UCLA Lecture 1967 - Renaissance to the Present


A 1967 lecture that begins as a very straightforward art history lecture about the Renaissance turns to Kurt’s concerns about teaching art history itself, and reflects upon the crisis in his own teaching career. His UCLA teaching contract terminated due to his controversial and unconventional teaching style and views about education, he reflects upon his aspirations as a teacher and intellectual. Remarking on the absurdity of it all for his students, he says, “But you do become absurd. You lose your sense of joy and discovery, humanity, you act and respond like machines. I know you do. I know because I know these forces on my life too, essentially the same forces.” And, facing the career crisis in his own life, he remarks, “Every time we reach that ultimate point in states of consciousness, we're in a critical situation; we can choose. Crisis, crossroads; take your choice which way you gonna go? Forward, backwards, left or right. Crisis mean crux, cross, crosswalks, crucial; every time you can choose you're free. Every time you do choose, you affirm your freedom. Every time you affirm your freedom, you affirm life.” Both informative and revealing, this lecture is available as both audio file and transcript.

Gestalt Mathematics


“The contribution of the Gestalt approach is the recognition that figure and ground are formally the same and may be exchanged without violence to the whole, and in fact must be changed for a complete experience of the whole. When we understand something, we stand under it, experience it from without as well as within.” So states Kurt von Meier and Clifford Barney at the beginning of this 1975 exploration into the relationships between the Gestalt therapy and psychology of Fritz Perls, mathematics, and knowledge of the divine as seen by Dante Alighieri.

Kurt Gets Interviewed in 1967


This recording of Kurt von Meier being interviewed by a woman named Kris Koch sometime around 1967 was made while Kurt was still teaching at UCLA and had become a wildly-popular professor. Ninety-nine percent of the interview is Kurt rapidly talking a blue-streak, delivering a wide-ranging discourse about his interests in the wisdom of “primitive” people and cultures, and the ways “western civilization doesn’t work for people well at all.” His comments range among art history and world ecology; presciently for 1967, he raises the prospect of the greenhouse effect, climate change, rising oceans and the possible death of planet Earth. His comments convey why Kurt was so popular and controversial. A poor microphone produces some clicks and sustained “hum” as the interview progresses, but his comments remain easily heard. At some point, a phone rings, he checks the mike, and sadly, the interview comes to an abrupt end after 38 minutes.

Oriental Art and Mythology Lecture - 2001


"This is theater. It's what I do." Kurt lays it out straight for his Oriental Art and Mythology class in 2001 at Sacramento State University. Moving through a description of the administrative and academic structure of the university to Buddhist esoterica, the problems humanity has brought to the world, the difference between bullshit and horseshit, and finally to his stack of 45-rpm rock and roll records, this first lecture of one of Kurt's last classes as Professor Emeritus harkens all the way back to his early days of teaching at UCLA nearly 40 years before. As Homer Banks sings "You got to do the best you can with what you got" and it bounces off the classroom walls, Kurt cheerfully joins in.



In this excerpt from his monumental and masterful work A Ball of Twine: Marcel Duchamp's 'With Hidden Noise' Kurt von Meier examines humanism, its transformation into "individualistic humanism" and as an art historian provides an honest account of humanity's often dismal history. He writes, "The history of catastrophes is not often taught. Nevertheless, an objective account of destruction ought to be contemplated by serious educators, busy extolling themselves for the imagined accomplishments of their self-titled humanistic research. It would serve as a darkly instructive reminder about the flip side of pride. Otherwise, there seems to be self-deception in writing about art and culture without, from time to time, stopping to take stock of humanity at large, in the conventional real world...If there is sometimes a Polyanna complex on the part of scholars who write as though they have just come from, say, the planet of lost art historians, as Howard Zinn reminds us the newspapers and many of the grimmer historians also ignore the history of creativity and kindness."

Popular and Fine Arts - A UCLA Lecture 1965


In this class-note transcript from 1965, Kurt delivers a straightforward art history discussion of an essential shift in 20th century painting: the rise of Cubism and its meaning. "Before Cubism, there had always been one point of view. This is specifically manifested by the theory of one point perspective formulated in the Italian Renaissance. This perception from one point of view was prevalent all the way through the 19th century," he states. His lectures would become less traditional and more theatrical as time went on; this lecture is "all business."