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Bucky Fuller Night: A Quirky Guy with a Dymaxion Sphere of Influence

Set against the backdrop of Fritz Haeg’s thought-provoking Domestic Integrities exhibition, Bucky Fuller Night was an evening of storytelling, discussion, and hands-on activities celebrating the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. From mathematicians intrigued by his concept of synergetic geometry to linguists who appreciate his neologisms like “tensegrity,” “dymaxion,” and “omni-interaccomodative,” all kinds of […]

Sam Green on rug

Filmmaker Sam Green and the Walker’s Ashley Duffalo chat with guests on Bucky Fuller Night. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

Set against the backdrop of Fritz Haeg’s thought-provoking Domestic Integrities exhibition, Bucky Fuller Night was an evening of storytelling, discussion, and hands-on activities celebrating the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. From mathematicians intrigued by his concept of synergetic geometry to linguists who appreciate his neologisms like “tensegrity,” “dymaxion,” and “omni-interaccomodative,” all kinds of Bucky fans had the chance to share and discover reasons to love the inventor-designer-thinker-futurist. The October 10 event served as a prelude to Sam Green and Yo La Tengo’s “live documentary” performance of Green’s film The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller at the Walker tonight.

Dymaxion sphere

Walker education intern Björn Sparrman created a dymaxion map to illustrate how far Bucky’s influence reaches. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

The night’s Bucky-centric discussion was casual and cozy, with speakers and guests settled on Fritz Haeg’s thirty-foot crocheted rug. Walker intern Will Gobeli kicked off the event by discussing  Fuller’s influence on Haeg’s life and works. Haeg lives in Los Angeles in a geodesic dome — one of Fuller’s most well-known architectural inventions — and his Foraging Circle in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is also housed in a geodesic dome.

Philosophically, Haeg and Bucky share an interest in the sustainable future of the planet, and one of Haeg’s biggest sources of inspiration from Bucky was his idea of being a “comprehensivist” (a term coined by Fuller himself), refusing to adhere to a single label like “architect” or “mathematician.” In an interview with Michael Pollan, Haeg described how he often begins lectures to students with a quote from Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968): “Specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the ‘expert’ is fooled into accepting a slavery by making him feel that he in turn is a socially and culturally preferred — ergo, highly secure — lifelong position.” For confirmation of Haeg’s dedication to these principles, look no further than this illustration of his At Home in the City project: “Haeg’s practice spans a range of disciplines — architecture, performance, design, education, gardening, and ecology — and includes projects as varied as public dances, urban parades, temporary encampments, edible gardens, videos, and publications.”

Audience

The audience listens to stories about R. Buckminster Fuller. Photo: Gene Pittman

With these connections drawn, Ashley Duffalo, public programs manager in the Education Department, then took us back in time with some anecdotes she found in her archival research about Bucky in Minnesota. Did you know, for example, that Bucky sat on the advisory board for an experimental city in northern Minnesota? Or that he built a geodesic greenhouse on the rooftop of the former Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis, and spoke there about the importance of agricultural innovation?

Ashley opened up the discussion to the audience, and a former Minneapolis city planner chimed in. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s plans for a dome over Manhattan, he wrote to Fuller to ask how much it would cost to put a dome over Minneapolis, a city that could certainly benefit from a little more insulation in the winter. Fuller wrote back with an estimated sum of around $6 billion, and the city planner joked, “So then I had to think of an alternative, which was the Minneapolis skyway system.”

Ashley then passed the torch to Sam Green to talk about some of the reasons he loves Bucky. His film project began as a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was curating an exhibition about Fuller. Green delved into research at the Stanford archives, which, given Bucky’s propensity to document every day of his life from 1920 to 1983, had more than enough information about the man. Given an in-depth look into Fuller’s everyday life, Green discussed some of the man’s personal quirks—such as his 5-hour non-stop “thinking out loud” lectures that always started with an uncomfortably long pause, and his talent for thinking up quirky titles for his books, like Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Utopia or Oblivion. “He was a great self-marketer,” Green affirmed, bringing up Bucky’s oft-mentioned habit of wearing three watches while he was traveling to correspond to the time zones of his past, present, and future locations. But Bucky may have been hyperbolizing a bit in order to create a legendary character for himself — Green joked that in all his archival research, he did not find a single picture of Buckminster Fuller wearing three watches.

