Friday, March 1, 2024
HomePraxis Center for AestheticsKeeping up with History

Keeping up with History

“…as a result of knowledge painfully extracted from nature, through generations of careful thinking, observing, and experimenting, we are on the verge of glimpsing at least preliminary answers to many of these questions…If we do not destroy ourselves, most of us will be around for the answers. Had we been born fifty years earlier, we could have wondered, pondered, speculated about these issues, but we could have done nothing about them. Had we been born fifty years later, the answers would, I think, already have been in.” -Carl Sagan

Just a few generations ago, no one could have imagined the world in which we now live. Human civilization and technology have advanced more rapidly in the last two centuries than they did throughout the rest of human history. Today we are faced with a world that outpaces us on a daily basis. We are exhausted, anxious, depressed, and struggling to keep up. We look to history to inform us about the present moment but what if that is simply not enough? What if we have gone so far outside the realm of normal development and evolution that the clues from the past cease to apply? Are we faced with a total revision of how we understand our most basic interactions with time and space?

Carol Becker is Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts. She is also a writer who has many published works, the most recent of which is titled Losing Helen about the loss of her mother who was 98 years old. Her non-Jewish mother wished to be buried in the Jewish cemetery with her husband, the book became a meditation on this loss and the process of advocating for her final wishes. Becker also writes analytic essays about artists. An upcoming essay currently in early stages will discuss Greek-American poet and translator of Greek poetry Kimon Friar. For this Becker says she is considering various aspects of time. For example, Becker refers to time in the present era as “crushed time,” a reference to the sense of acceleration we live with all the time. She points to a stark contrast between the slow time savored by the Greek poets translated by Friar and the present in which we feel the constant pressure of being rushed. On representations of coexisting time, Becker says, “if I were a visual artist I probably would create something with multiple concentric circles.” This portrays the many “balls of time” in which we all exist. Becker has also recently spoken at the world economic forum in Davos.
To hear more of Becker’s fascinating take on time and more listen to the full interview.

Lucy Ives is a writer. Her novel Impossible Views of the World was published in August of 2017 and follows a museum curator in New York City. The museum in the novel is an “encyclopedic museum” containing “the greatest hits of western civilization” as well as galleries devoted to non-western art and artifacts. Ives says the museum functions like the Western Canon and allegorically represents the complexities of the interrelationship of major institutions in real life with large corporate backers. Cultural workers (e.g. curators) in the present must contend with social media as well as corporate and oligarchical powers who become involved, often monetarily, with cultural resources and acquisitions. In the novel, the protagonist is concerned by the involvement of these entities one of which propose a franchise of the museum in a planned community. Ives also investigates other juxtapositions, for example, the relationship to the structure of books to how we read now. She says the book has evolved its present structure and we have adapted our reading to suit it. Means of consumption of all sorts are broadly and closely examined. Themes of capitalism vs art and culture play heavily within the fabric of the novel. To hear her read excerpts from her work, listen to the full interview.

A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:

We live in a fantastic age, of this, there is little doubt. We routinely live to old age, cure diseases, and understand the cosmos better than ever before. But perhaps it is unwise to forget old ways. We ourselves were built to endure them far better than the new ways in which we find ourselve.

Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.

Books to Read

What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Carol Becker makes time to read at bedtime, preferring Buddhist texts and novels to fill this space. One book, in particular, is Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa. Lucy Ives’ book Impossible Views of the World is available from Penguin.

Opportunities / Open Calls

First-time feature film directors are invited to apply for Independent Feature Project labs. The film must be near or at completion at the time of application. For more details, visit the IFP website. Deadline is March 5.


Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.



  1. One more difference between our age and the past, because of our shared technology we are able to communicate instantly and intimately with people we will never know and never even meet. Yes, that technology opens the door for abuses but also for the vast opportunity for really wonderful and free flowing exchanges.


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