Lecture Attentive Alternatives

Those of you who know me well understand that when I arrive in a new city, the first thing I get excited about is….the lectures! The culture! The contemporary arts exhibitions! Yup, just geeky that way.

This week I was able to check out some free discussions around Manhattan, the first being Rebecca Walker at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the 2nd being an exploration of early Virgil Partch (Vip) cartoons at Parsons the New School for Design.

rebecca walker at the schomburg center for research in black studies
Walker Lecture at Schomburg

What I like most about lectures is their duration, they really are a matter of stamina for both the speaker and the audience. I appreciate moments where nationally touring creatives like Rebecca Walker get caught off guard or say interesting things off the record. Every speaker makes such mistakes if the event is held for long enough, so I made an effort to stay until the very end and was not disappointed. The weirdest thing about Walker’s talk involved the Q&A. Her debut novella Ade is what she calls “Autobiographical Fiction”meaning that most of the story is true but too personal to admit with a straight face. Sure, understandable that an artist wants a bit of distance between them and the critics, but guess who showed up at the Q & A? A couple of folks that had actually been mentioned in her reading of an excerpt from the book! Naturally, these folks hadn’t seen Walker in over a decade, and she certainly had no expectation that they would be at the event. In a firm but loving fashion, these visitors began to counter her retelling of certain parts of the new book as they could recall the actions that transpired from their own memories. Its one of those moments that solidifies a “fictional” story into Reality–something that made the rest of this promotional event feel odd. After all, the author invited us there to pay for a written fantasy, didnt she?

Cartoon by Virgil Partch
Cartoon by Virgil Partch

The Creative Director of Fantagraphics gave a detailed exploration of the life of cartoonist Virgil Partch at Parsons. Like many cartoonists who studied at Walt Disney Studios during the Great Depression, he was a very clever and witty artist with a desire to poke at the absurdity of the everyday. That experience only goes so far with me though, considering how much of the culture for the men of this time stayed constant (Race relations), while other things shifted greatly (such as income and the War draft). I know its a drag, but come on fellas, there were women drawing too- alot of times right next to you when all these cool ideas were coming out about animation lifting people up from dark realities.

Not to mention having to keep the 1930s-40s cartoonist in context because of all the “Otherness” they found so amusing during this era. Meh, maybe I revisit this another time.

And the lectures don’t stop there, for the rest of this week I’m set to check out further what the minds of New York are discussing after 5pm. What will they think of next?

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