UCLA Lecture 1967 - Renaissance to the Present

bapistry.jpg

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

Gestalt_Closure.jpg

“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

Greenhouse-Effect.jpg

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

homer-banks.jpg

"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.