Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In the Outlaw Area

Back in January 1966, the New Yorker published this extended conversation with Bucky Fuller, written by Calvin Tomkins.   It avoids that sensation of difficulty/complexity that arises from some of Bucky's own writing, and gives an affectionate and lucid description of spending time in Bucky's company, and his endlessly intriguing and amusing conversation on a wide range of subjects (or rather, of inter-related aspects of Universe).

Talking of teaching himself maths:

“Later on, we came to geometry. The teacher made a point on the blackboard, then erased it and said, ‘That doesn’t exist.’ She made a row of points, and said, ‘That’s a line, and it doesn’t exist, either.’ She made a number of parallel lines and put them together to form a plane, and said it didn’t exist. And then she stacked the planes one on top of the other, so that they made a cube, and she said that existed. I wondered how you could get existence out of nonexistence to the third power. It seemed unreasonable. So I asked her, ‘How old is it?’ The teacher said I was just being facetious. I asked her what it weighed and I asked how hot it was, and she got angry. The cube just didn’t have anything that I thought was existence, but I thought I was probably being unfriendly, and so I shut up. I got A’s in all my science work, and when I got to Harvard I didn’t go on with mathematics, because it was so easy—just a sort of game you played. I thought I’d take something really difficult, like government or English."

Hat tip to Bobby Campbell for this image
"There is no doubt whatever in Fuller’s mind that the whole development of modern science and technology has resulted from a willingness on the part of a very few men to sail into the wind of tradition, to trust in their own intellect, and to take advantage of their natural mobility. According to Fuller, the influence of this tiny minority, the navigator-priests of pre-history who ventured into the outlaw area and returned with the new wealth that was knowledge, was always far greater than that of the kings or other rulers to whom they were officially subject, and the situation is no different today; it is modern technology, rather than political leadership, that directs the real movement of contemporary history. “Take away the energy-distributing networks and the industrial machinery from America, Russia, and all the world’s industrialized countries, and within six months over two billion swiftly and painfully deteriorating people will starve to death,” he has written. “Take away the politicians, all the ideologies and their professional protagonists from those same countries and leave them their present energy networks, industrial machinery, routine production, and distribution personnel, and no more humans will starve nor be afflicted in health than at present.”

Much earlier, he wrote a collection of pieces, worth tracking down if you can find a copy, called "The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant-Garde" - with insightful descriptions of Duchamp, Tinguely, Cage, Rauschenberg and Cunningham.

You can find a free PDF of The Afternoon Interviews here.

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