Friday, October 23, 2009

Draper Alumni News: Elizabeth Streb's Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) Receives Rockefeller Grant

Congratulations to Draper Alumna Elizabeth Streb, whose Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) was one of 18 New York City cultural institutions to receive funding through the Rockefeller Foundation's annual New York City Cultural Innovation Fund competition. Streb was a recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant in 1997. Her company is staging a new performance in Brooklyn this December.

(Via the SLAM mailing list):
Ringside Inc./STREB receives funding!

"The Rockefeller Foundation is pleased to continue our support of art and creativity right here in our home town of New York City," said Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. "In today's economy, our artists and communities need support to continue to build an innovative creative sector that provokes us to react, question, and learn."

Many of this year's winners-selected from more than 500 diverse projects-focus on innovative survival strategies for the arts during a time of severe economic decline. Fresh business models, imaginative prototypes for public/private partnerships, entrepreneurial approaches to capital generation, artist peer loan programs, and new spins on marketing, especially to rapidly growing Latino communities, are strong themes among the winning entries.

These projects are infused with innovation in art itself as well-from the coupling of architecture with ballet and science with art to the use of 3D urban design and social networking technology.

STREB's grant was given to spark new dance forms by incorporating extreme action techniques such as high wire and skydiving."

Halloween Wonder Cabinet, curated by Lawrence Weschler

The New York Institute for the Humanities
& the Humanities Initiative at NYU
present an all-day

curated by Lawrence Weschler

A day of illustrated talks, screenings, and multimedia presentations
on the intergalactic to the molecular with
Laurie Anderson, Michael Benson, Chandler Burr,
Walter Murch, David Wilson and many others

Saturday October 31
11 am till 9:30 pm

NYU's Cantor Film Center
36 East 8th Street, NYC

Free and Open to the Public (on a first-come, first-in basis)

Every once in a while, Lawrence Weschler, the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and author, among others, of the Pulitzer-nominated Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (a work of “magic-realist nonfiction” arising out of an investigation of the premodern roots of the postmodern Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles), gets it into his head to contrive a day of sublimely odd, wonderflecked and just plain cool presentations, braided one after the next in a thematic order intermittently evident to himself, if no one else. This year, he proposes to do so on Saturday October 31, which is to say Halloween.

As you will see from the program below, the first half of the day will focus generally on the stellar, the planetary, the cosmological and the astronomic. Later in the day, presentations will begin to morph into a consideration of the experience itself of drop-jawed amazement. Toward the end of the procession, attention will turn to things somewhat more infinitesimal: the molecular basis of smell, insect camouflage, and (to round out the day, Halloween after all) the downright hallucinogenic.


11:00 am
A celebratory fanfare by avant garde, downtown (and well nigh breathless) saxophone player COLIN STETSON

11:10 am
LAURIE ANDERSON, the celebrated performance artist and hipster sage, who will dilate on her days, a few seasons back, as visiting artist-in-residence with the good folks at NASA. (Note: She will be replacing the previously announced bead-artist Liza Lou in this slot.)

11:45 am
Filmmaker and photographic archivist MICHAEL BENSON will be evoking the entire universe as seen from the point of view of the Hubble and other deep space observatories, subject of his latest book, Far Out, which in turn follows on from his last, the critically celebrated, Beyond, which took the same sort of survey of the photographic legacy of interplanetary space probes.

1:45 pm
The eminent film and sound editor WALTER MURCH (Apocalypse Now, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The English Patient, The Conversations, etc.) will reveal a whole other side of his famously overbrimming curiosity, which is to say his excavation and systematic rehabilitation of a long discredited theory as to the placement of planets and moons in relation to the bodies around which they orbit, a formula which turns out to accurately predict 85% of such orbits, and which, when properly rejiggered, turns out to coincide with the formula for the Pythagorean octave (talk about the music of the spheres!).

3:00 pm
DAVID WILSON, the MacArthur winning Jurassic Technologist himself, will evoke the Russian mystical origins of the Soviet space program, subject of a trilogy of heartrendingly lovely short films, a full decade in the making, currently coming to closure at the fourteen-seat Borzoi Theater atop his LA museum.

4:00 pm
A rarely screened short, filmed during the last months of the Khrushchevite Thaw, in which the Soviet master PAVEL KOGAN trains a hidden camera on a succession of common Russians at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, as they gaze, positively awestruck, at Leonardo’s rendition of a Virgin and Child. That film will in turn be coupled with an uncanny set of recent shorts in which JOSH MELNICK trains a highspeed high-definition excruciatingly slow-motion digital camera upon wayfarers on the New York city subway, staring, positively dumbstruck, at nothing in particular.

5:00 pm
A similar pairing, as in the above, this time two vantages of life on earth; the first in which the renowned avant garde filmmaker PETER HUTTON, of Bard College, trains his attention on the play of light dappling an Icelandic fjord; and the second in which MATT COOLIDGE, of LA’s Center for Land Use Interpretation (sister institution to David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology) trains his camera out the side of a helicopter for a jaw-dropping twenty-minute single-take survey of Houston’s petrochemical channel, arguably the most ecstatically industrialized swath of real estate in the world.


