Weschler's Wonder Cabinet Comes to Occidental April 24

On Saturday, April 24, Occidental College will return to the days before science and the arts separated into mutually exclusive domains as writer, critic and intellectual impresario Lawrence Weschler brings his day-long "Wonder Cabinet" to Eagle Rock.


For almost nine hours in Occidental's Thorne Hall, from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Weschler, the college's Remsen Bird Artist in Residence, will present an ostentatiously interdisciplinary cavalcade of artists, performers, and scientists, who, by way of music, film and Powerpoint, will celebrate the odd, the marvelous, and the drop-jawed amazing.

"Intellectually, one of the things I've long been interested in is the notion of returning to a time when the sciences were at the heart of the humanities, when there was a marvelous, polymorphous, promiscuous interaction between scientists, artists, wizards and inventors," says Weschler, a long-time New Yorker staff writer and author of the Pulitzer-nominated Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders who today is director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. "The division between arts and sciences is only 300 years old at most. Before that, people like Michelangelo and Leonardo were as much scientists as artists. There was no distinction between the different interests they were pursuing."

"In fact, with the rise of the Internet and social media we may be returning to an era in which scientists and artists, historians and digital innovators have all kinds of things to say to each other," he says. "The Wonder Cabinet aims to facilitate that conversation. But it's also simply a celebration of all things cool."

The program is free and open to the public. A continental breakfast and lunch will be available for purchase.

Weschler's Wonders will be presented in the following order (program is subject to change):

  • 10 a.m. Overture: A medley of short films from Jessica Yu, Ed Ruscha, the Center for Land Use Interpretation and Boris Hars-Tschachotin covering everything from the sour death balls to obsessions with petroleum, clogged carburetors and bottled lizards.
  • 11:15 a.m.: Photographer Lena Herzog sets her gaze upon the jugged fetuses in Peter the Great's Kunstkammer - Russia's first museum - and specimens in several other major collections.
  • 11:45 a.m.: Famed historian, magus, and sleight-of-hand master Ricky Jay decants his own Collections of Remarkable Men.

12:30 p.m. Lunch break

  • 1 p.m.: David Wilson, the MacArthur-winning founder of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, uncovers the remarkable Russian mystical origins of the Soviet space program.
  • 2 p.m.: Oscar-winning film and sound editor Walter Murch discusses his rehabilitation of a long-discredited theory regarding the pattern of planetary and lunar orbits, a formula that turns out to suggest a real-life music of the spheres.
  • 3 p.m.: Cal Tech physicist Ken Libbrecht reveals the secret life of snowflakes.

4 p.m. A short break

  • 4:30 p.m. Michigan artist Matt Shlian's uncanny paper-folds bridge art and science, with implications for everything from proteins to renewable energy.
  • 5:15 p.m.: New York artist Lauren Redniss previews her latest marriage of words and images: a ravishingly illustrated life of Marie Curie.
  • 6 p.m.: Identical twin artists Ryan and Trevor Oakes invent (or rediscover) a whole new way of depicting spatial reality: meticulous camera obscura tracings of the world, deploying no other equipment than their eyes.
  • 7 p.m. Guitar Boy (Nancy Agabian and Ann Perich) rock us out with a final medley of deliciously sly and twisted songs.

7:30 p.m. The Wonders finally cease

Directions to Occidental and a map of campus can be found here.