Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bill and The Earth Room...

I asked permission to post the video that I have posted below. Since it's already published on line at You Tube I guess technically I did not need permission to post it here but since the video is about Bill and I know Bill, I did not want to just post it without checking with him first to make sure he did not object.

So I e-mailed Bill and said that I was "sort of, maybe, thinking about posting it but like not definitely or anything" (I did not want to be pushy) and Bill wrote back and said:

"You can post that Earth Room web movie about me if you also say something about you, your experience of the Earth Room, about how you visited almost daily for a year...and why."

Well that sort of stopped me dead in my tracks because that is such a great reply to my sort-of-kind-of-maybe-request and also really hard to do. So I really thought about why I visited the Earth Room almost daily for a year (which, by the way, I think is a slight exaggeration but I did go a lot) and Bill (he is the guy in the video) did tell me that in the Earth Room annual report that year I was mentioned as having visited more than any other person and that my record still stands which was really nice of him to do and Bill had also given me a poster of the Earth Room which I framed and have at home.

So why did I visit so much? Well for one thing it's really pretty impressive to see 280,000 pounds of earth in a loft in Soho, not arranged or anything - just there - spread 3 feet high over the entirety of the floor except for the reception and viewing area. For another, the exhibit is funded by the Dia Foundation in perpetuity which is great and strange and expensive and the combination of the dirt itself, the location (prime NYC real estate) and the funding just seemed so strange and extraordinary and yet so accessible and right there - you just ring the buzzer downstairs and walk up to the second floor and I started bringing people up with me to see it and no one could quite believe it and no one I brought had ever seen it or even heard of it before (maybe one or two had heard of it but none had seen it) yet it is so much dirt in a NYC apartment and so odd how could we not have heard of it before and it has been there for about 30 years and, since it's funded in perpetuity, it's going to be there forever (at least that is the idea).

And then when I ran out of people to bring up (I am guessing I brought around 20 or so people) I just kept coming up by myself because I had gotten a little sense of Bill and how far ranging and well read he is and fun to talk to (I think if Bill were to do something else he might be a scientist - he has that kind of mind (not that he acts like a scientist or anything just that he is real curious and thoughtful and I would say doesn't jump to conclusions, if that makes any sense at all) and he (Bill) has an inviting manner and so I guess one of the main reasons I kept visiting was because I felt like Bill had invited me even though he never specifically did invite me but whenever I showed up he seemed really fine about me being there and sometimes I stayed for just 5 minutes and sometimes I would stay for two hours and people would come up to see the exhibit and Bill would answer their questions and add them to his visitor book and I had this really strong desire to substitute for him sometime (like if he got sick or had to do something and couldn't be there) but I did not ask him if I could because I didn't want to put him on the spot or make him uncomfortable and I figured that it was probably not cool to just let someone substitute for him.

Anyway, I kept visiting and it was really fun and I would say a kind of highlight of my week or day or if not the highlight certainly up there and something I looked forward to and I kept visiting Bill and the Earth Room and I really do not know how to describe it any better than that except that I can say that it made a strong impression on me, Bill that is, and the Earth Room, and I wondered a lot about the artist who did the original installation, Walter De Maria, and I did a little reading about him and some of his work and some other similar works done by other installation/environmental artists and that led me to one in particular that I developed an interest in whose name is Andy Goldsworthy. Another person I know had mentioned him (Goldsworthy) to me in connection with my interest in the Earth Room because Goldsworthy builds sculptures out of leaves or sticks or shells or icicles or out of drift wood or delicately balanced rocks that take forever to build and then are washed away or melt in almost no time and I saw a documentary about him called Rivers and Tides that is really terrific and when I saw it I thought - "wow this guy has really figured out how to be in the moment in a really profound way" (though I watched the documentary a couple of times and I decided on second viewing that there are some moments in the film where he seems distracted and that was slightly upsetting to me but I guess no one is perfect).

And that all was going on while I kept visiting Bill in the Earth Room and then one day I just stopped going and did not go again for about 4 years and then I was in the neighborhood again just a few weeks ago and I just stopped up and saw Bill and spent about an hour there and Bill and I got caught up and we talked about a John Updike poem that we had both recently heard read on the News Hour the day John Updike died and were both really taken by the poem and by the demeanor of the guy who read it because it was quite moving and not at all messed up by being read from a studio and broadcast but really very natural and beautiful and I had found the poem on line and told Bill I would send it to him, which I did, and Bill sent me a poem back and I think the poem he sent me answers as well as I possibly could the question I started to try and answer that Bill had asked me which is why I visited the Earth Room almost daily for a year.

Here is the poem that Bill sent me:

By Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo:

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
traffitto da un raggio di sole:
ed ‘e subito sera.

Everyone stands alone on the heart of the earth
transfixed by a sun ray:
and suddenly it is evening.


  1. Thanks for your participation in the Cerebral Barbedwire "All articles and topics daily blog carnival" -

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  2. Nineteen years.



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