UPDATE: Ixnay on Thursday’s bell-tower raising. Word arrives that the tower hoist at Central Lutheran Church (see below) has been postponed a couple of weeks because of some last-minute troubles that the structural engineers will have to sort out. Something about board & batten siding and a connectivity issue. Sidewalk superintendents will need to rejigger their schedules.
China Design Now, the big exhibit from the Victoria and Albert Museum about the waking of the sleeping giant, opens Saturday at the Portland Art Museum, and that’s got me thinking about the rise and fall and rise of civilizations.
We are at war in the Tigris and Euphrates, the once-verdant “cradle of civilization.” We are also at war in Afghanistan, the destroyer of empires. More pragmatic Americans, looking to the inevitable shift of world power toward the east, are trying to figure out a best-scenario future that has us looking something like Scandinavia or the Netherlands. Russia, so recently brought low, is still a shambles but is beginning to shake its fist again.
This morning I ran across the compelling image above on Art Knowledge News, announcing a show at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin of photographs by Harald Schmitt, who documented the social turmoil in Eastern Europe and China in the latter 20th century. This one, taken in Vilius, Lithuania, is titled simply Lenin, thrown from the pedestal.
And that reminded me of another visit from a ghost of empire, this one in a famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written in 1818. Happy Monday! Anybody feeling heroic?
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Also fast approaching for Portlanders is Wordstock, the celebration of writing that sprawls over the Oregon Convention Festival this weekend. And that got me to thinking about the series of fine profiles written lately by Jeff Baker, The Oregonian’s book editor and lead critic, of some key Northwest writers. If you’ve missed them, they’re well worth your time. Baker has a way of opening up a writer’s heart and mind:
- Tess Gallagher, the fine poet, who lives in Port Angeles and still guards the legacy of her late husband Raymond Carver while continuing to expand her own rich body of work. Read it here.
- Portlander Katherine Dunn, maybe the world’s greatest writer about the art of boxing, whose struggles with her long-awaited next novel are legendary in literary circles. Read it here.
- Seattle’s Sherman Alexie, maybe the best-known Native American writer alive, who likes a good laugh and loves a good fight. Read it here.
Our friend Jane, who is executive director of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon and who sometimes leaves funny comments on Art Scatter posts, passes along this tip:
Sometime on Thursday the shorn-off Central Lutheran Church tower, a lamented landmark in close-in Northeast Portland that had taken a Lenin-like tumble, will rise again. Good news!
The frame was prefabricated at Western Wood Structures and delivered a week ago to the church site at Northeast 21st Avenue and Schuyler Street for reassembly in the church parking lot. (That was after a 14-month delay while wading through the building-permit process.) If all goes well, the frame will be hoisted into place sometime between 9 and 11 in the morning on Thursday. Be there if you want to watch the fun. Things are looking up!