Of course, Green found more in Bucky to appreciate than just his personality quirks. What he admires most about R. Buckminster Fuller is his idea that the world has enough resources for everyone to live a comfortable life — if we can find a way to use them effectively.

At the end of the formal discussion, more audience members shared stories of their recollections of Fuller. A few had been witness to his “thinking out loud lectures,” and came away laughing from his tendency for both awkward pauses and non-stop speaking but inspired by his ideas and his ways of thinking. One graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture told a story of Bucky and the Dean of the School of Architecture writing a prognosis for the year 2000 and burying it in a bell jar at a Minnesota construction site.

The evening ended with an opportunity to try out some of Bucky’s geometric design techniques using cardboard triangles, an activity led by artist Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Fuller revealed his geometric genius early in life, creating in his kindergarten class an octet truss made of toothpicks and dried peas — a design which he eventually patented in 1961 (minus the peas, of course).

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Making Bucky-inspired shapes with Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

Buckminster Fuller — an inventor, visionary, architect, futurist, mathematician, author, designer, and environmental activist, to name a few — defied categorization. Bucky Fuller Night similarly highlighted the dynamic potentials of “comprehensivism,” connecting the world of Fritz Haeg’s intellectual, interactive art (itself quite uncategorizable) to another collaborative project: Green and Yo La Tengo’s The Love Song of R. Buckminster FullerDescribed by Green as “a cross between a film, a piece of performance art, and a really fancy lecture,” the “live documentary” reflects the Walker’s ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary, collaborative — perhaps even comprehensivist — work. We think Bucky would be proud.

Sam Green and Yo La Tengo present The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller on Friday, October 11 , 2013, at 7 and 9:30 pm in the McGuire Theater.

David Zambrano’s Soul Project Party

There are periods in every adult’s life when we are forced to return to a state of infancy. David Zambrano began his career as a dancer at 21 and threw himself so thickly into the fray that he sprained his middle arches and could not stand for six months. For his recuperation process, he rolled […]

There are periods in every adult’s life when we are forced to return to a state of infancy. David Zambrano began his career as a dancer at 21 and threw himself so thickly into the fray that he sprained his middle arches and could not stand for six months. For his recuperation process, he rolled on mats every day like an infant, or as he says on his website, “a reptile.” In Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body-Mind Centering philosophy, an infant’s period of rolling on the ground is crucial to their physical integration, their posture, their openness to the world, the development of their nervous system and confidence, and their comfortability with giving and receiving touch.

In the New York gym where Zambrano recovered and retrained everyday were, as he says, “a Brazilian jump roper and an old Kung Fu master.” He observed their exercise regimens and incorporated elements into his own exploration of nearness to the ground and the earth. By the time he returned to standing on his own two feet, Zambrano had developed a new movement practice technique: “Flying-Low.” In Flying-Low Dance Technique, “there is a focus on the skeletal structure that will help improve the dancers physical perception and alertness.” You can see that skeletal emphasis in the accentuated limb movement of the soloists featured in his Soul Project, which is being performed in the McGuire Theater Friday and Saturday night.

Zambrano’s dancers are graceful, but their movements don’t melt into the background like balletic organza.  Instead the piece is—for Zambrano—about “being continuously alive. On, like a candle.” When Zambrano’s dancers flop to the floor, torquing and convulsing, it is easy to forget we are all on a stage and not in a club or even outside, with clumps of dirt and grass about to fly in our face. Zambrano’s show shares a similarity with Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s performance two months ago because both pieces invite the audience to break through the proscenium and crash the class ritual of a nice night out at the theater (although you will definitely have that). Soul Project is also similarly joyous, and for a show comprised of only soloists, it’s actually about the power of dance to unite people. Couched in the seemingly atomized format is an intensely social experience.

The ebullience of the piece overflows even its own two night run, with the Zambrano dancers cavorting around the galleries this Thursday night around 6:30 and again at 7:30, perhaps even for a cameo during Colin Stetson’s Sound Horizon set in the Ernesto Neto room. In other words, Target Free Thursday Night has quite a bit to offer Performing Arts fans this week.

Lastly, Zambrano company dancers are offering workshops at Walker on the Flying-Low Technique tomorrow morning (Wednesday) from 9:30-11:30 am and Saturday morning from 11 am-1pm. Space is limited; registration is required by calling 612.375.7600.