6:30 pm
New York Times scent critic CHANDLER BURR (The Emperor of Scent and The Perfect Scent: A Year inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York), singing the Nose Fantastic, which is to say plumbing the still mind-boggling mysteries involved in how it is that we smell anything at all (complete with blotter-swatch demonstrations).

7:30 pm
Entomologist Extraordinaire MAY BERENBAUM of the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana (Ninety Nine Gnats, Nits and Nibblers; Bugs in the System; and The Earwig’s Tale: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-Legged Legends), who in honor of the evening’s festivities will consider Insects that Ape Shit (which is to say exceptionally novel, if creepy, insect disguises).

8:30 pm
HAMILTON MORRIS, the disconcertingly enterprising young pharmacopia correspondent of Vice Magazine, will round out the evening by reporting on all manner of oddities (penis mushrooms, Amazonian frog sweat, etc.) that he has ingested and that you might want to avoid.

Times above are approximate at best.

{We hope as many of you as possible will be able to spend the day with us,
feasting on the Wonder Cabinet in its entirety. However, should you be unable
to stay for the whole program, we strongly recommend that you
come for each session in full—you’ll understand why when you do!}

Nearest Subway Lines to Cantor Film Center,
located at 36 East 8th Street (btw University Pl. & Greene St.),
with caveat to check MTA's weekend service advisories prior to heading over:
A, C, E, B, D, F, V to West 4th Street (6th Ave.)
R, W to 8th St.--NYU (Broadway)
6 to Astor Place

For further information, visit or contact the
New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU at 212.998.2101 or

The Humanities Initiative at NYU sponsors research, collaborative teaching, conferences, working groups, and outreach by way of fostering a university-wide community in the humanities. Launched in 2007, its mission replaces and significantly expands that of the former Humanities Council. For further information on the Humanities Initiative, please visit or call 212.998.2190.

The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU was established in 1976 for promoting the exchange of ideas between academics, professionals, politicians, diplomats, writers, journalists, musicians, painters, and other artists in New York City--and between all of them and the city. It currently comprises 220 fellows. Throughout the year, the NYIH organizes numerous public events and symposia. For further information, please visit

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview with Richard Sieburth, Draper Master Teacher in Literary Cultures

Draper is privileged to have Professor Richard Sieburth as our Master Teacher in Literary Cultures. Richard has a joint appointment in the Comparative Literature and French Departments at NYU, is a noted Ezra Pound scholar, and is also a respected translator of German and French texts. His English translation of Selected Writings by Gérard de Nerval won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize in 2000 and his translation of Emblems of Desire: Selections from the "Délie" of Maurice Scève was a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize.

Richard's most recent translation, The Salt Smugglers by Gérard de Nerval was published in August. This week, he took the time to answer some questions about translation for in.ter.reg.num.

1. How did you come to be a translator?

When you grow up, as I did, in a bilingual household (German-English), you tend as a child to be fascinated with the secret language your parents are speaking (you imagine, in order to exclude you). I imagine most translators are driven by this kind of infantile curiosity: not Freud’s child voyeur who happens to “see” some primal scene (a tergo or not), but rather one who “listens” to or “overhears” a language not primarily intended for him. The act of translation would thereby involve the fantasy of readdressing this forbidden language to yourself, and then reperforming it in your own tongue in order to recapture its intention.

Later, while in boarding school in Switzerland, I spent a great deal of time traveling across the cantons in trains. You become a translator by simultaneously observing the landscape flowing by beyond the train window and noticing, written below it like some sort of allegorical inscription, the quadrilingual command: NICHT HINAUSLEHNEN/ E PERICOLOSO SPORGERSI/ NE PAS SE PENCHER AU DEHORS/ DANGER! DON’T LEAN OUT. Are these all saying the same thing?

2. What has been your most difficult translation project? What has been the most enjoyable?

Translating the rhymed dizains of Maurice Scève was probably the most difficult from the purely formal point of view: there was so little room to maneuver. Think of Marcel Marceau the mime feeling his way with his hands along the surface of an invisible mirror that is caging him in. Hölderlin, whom I translated in my mid-twenties, was a pure joy. It was what Schiller would call a “naïve” translation, as opposed to a “sentimental” (self-conscious, ironic) or “elegiac” translation. I actually visited Hölderlin’s landscapes near Tübingen just to get a sense of how the light or sound broke across the local hills. I translated Büchner’s Lenz in the course of a (mild) nervous breakdown, though I can now no longer remember which provoked which. Scholem I translated during and just after Sept. 11th, with the acrid after-stench of the Twin Towers floating through my window. Translating Michaux has perhaps been the most total blast. Nerval lies somewhere between a fond sibling and a scary Doppelgänger.

3. Do you subscribe to a particular theory of translation? Do you believe it possible to apply the same theory to all texts, or does each project require a more individualized approach?

