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March 5th, 2014 at 9:00 am

Wendy Lochner on Mark C. Taylor

The following post is by Wendy Lochner, who is Mark Taylor’s editor at Columbia University Press:

Wendy Lochner on Mark C. TaylorI first worked with Mark Taylor on his book Field Notes from Elsewhere, his memoir describing his journey back from near-death over the course of a year. It is not a typical memoir, as any reader familiar with his work will expect. It is rather like a Book of Hours for the soul, reflections on how meanings of familiar concepts such as sacrifice, solitude, and mortality change, become paradoxical, in the face of death. It can be seen as a prelude to Mark’s remarkable trilogy, Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo, and, now, Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill.

All are concerned, each in its own way, with place. In Refiguring the Spiritual, Taylor argues that contemporary art has lost its way; coopted by capitalism, it no longer reflects its spiritual core. He offers us an alternative vision, that of the artists Joseph Beuys, Matthew Barney, James Turrell, and Andy Goldsworthy, each of whom, in different ways, draws upon spiritual traditions and styles and combines them with material reality, real space rather than cyberspace.

Rewiring the Real, in contrast, reveals what might be described as the “reality” of virtual worlds, which have come to be where we live now. Here Taylor visits one novel by each of four contemporary writers, William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo, in the process uncovering the latent spiritual underpinnings and transformative potential of what some mistakenly see as an apocalyptic, secular posthumanism.

In Recovering Place, the culminating volume in the trilogy, Mark literally creates philosophy from the ground up, finding in earthworks as well as natural formations spiritual meanings both familiar and mysterious, often hiding in plain sight. His meditations bring us back, not full circle but spiraled, to Field Notes. We see that he has found renewed life and meaning in a return to place, a real, material, stone-filled, moonlight-graced place, Stone Hill. His insistent emphasis on this place, this art, this life, this craft, this practice is what we can know of spirit and value in this world.

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