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From Bill – Revisiting South Bethlehem: 150 Years of Photography

July 15, 2015

Lehigh University is heading towards its 150th Anniversary, and Ricardo Viera, the Curator of Lehigh’s Galleries and a dear and long-time friend of Touchstone, decided to commemorate the event by mounting a photo exhibit from their teaching collection called: Revisiting South Bethlehem:  150 Years of Photography. And he generously asked me to “play the fool”–create a performance using the collection that would dissolve the work into another creation of sorts, but this one dramatic and set to open to the general public at Baker Hall on September 24th at 7 pm. Thanks, Ricardo.

An image from Revisiting South Bethlehem:  150 Years of Photography.  Lehigh University’s

An image from Revisiting South Bethlehem: 150 Years of Photography. Lehigh University.

When I came to Lehigh it was all male, which was what I wanted, but then very quickly realized… it wasn’t. Couldn’t seem to get anything right, couldn’t seem to find my footing. My parents were in Argentina; I’d spent most of my high school years in Japan. And at the football games… I wasn’t so much bored as just an outsider, disconnected, like one of Shakespeare’s fools. Folks like me, outside the mainstream, can be useful, comme Jacques in As You Like It or Velasquez hiding in the corner of his painting, Las Meninas – a little melancholic perhaps but a useful perspective.

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i’ the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!

[…]

I am ambitious for a motley coat.
It is my only suit,
Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion that grows rank in them
That I am wise. I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please, for so fools have.
And they that are most gallèd with my folly,
They most must laugh. And why, sir, must they so?
The “why” is plain as way to parish church:
He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob. If not,
The wise man’s folly is anatomized
Even by the squand’ring glances of the fool.
Invest me in my motley. Give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of th’ infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.

But there’s no danger here; Shakespeare’s Touchstone has a sharper tongue than I.

Still I must admit I can’t look at a picture like this…

lehigh2

… and keep from thinking of … well, you tell me. What do you see? What do you think? There’s a comments spot at the end of this blog. Write your reactions first, and then read on.

I see the moustaches, the similar hats, the virtually identical three piece suits — in two shades, dark or light — the secret conspiracy of fashion-conformity to keep the feeling of being safe as possible. The car’s pretty neat though, and if we actually knew any of these men, well, everything would change wouldn’t it? We’d see the individuality beneath the surface of generic amiability and desire to fit in.

These are my thoughts: often ungenerous, critical, even angry. Yup, that’s what I’m stuck with as I face the page, and from that soil must I grow this piece of theatre. But there’s more, much more. September 22 at Baker Hall on the Lehigh University Campus. Let’s see how it turns out. Hope to see you there.

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