The only translation theorist who has made a real difference to me is Antoine Berman. But the more I think about it, the more I tend to believe that there is no Theory of Translation, only a History of Translation. This is what Benjamin means by the original’s Nachleben or Fortleben. Translation merely articulates the history of the original (or the history of its translator’s encounter with it). If a translation does not register the “historicity” (ugh) of its encounter with the original—if it cannot define the “time” at which its language meets (or greets) the language of the original—the “event” of translation has not really taken place. How to theorize the “eventness” of the event? Here’s Hölderlin: “Try taking it by surprise, and it turns/ To a dream; try matching it by force,/And punishment is the reward;/Often, when you’ve barely given it/ A thought, it just happens.” Translation: a way, perhaps THE way, that language “happens.”

4. What would you say is a common myth about translation?

The most prevalent (mis)conception (or myth?) is that a translation is somehow “like” or “equal to” to the original. That it is a “metaphor” of the original, thus somehow “substitutable” for the original. Yes, the words “translation” and “metaphor” are etymologically “translations” of each other. But Benjamin’s great insight is that a translation is not “like” the original (via some sort of “equivalence” theory of truth as the “adequation” of two terms), but that it exists “next” to the original, “after” the original, as a “result” of the original. Therefore the relation is profoundly metonymic, not metaphoric.

5. Who is a translator whose work you admire?

I agree with Ezra Pound that Arthur Golding’s version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is “the most beautiful book in the English language.” I very much dig Florio’s Montaigne & Renaissance translations in general. Perverse as it may sound, I have a greater interest in translators from English than into English because their work renders the “event” of translation so much more evident to me. [I love watching English-language films with foreign subtitles]. Thus: Pierre Leyris’s French versions of Hopkins (or Coindreau’s French Faulkner), or Celan’s Shakespeare. Or some of the current castings into French of Zukofsky (of course, Zukofsky’s Catullus is an ongoing instigation). But for me THE most important translator has been Pound. Of late, I have been increasingly whelmed by his late Confucian Odes.

6. What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a translator?

Learn languages, many languages, in order to lose your own. Learn to listen. I.e. Learn to be excluded from what you hear [see above] or think you speak.

Above all, stay in touch with the best of contemporary writing (and singing) in your OWN language. Anybody can learn a foreign language. What’s hardest is then trying to (re)learn your own.

Spring advisement dates

Draper will begin scheduling advising appointments for Spring 2010 on Friday, October 30th. To schedule your appointment, please call 212.998.8070 anytime after Thursday the 29th.

Spring advising appointments will be held in two separate sessions. The first session will begin on Wednesday, November 11th and end on Wednesday, November 25th. Any students who are unable to come in for advising during this session will have the opportunity to do so during the second advising session, January 11-12. No advising appointments will be held in December.

Course listings will be up on the Draper website by the end of this week, with cross-listed courses added continually.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DSO Call for Papers reminder

There's still time to submit a paper/project/presentation to the DSO Colloquium on silence. The deadline is November 7th, and the event itself will take place Friday, December 11th, at 6:30pm, in the Draper Map Room. Info on how to submit or who to contact with questions is below.
Calling all draper students,

We are looking for papers, projects and presentations
for this fall's DSO Colloquium on SILENCE.

All aspects and interpretations of the topic are welcome.
Your paper could address such things as:

-actual silence, as captured by technology
-representations of silence in art or literature
-the function of silence within a text
-silence as a political stance
-silencing as a form of repression
-the practices brought about by another's silence:
speaking on someone's behalf, ventriloquism

-silence and its 'opposites': speech/sound/noise

This colloquium is limited to Draper students and
provides an
excellent opportunity to speak about a
project you are working on and
get input and ideas
from your fellow students. Presentations will be

15-20 minutes long and do not have to be based on
a completed project.
Often a paper that is still in
progress will yield a more fruitful
discussion. That said,
completed projects are very welcome as well.

For those interested in helping out with the selection
organizing the colloquium, or moderating
please email Christine Woody

The DSO Colloquium on SILENCE will take place
Friday 11 December at 6:30pm in the Draper Map Room.

Proposals (200 words) are due by 7 November to Please contact Christine with any

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Draper student presenting at NYU Literature Colloquium

Draper student, Hilarie Ashton, is presenting at the NYU Colloquium in American Literature and Culture TOMORROW, at 6pm, right across the street (from Draper)...

The New York University

Colloquium in American Literature and Culture


"The Urban (as) Flaneur: Narrator and City in Edgardo Vega Yunque's The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into The Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle"

Hilarie Ashton, New York University


"White People Were Returning to Dean Street: Contact Zones and Gentrification in Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude"

Katie Daily, Boston College

Wednesday, 21 October

6:00 p.m.

13-19 University Place, room 222

New York University

All are welcome!

Refreshments will be served.

Hilarie Ashton is a Masters Candidate in the Draper Program for Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. Katie Daily is a doctoral student in English Literature at Boston College.

For more information: