Mumford on The First Mega-Machine


This quote from historian Lewis Mumford (pictured - 1895-1990) was found typed and tucked away among various papers in Kurt’s archives .

“Within the span of early civilization, 3000 to 1000 B.C., the formative impulse to exercise absolute control over both nature and man shifted back and forth between gods and kings. Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and destroyed the walls of Jericho by martial music: but Yaweh himself, at an earlier moment, anticipated the Nuclear Age by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah with a single visitation of fire and brimstone; and a while later He even resorted to germ warfare in order to demoralize the Egyptians and aid in the escape of the Jews..

In short, none of the destructive fantasies that have taken possession of leaders in our own age, from Hitler to Stalin, from the khans of the Kremlin to the khans of the-Pentagon, Were foreign to the souls of the divinely appointed founders. of the first machine civilization. With every increase of effective power, extravagantly sadistic and murderous impulses emerged out of the unconscious: not radically different from those sanctioned, not only by Hitler's extermination of six million Jews and uncounted millions of other people, but the extermination by United States Air Force of 200,000 civil­ians in Tokyo in a single night by roasting alive. When a dis­tinguished Mesopotamian scholar proclaimed that "civilization begins at Sumer" he innocently overlooked how much forgotten before this can be looked upon as a laudable achievement. Mass production and mass destruction are the positive and negative poles, historically, of the myth of the mega-machine.”

Lewis Mumford "The First Mega-Machine," Diogenes: Fall 1966, No. 55, p. 13.

Von Meier Student, Artist Judy Fiskin


According to Wikipedia, Judy Fiskin (born April 1, 1945 in Chicago, is an American artist working in photography and video, and a member of the art school faculty at California Institute of the Arts. Her videos have been screened in the Documentary Fortnight series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; her photographs have been shown at MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, at The New Museum in New York City, and at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

And her photography career began under the watchful eye of Professor Kurt von Meier. In a November 15, 1992 article in the Los Angeles Times, Fiskin told the tale:

“Fiskin, a native of West L.A., received her bachelor's degree in art history from Pomona College and after a brief stint in medieval art at UC Berkeley finished her master's degree in 20th-Century art history at UCLA in 1969. The defining moment of her study there took place in a class taught by Kurt von Meier. Art dealer Fred Hoffman, art critic Merle Schipper and CalArts Provost Beverly O'Neill were in the same class. Von Meier's unconventional approach included taking students to the airport, where they would watch planes take off, or telling them to buy inexpensive TVs to throw off the end of the Santa Monica Pier.

"In order to get us to think about how conventional symbols were used in popular culture," Fiskin recalls, "he assigned us each a symbol--mine was the heart--and had us get cameras. This is after six or seven years of art history and all this input of looking at images. I held the camera up to my face for the first time and thought, 'This is for me!' I think all that art history was that I really wanted to be an artist and didn't know how. The minute I held up that camera, I realized I could."

Fiskin was soon photographing views of San Bernardino, military architecture, stucco and dingbats. It was a time when the aesthetics and theories of Minimalism held sway.”

Here’s a link to the full Los Angeles Times article