Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Oriented!

The New School History class met in the Orozco Room today, a space I thought I knew inside out. But then we learned something new - in the process of using it. We split the class up, one fourth assigned to study, sketch and interpret each of the four walls, then regrouped the students into foursomes with one who'd studied each wall to arrive at a synthesis. The discovery happened right at the start when, instead of assigning students by numbers we went by directions. The building, like everything on Manhattan's grid, is sort of aligned to the cardinal directions, so this was a way of telling them which wall to study, too.
And... Struggle in the Orient is in fact on the east wall! Struggle in the Occident is on the west! The Table of Universal Brotherhood beckons from the south! When talking about murals I always make the (slightly anachronistic) point that they seem to me to be outdoor as much as indoors, and when talking about the Orozco and Benton rooms I always stress the way they explode the confines of an indoor space to bring in the bustle and challenge of the outside world. But somehow I overlooked the way Orozco literally places us not just in the whirl of world history but along the axes of world geography...! 

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