On September 4, 2015, I had 56 books out from the Multnomah County Public Library. I displayed these books, along with their associated bookmarks, dog-ears, and post-its at FURTHERMORE, a Portland alternative art space that presents works that blur the boundaries between art, craft, and design. Research is particular pleasure of mine and is central to my personal and professional practice. These 56 voumes are evidence of curiosities indulged and research in progress. Among them are anthologies, plays, fiction, criticism, and graphic novels, any or all of which I hoped would help me answer the question of How do we pay attention?
On the topic of aspirational reading, this passage from the introduction of part one of The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, puts it as gracefully as I've ever seen it:
The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with "Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?" and the others -- a very small minority -- who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books.
With Dave Laubenthal, I later moderated a panel discussion with the other FURTHERMORE artists that launched the 2015-16 Applied Craft + Design Visiting Artist Lecture Series. In the spirit of research, we asked: What are you excited about these days? What's filling your notebooks and mental wishlists? How do you pay attention to what inspires you?
library books, shelves, dog-earred pages
RESEARCH, READING, PUBLIC SPEAKING