Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin 7

In late spring, Lin told me that she was suddenly immersed in new projects again. She has started her long-deferred memorial to extinct species—a many-sited, global project. She has accepted a commission to create environmental art in Yellowstone National Park: she will try to put Old Faithful, which is now treated as an amusement-park attraction, back into its natural setting. ... Read More »

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin 6

The response is where Lin starts her work as a designer. She creates, essentially, backward. There is no image in her head in the beginning, only an imagined feeling. Often, she writes an essay explaining what the piece is supposed to do to the people who encounter it. She says that the form just comes to her, sometimes months later, ... Read More »

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin 5

I asked Lin, while we were sitting in the cafe on Broome Street, if she had ever met Hart. “Yes, I did” was all she said at first. Well, was that unpleasant? “Yes, it was.” She paused, and took a sip of tea. “He brought his wife in, and she just was glowering at me, it seemed. He said something ... Read More »

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin 4

Lin’s design was an assignment for an undergraduate class on fu¬nereal architecture, taught by F. Andrus Burr. Lin had become interested in funereal architecture during a trip to Denmark, during her junior year. (She has said that it was in Denmark that she first experienced racial prejudice: people thought she was an Eskimo.) She ended up studying in an area ... Read More »

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin 3

When Maya Lin was growing up, her parents rarely talked about China. Neither she nor her brother speaks Chinese, and she thinks it’s funny that she holds her chopsticks incorrectly (though she does favor Chinese food). She didn’t know the story of her mother’s escape until Julia took her and Tan to Shanghai, in 1985. She didn’t know that her ... Read More »

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin 2

Lin’s work is self-consciously beautiful, because she is obsessed with harmony—how we fit into the world and how the world shapes us. “Site-specificity” is a cliché in contemporary art and architecture, but, if it is an instinctive mode for any artist, it is for Lin. Her impulse is not to impose form; it is to evoke form out of what ... Read More »

The Reluctant Memorialist: Maya Lin

One afternoon this winter, Maya Lin walked with me from SoHo, where she has her studio, across Canal Street and down Church Street to the place where the World Trade Center once stood. Lin is a friendly, unpreten-tious woman. She is slight—she stands a little under five-three and weighs just over a hundred pounds—and though she is forty-two, she could ... Read More »

The Mind of Al Gore 8

Gore is more sophisticated about the media than his public style suggests. He wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on the impact of television on the presidency, concluding that because television loves one face over many faces its effect has been to increase the president’s political power at the expense of Congress’s. In his con¬versation with me, he described (using ... Read More »

The Mind of Al Gore 7

In a commencement address at MIT two years ago, Gore had used a different analogy. “The first computers,” he explained to the graduates, “relied on a central processing unit surrounded by a field of memory. To find the right answer to a particular problem, the C.RU. would send out to the memory to retrieve data, then bring it to the ... Read More »

The Mind of Al Gore 6

Wilber uses the term “postmodernism” to refer to the rejection of the claim that science is value-free and objective. He thinks the basic impulse of postmodernism is right, but that postmodernists have gone too far, and have produced a flatland of their own. Mod¬ernists reduced the universe to external facts, he explains; postmod¬ernists reduce it to representations, to “chains of ... Read More »