GUEST INTERVIEW : TAVI GEVINSON WITH DAVID HILDEBRAND WILSON
The Museum of Jurassic Technology looks like a humble little storefront on a street in Culver City, California. Upon entering, however, you find yourself in a maze of oddities — a row of microscopes on mosaics made of butterfly-wing scales, a hall of flower X-rays, tiny sculptures displayed literally in the eyes of needles (the sculptor timed his carvings by his heartbeat). At first it feels like being transported to another world, until you see what a loving representation it is of the wonders of our own. You might suspect some of the displays are made-up, or that footnotes, names, and the plaques and pamphlets sitting in the gift shop are fictionalized, until you come to love the ways in which the museum inspires that very act of questioning. Lawrence Weschler wrote in his 1995 book about this place, “It’s that very shimmer, the capacity for such delicious confusion, Wilson sometimes seems to suggest, that may constitute the most blessedly wonderful thing about being human.”
If you are among our devoted readership then you know that Tavi Gevinson of Rookie Magazine is a friend and collaborator. Here, she guest interviews David Hildebrand Wilson, the founder of the MoJT, in honor of her stint at Ace Portland during PDX Fashion Week and our upcoming annual Content installations November 9 on the second floor. Tavi will be in town on a book tour to promote Rookie’s second publication, Rookie Yearbook Two, with Reading Frenzy at the Q Center November 8. Read on, get misty-eyed, and remember to leave your house this week for both of these events.
How would you explain or describe the museum to someone who’s never heard of it?
I think typically what we say is that we’re a small museum of natural history, history of science, history of art, and then everything else that comes along. We’re inspired by older museums — 200, 300 years ago, a museum wasn’t a museum of a particular thing, it was a museum of everything. We don’t think all museums should be that, but we think there’s a place for that kind of museum, kind of an encyclopedic museum.
Would you say then that there’s anything in particular that unifies everything you have on display?
There are definitely underlying, unifying principles to what we do, but sometimes they’re kind of hard to discern, or hard to define. We have a motto, which you actually almost never see in the museum, but it’s “Un translatio nature,” which means “nature as metaphor.” That doesn’t really sum things up so much, but it actually is meaningful to us, because the kinds of things we like to put in the museum tend to be either natural phenomena or man-made — which, you know, there’s no real distinction between what’s man-made and what’s natural, because humankind is pretty natural as far as I can tell. We find ourselves gravitating toward material and phenomena that have meaning in and of themselves, and that also suggest other levels of meaning — kind of radiating spheres of meaning.
It’s interesting what you said about the line between man-made and the natural world being sort of blurry. To many people — and I always kind of thought this until I went to your museum — science and art are mutually exclusive. Some say it’s science’s job to tell humans that we’re not important and art’s job to declare that we are. How do you make them work together?
Essentially it goes back to a 17th-century or even earlier designation of artificialia and naturalia — what is artificial and what’s natural. It’s kind of an act of hubris or pride, I think, that things that are made by humankind are in some way out of the natural order. We’re certainly, absolutely, profoundly part of the great glittering chain of being. I mean, look at birds’ nests — are they artificilia or are they naturalia? A bird makes this gorgeous nest, and that’s considered a natural artifact — so why is that different for humans?
INTERVIEW : JESSICA LAWRENCE
This commendable lady just biked across the nation from Portland, Oregon to the Atlantic Ocean this summer, with a brief stopover at Ace Hotel New York before she crossed the finish line. In a self-initiated tour de wellness supporting an active, grounded and playful lifestyle, Jessica has taught us so much. When she’s not riding the steel pony like a boss, she runs Cairn Guidance, consulting with public schools about health and wellness. Soon, Jessica will be celebrated by our friends at the Clinton Health Initiative and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at the Healthy Schools Forum in Little Rock, in honor of the funds her adventure raised to fight childhood obesity.
We were really inspired by her journey and wanted to snag some photos of her in the photobooth and ask her a few questions, to which she obliged.
What was the moment at which this idea came to life and started germinating for you?
I was 15 years old and had just returned from a bicycle tour trip with other teens in Europe. I told my parents I would someday ride across the US. 23 years later, I fulfilled my dream.
When you first set rubber to road after your send-off breakfast, how massively free (and terrified) did you feel?
Three friends joined me for a few miles on their bikes from the Tin Shed Restaurant to the Springwater Corridor Trail. I remember my body was buzzing. Buzzing with excitement, independence and freedom. It was a gorgeous day. Once my friends left me, I remember looking ahead on the beautiful trail and thinking, “I’m doing this. I’m bicycling all the way across this country.” I felt more proud of myself in that moment than I ever have in my life.
Was there ever a moment where you wanted to give up? Who egged you on?
Of course there were challenging moments and days. My first challenge brought me snow in Montana (blog post entitled First Tears). My second challenge was in Kansas with thorns (6 flat tires in 2 days), 105 degree weather 4 days in a row and brutal head and side-winds. My third challenge was fatigue starting in the Appalachian Range for the last few weeks. These challenging days taught me to ask for help and reach out for support when I needed it. I might have been the one pedaling and carrying 80lbs of my own gear, but I never felt alone. Hundreds of people supported me, texted me, emailed me, posted about me, loved me, prayed for me, donated to my cause, fed me, hosted me, cheered me on and celebrated with me. A few people were there for me on a daily basis. My parents, Elin and Rick Lawrence, my personal trainer Aaron Sompson, at Kinetic Integration Manuel Therapy and Performance, Jamie Sparks, a colleague and close friend in Kentucky and Jamie Waltz, Alison Hansen and Ginny Ehrlich, all close friends. There was one day in particular I reached out to Aaron and cried. I was fatigued and didn’t know if I’d make it through the day. I rarely felt lonely as a result of all the people mentioned above.
Any revelations from the road?
Many. I would say my top three revelations include: 1. I’m so proud to be an American. I never want to take for granted how safe I felt as a female bicycling across this country (in spandex!) alone. We are fortunate that we live in such an amazing country with access to potable water and well-paved roads. Meeting Americans was the best part of the trip. People were unbelievably generous, inquisitive and supportive. 2. Laugh a lot. I loved the uncertainty of what my day would look like and where I would stay each night. It could be scary, stressful but also incredibly freeing. And, with that much alone time, you heal, process, reflect and laugh at yourself. Laughter played an important role on my trip. 3. My last revelation is the belief I can do anything I want. Doing something like this, as a solo female was the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. I’m incredibly proud of myself. Road to Rhode was a dream come true.