It’s September, the month when teachers everywhere are passing out reading lists of all kinds. What would you imagine to be on a “Human_3.0 Reading List”? Last Thursday, I visited the Art Institute of Chicago to find out.
In 2015-2016, Interdisciplinary Artist and Filmmaker Cauleen Smith made a series of 57 graphite and watercolor drawings of book covers from books that she’s read. With these drawings, she has proposed a humanistic reading list of “intellectual touchstones essential to her worldview” which she calls “Human _3.0 Reading List.”
Some books and authors from Cauleen Smith’s list were familiar. Some titles are books I own but have yet to read; and others were completely new and intriguing to me, such as The Intimacies of Four Continents by Lisa Lowe. Books like Starfish, Sea Urchin and Their Kin by Nelson Herwig, Weather: The Golden Guide, and Leslie L. Hunt’s 25 Kites That Fly broke up a lot of the theoretical volumes regarding colonialism, gender, race, and class, and reminded me that there is more to life than human beings and our political and social systems and power struggles.
I had fun photographing my neighbors holding editions from my personal library to show alongside photos I took of some of Cauleen Smith’s drawings.
The statement at the entrance to the exhibit asks the following questions: “Have you read these books? What do they mean to us now? What would you add to this list?”
These are front and back covers of Cauleen Smith’s “Human _3.0 Reading List 2015-2016.”
I came up with three different questions:
*When you think of a book that has impacted your worldview, what comes to mind, first: the image of its cover, or a favorite quote or portion of its contents?
*For those who do a lot of their reading on tablets, what would make you decide to purchase a physical copy of a book you’ve read on an e-reader?
*Do you think that the Bible and/or other wisdom-tradition and spiritual texts contribute anything of value to developing a humanistic worldview?
I enjoyed this quote from Cauleen Smith from Christopher Borelli’s August 18, 2017 piece on her for the Chicago Tribune:
“I sometimes get tagged as activist because I pay attention to the world, but I’m not an activist. You need a certitude for that which I don’t have anymore. That’s for the young. Their agenda is social change and that requires power, but art is about destabilizing power. I’m all for change, but my work, it doesn’t serve it. I want to undermine power.”