In the Trenches

Double Negative

Douglass Bailey gave a great brown bag lecture at Berkeley on Wednesday titled, Neolithic architecture and 1960s art: ground, surface, dissection, and allocentric frames of reference. He was throwing around ideas about a new book he is writing that explores modern art (specifically “land art”) as a way to frame our thinking about archaeology. Indeed, Heizer’s Double Negative looks very much like a trench at first glance, but where trenches generally make me happy (just try to keep me out of any one that I see), Double Negative is actually wounding to contemplate, even on the computer, hundreds of miles away. It could be the scale, or the sheer needlessness of it, I’m not sure. Heizer succeeded, obviously.

Anyway, Bailey’s talk was interesting and provoked a lot of discussion at the end, about negatives and pit houses. As a graduate student, it’s always educational to see how exactly invited speakers respond to questions and criticism–I’ve seen some people very nearly flip out, get really emotional and just refuse to answer any more questions, some people give fairly deadpan answers, but Bailey (and, actually Alison Wylie did this as well) would take notes, and took the time to talk/think through the question with the person who asked the question. It is a nice style, and it seemed to turn the lecture more into a working group than a jury of your peers, something that could actually give good feedback instead of people trying to look smart by stumping you with difficult questions.

I’m getting better at public speaking, but am still nervous when it comes to talking about my ideas in front of my own department. Give me a conference or a classroom any day!

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