumb weddings, photography, terms of endearment, the saturated meaning of certain objects, scrapbooks, yard art, and flea markets. Reading this book was like meeting your new best friend. Just about everything she writes is brilliant and relevant, to my work right now, at least.

So I'm feeling a little bit better about quickly approaching the start of another school year. Perhaps it's my recent unemployment. Yep, Friday was my last day in retail, for now at least. Working in retail, as many of you probably already know, takes unbelievable people skills and an abundance of love and forgiveness for humanity in general. I can fake it when I need to, and I think I'm socially well adjusted, at least on a smaller scale, but otherwise I'm somewhat lacking in these skills. The effects of a self-righteous crabby customer would linger with me like the smell of smoke in your hair and on your clothes, particularly in the last couple of months. So I won't miss that, especially considering Labor Day weekend seems to be the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. What I will miss, aside from my co-workers and employee discount, are the little old ladies from Saks, people-watching when it was slow, gazing longingly across the corridor toward Califoria Pizza Kitchen, not taking my work home with me, and the Massachusetts law-enforced time-and-a-half pay on Sundays.

No comments: