Michael Chabon- The World of Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson’s Worlds
Michael Chabon

The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it
takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We
call this period of research “childhood.

There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and
effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity,
cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by
heart. Along-the—way-,he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long
as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic
nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of
vanished glory, of lost wholen~ss, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the
moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence:” The feeling haunts people all
their lives.
Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness. The question
becomes: What to do with the pieces? Some people hunker down atop the local pile
of ruins and make do, Bedouin tending their goats in the shade of shattered giants.
Others set about breaking what remains of the world into bits ever smaller and more
jagged, kicking throu,gh the rubble like kids running through piles of leaves. And
some people, passing among the scattered pieces of that great overturned jigsaw
puzzle, start to pick up a piece here, a piece there, with a vague yet irresistible notion
that perhaps something might be done about putting the thing back together again.
Two difficulties with this latter scheme at once present themselves. First of all, we
have only ever glimpsed, as if through half-closed lids, the picture on the lid of the
jigsaw puzzle box. Second, no matter how diligent we have been about picking up
pieces along the way, we will never have anywhere near enough of them to finish the
job. The most we can hope to accomplish with our handful of salvaged bits-the
bittersweet harvest of observation and experience-is to build a little world of our
own. A scale model of that mysterious original, unbroken, half-remembered. Of
course the worlds we build out of our store of fragments can be only approximations,
partial and inaccurate. As representations of the vanished whole that haunts us, they
must be accounted failures. And yet in that very failure, in their gaps and
inaccuracies, they may yet be faithful maps, accurate scale models, of this beautiful
and broken world. We call these scale models “works of art.”

From Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom (shamefully neglected by this year’s
. Academy voters), Wes Anderson’s films readily, even eagerly, concede the
“miniature” quality of the worlds he builds, in their set design and camera-work, in
their use of stop-motion, maps, and models. And yet these miniatures span
continents and decades.

They comprise crime, adultery, brutality, suicide, the death
of a parent, the drowning of a child, moments of profound joy and transcendence.
Vladimir Nabokov, his life cleaved by exile, created a miniature version of the
homeland he would never see again and tucked it, with a jeweler’s precision, into the . .
housing of John Shade’s miniature epic of family sorrow.

Anderson -who has suggested that the breakup of his parents’ marriage was a defining experience of his
life-adopts a Nabokovian procedure with the families or quasi “families” at the heart
of all his films, from Rushmore forward, creating a series of scale-model households
that, like the Zemblas and Estotilands and other lost “kingdoms by the sea” in
Nabokov, intensify our experience of brokenness and loss by compressing them.

That is the paradoxical power of he scale model; a child holding a globe has a more
direct, more intuitive grasp of the earth’s scope and variety, of is local vastness and
its cosmic tininess, than a man who spends a year in circumnavigation.

Grief, at full scale, is too big for us to take it in; it literally cannot be comprehended.
Anderson, like Nabokov, understands that distance can increase our understanding of
grief, allowing us to see it whole. But distance does not-ought not-necessarily
imply a withdrawal, in order to gain sufficient perspective. On the pain of exile and
the murder of his father, Nabokov did not, in writing Pale Fire, step back from them.
He reduced their scale, and let his patience, his precision, his mastery of detail
-detail, the god of the model-maker-do the rest.With each of his fllms, Anderson’s total command of detail-both the physical detail of his sets and costumes, and the emotional detail of the uniformly beautiful performances he elicits from his actors—has enabled him to increase the persuasiveness of his own family Zemblas, without sacrificing any of the paradoxical emotional power that distance

Anderson’s films have frequently been compared to the boxed assemblages of
Joseph Cornell, and ifs a useful comparison, as long as one bears in mind that the
crucial element, in a Cornell box, is neither the imagery and objects it deploys, nor
the Romantic narratives it incorporates and undermines, nor the playfulness and
precision with which its objects and narratives have been arranged. The important
thing, in a Cornell box, is the box.

Cornell always took pains to construct his boxes himself; indeed the box is the only
part of a Cornell work literally “made” by the artist. The box, to Cornell, is a
gesture-…it draws a boundary around the things it contains, and forces them into a
reformed relationship, not merely with one another, but with everything outside the
The box sets out the scale of a ratio; it mediates the halves of a metaphor. It
makes explicit, in plain, handcrafted wood and glass, the yearning of a model-maker
to analogize the world, and at the same time it frankly emphasizes the limitations,
the confines, of his or her ability to do so.

In Anderson’s films that recall Cornell’s boxes-the strict, steady,
four-square construction of individual shots, by which the cinematic frame becomes
a Cornellian gesture, a box drawn around the world of the film, as in Moonrise
Kingdom’s dressing room scene, with the little bird-girls framed by strips of light
bulbs; the teeming, gridded, curio cabinet ‘sets at the heart of The Life Aquatic, The
Darjeeling Limited, and Fantastic Mr. Fox-are often cited as evidence of his work’s
“artificiality,” at times with the implication, simple-minded and profoundly
mistaken, that a high degree of artifice is somehow inimical to seriousness, to honest
emotion, to so-called authenticity. All movies, of course, are equally artificial; it’s
just that some are more honest about it than others. In this important sense, the
hand-built, model-kit artifice on display behind the pane of an Anderson box is a
guarantor of authenticity; indeed I would argue that artifice, openly expressed, is the
only true “authenticity” an artist can lay claim to.
Anderson’s films, like the boxes of Cornell or the novels of Nabokov, understand
and demonstrate that the magic of art, which renders beauty out of brokenness,
disappointment, failure, decay, even ugliness and violence–is authentic only to the
degree that it attempts to conceal neither the bleak facts nor the tricks employed in
pulling off the presto change-o. It is honest only to the degree that it builds its
precise and inescapable box around its maker’s x=y scale version of the world.

“For my next trick,” says Joseph Cornell, or Vladimir Nabokov, or Wes Anderson “I have
put the world into a box.” And when he opens the box, you see something dark
and glittering, an orderly mess of shards, -refuse, bits of junk and feather and
butterfly wing, tokens and totems of memory, maps of exile, documentation of loss.
And you say, leaning in, “The world!”

Communication Directory

Graduate Studies blog addresses and Instagram addresses

1. Justin Playl………………..http://jtplayl.wordpress.com

2. Angela Johnson…………Instagram:  @AngelaJohnson23

3. Chris Maddox………….. http://chrismadox.wordpress.com/
Instagram @chrisormitch

4. Theodore Jay Ludden………….http://Theodorejay.wordpress.com
Instagram: @ActionTheory

5. Eric Wolever……………… http://ericthomaswolever.wordpress.com/
Instagram @ericthomaswolever

6. Brad Siskin………………http://oldshuteye.wordpress.com
Intstagram: @oldshuteye

7. Hsuan Ying Lu……….. http://hsuanyinglu.wordpress.com/
Instagram: @hsuanyinglu

8. Annie Kilborn………..: Instagram @anniekilborn

9. Christopher Rowley…………………. http://uwrowley.wordpress.com

10. Diana Teske…………….http://diane-teske-art.tumblr.com

11. Jeff Mason………………………Wordpress: http://jeffuwart.wordpress.com/
Instagram : @ mr_knightley

Jay Katelansky ……………….. WordPress   http://jkatelansky.wordpress.com/
Instagram- @Shiftingself

12. Jojin Van Winkle………………Wordpress http://www.jojinprojects.com/
Instagram : @jojinvanwinkle

13. Rachel Griffin………………. WordPress :  http://.rachgriff.wordpress.com./
Instagram @rachael_griff

14. Brian Bartlett………………..Wordpress: http://brianjamesbartlett.wordpress.com/
Instagram: @brianjamesbartlett

15. Angela Johnson………….. http://angelamjohnson23.wordpress.com

16. Timothy Brenner: ……………… WordPress : http://tdbrenner2013.wordpress.com

17. Cynthia Tidler…………………..”http://cynthiatidler.wordpress.com

Instagram :  @ctidler

18. Christopher Hall……………….Wordpress: http://chrstphrhall.wordpress.com
Instagram: @chrstphrhall

19. Julie Copenhagen………………Wordpress: http://ohrighton.wordpress.com
Instagram:  @softteeth

20. Dianah Cavallero……………….Wordpress:http://dianacavallero.wordpress.com
Instagram:  @dianacavssmith.

21. Victoria Nieman………………..Wordpress: http://victorianieman.wordpress.com
Instagram: @vnieman85

22. Joshua Duncan………………….. http://joshuajamesduncan.wordpress.com

23. Sarah Deppe…………………….Wordpress http://sarahdeppe.wordpress.com


Art 700, Section 1

Introduction to Graduate Studies


Fall 2010

Mondays  1:20-3:30

1116 Biochemistry Bldg


Professor: TL Solien

Office Hours by Appointment 


Instagram      @tlsolien


Course Description


This class was created to introduce graduate students in the Art Department to the concepts, practices, and methods that will allow for a successful graduate experience and ongoing career in the visual arts.  There are as many ideas for how this can be successfully accomplished, as there are fish in the sea.  My goal is to assist you in the formation of an aware and self -critical studio practice that will sustain you through a long and convoluted “career” as a visual artist



“Constellation as Library”  ???





The class is required for, and enrollment is limited to, incoming graduate students in

the Art Department.




Large Group Meetings


The class meets weekly for 2.5 hours in a large group. At these sessions, we will perform presentations, discuss readings, view films and documentaries, and discuss pivotal cultural and historical events and practices of the 19th and 20th Centuries.


  The readings and presentations are designed to broaden understanding of cultural          histories, increase awareness of narrative complexities , and strengthen ones ability to understand,  interpret, and contextualize the “Unfamiliar Present”.


On the first day of class, students will be assigned to 3-4 member, working groups.

These groups are expected to meet, as often as required, to formulate introductory responses to assigned readings and in response to visual presentations.  There may not be a weekly need for a group to provide introductory questions or comments, as, often, presentations will exhaust the time allowed weekly for class discussion.  In that event, an assigned group will provide a response and discussion questions for class the following week. 


These response questions should provide a starting place for the discussion and be more than a synopsis of the selected text.



Each student will create and sustain a blog for this class using wordpress.By Friday,

10 September, you must email the address of your blog as well as your wordpress user name to me at tlsolien@education.wisc.edu. A helpful blog address would be: www.yourfullname.wordpress.com but, regardless of what you choose, please make sure that your full name appears in the header of your blog.  A comprehensive list of your classmates blog addresses and usernames will be posted at: https://tlsol.wordpress.com/


Additionally, each student should create an Instagram account (free) and e-mail both your Instagram address and blog address to me at tlsolien@education.wisc.edu using the document header “Graduate Studies Info”


Course news and reading assignments not included in assigned course texts will be posted at https://tlsol.wordpress.com/ Please send any information you would like me to include (about your upcoming shows, etc.) to tlsolien@education.wisc.edu You are responsible for checking the course blog to keep abreast of new developments. You might want to sign up for an RSS feed to prompt you when news is posted. You are also responsible for checking your @wisc email address assigned to you by the university on a regular basis. If you prefer to use another email address, please arrange your own forwarding for this account.


(Sacaridiz language)

We are using wordpress for individual blogs because it is a cleaner, more

sophisticated, and simpler tool than any of the resources currently available on campus (such as learn@UW or moodle). However, you should be aware that it is a public blog format that is not password protected. You can limit public access to your blog by choosing to make your blog none-­‐searchable. If you do this, your blog can still be seen by anyone who is given the direct address. You can further narrow access by limiting readership to class members. To do this, you will need to enter each person’s wordpress account name individually. On the other hand, you might want to make your blog very public (fully discoverable) or you might send a more private link to just your friends and family to allow them to follow your experiences in graduate school. Privacy features will be demonstrated on the first day of class.

Please do not disclose information about yourself in your blog that you would rather not have available on line. Please do not disclose anyone else’s blog addressbut

your own to anyone other than members of the class.


I strongly recommend that you do your writing (and proofreading) off line and that you keep a back up file of all your entries. It is also good etiquette to make your corrections in draft format before posting your entry, rather than repeatedly editing it, so that folks we are getting RSS feeds don’t receive an overwhelming number of notifications each week.

 Your blog entries should be narratives with substantive content, not checklists or Q&A!



Please post all blog entries by midnight on Thursdays so that we may read all entries by class time on Mondays.



Your first blog assignment is:


(1)An introduction to yourself and your work that includes “personal” as well as “professional” information. Please include your full name as part of the header of the blog. Post one photo that will allow us to identify you and at least one that shows us your work. If you have a website, include that as your required link. Make sure to mention your preferred media, the area to which you were admitted, your program for the semester, and the location of your studio. 


     Include an “entrance” artist statement. Your narrative should also include a description of your past work, your goals as an artist, and a description of the projects you are currently working on or plan to start in the near future, as well as your reasons for coming to graduate school at all and to this one in particular, your own expectations of what you will accomplish in the program, your hopes and your fears. It should also include a more personal introduction with information about where you grew up and where you have lived since then, where and when and in what field(s) you completed your undergraduate degree(s), and something about your family life, your values, your hobbies, and whatever else fills your days beyond being an artist and going to school. In other words, you should present awell- rounded introduction to yourself as an artist, a student, and a person.


As  part of an ongoing process, consider:


where do (your) ideas come from?

how does (your) art get made?

What do the materials used contribute to the “content” of your work

how is (your) art disseminated?

what it the social context in which (your) art is made?

      How “academic”is the nature of your work?  That is, to do wish to speak to an        

               Audience (yourself, perhaps) through  academic conventions, or do you wish

                 to create from a more eccentric , or, technical platform?

       How do we surround ourselves with the most, personally, ideal body of “information”

                  from which to develop a sustainable context from which to work.?



When no special topic is required, yourblog entry should cover:


   a progress report on studio work: ideas, issues, questions, progress, problems,

   goals, challenges

   your responses to assigned readings, colloquium lectures, and/or small

group discussions


You may also use your blog as a space to write “creatively” or as a public journal, in addition to its required application..



While students should make every effort to follow the blogs of as many classmates as possible, you will be required to comment on the blogs of two different classmates each week, so that over the course of the semester each of you will have the opportunity/responsibility to respond to as many members of the class as possible.


 Comments should be roughly 150 content filled words. Before commenting, review the archive of that person’s blog, and Instagram account so that one will be aware of what each student is writing as well as chronicling photographically.


Your FIRST non-blog assignment is to create a list of 20 facts about yourself, personally, that most people would not know about you. You should turn this list in to me, as an email titled “ ( your name) 20- Facts”. This information will be collated and distributed as a hard copy reference document on Monday Sept. 15ths class session.


Your SECOND non-blog assignment is to create a “nameplate” out of whatever materials you wish to use. You will bring this nameplate to each class meeting, and use it to identify yourself in the group.

Your THIRD, non-blog assignment will be to create a 5 minute maximum, introductory presentation for class on Sept. 15. Presentations should be stored on zip drives, and should  be comprised of 4 or 5 images representing your most recent work. Be prepared to briefly explain the conceptual and procedural nature of your studio practice, as well as a brief statement of the goals you will set for yourself to accomplish in the next three years. 



Required Reading


At the outsest, students are required to purchase the following texts:


 (1)   Neruda, Pablo,  “The Book of Questions”

 Anderson, Sherwood    “Winesburg Ohio”

 Pollack, Donald Ray   “Knock ‘Em Stiff”

Bearchy-Quick, Dan   “A Whaler’s Dictionary”

 Shaara, Michael   “The Killer Angels”

 As much as I would like you to patronize independent booksellers when making these purchases, it is unlikely that you will find them in stock.  Please order all books through Amazon.com. The books may be purchased used for a reasonable discount, at times.  Delivery is quite prompt and dependable as well.

 Additional texts may be suggested later in the semester.

 Due to an unusually complicated professional schedule ( 4 exhibitions between Sept 13 and Oct 5)  I will be canceling the Sept. 23 class meeting due to obligations attendant to “ TL Solien: Toward the Setting Sun”, opening on the 21st of Sept. at the Plains Museum in Fargo ND

 You will be assigned Neruda’s “Book of Questions” for  the first “read and respond” assignment, which I will discuss next week, and which we will begin to entertain on Sept. 30th.  I suggest ordering “The Book of Questions” immediately, if you should choose to order the texts individually.

 The selected filmic and literary texts, to date, have been chosen for: their importance in creating or, sustaining, in a contemporary manner, a cultural idiom of longstanding applicability; their ability to understand historical events from an “inner circle” perspective; and their conceptual ambiguity….in service of  discussions exploring  aspects of conceptual and narrative specificity and  complexity.




The seminar has a slot reserved in the 7thfloor gallery for Dec.6-13.


This will be a self-­‐generated exhibition, comprising curatorial choices from all first year grads. More information to follow…




Your grade will reflect your work throughout the semester. You will be graded down for failing to: attend class, arrive on time, participate in discussions, or complete assignments/posts in a timely manner.


As a graduate student, you should be willing to invest in each project the time, funds, and effort it takes to make your work successful beyond recognition that grading provides.

 You are allowed one absence without penalty (regardless of the cause: family emergency, personal illness, commitments to another class, professional opportunity, etc.)

Outside of Class


Every week this semester, you should:


   work in your studio

   attend colloquium

   see all the graduate student shows, ideally by attending the opening


   read assigned readings

   meet (if necessary) with your small group to discuss the assigned reading

   write 500 words on your blog



Once during the semester, on your own you should do the following activities:


   place your work in a group show or other public venue

   collaborate with someone on a creative project

   sign up for a critique with a visiting artist

   set up a studio visit with a second or third year graduate student whose work

is related to your own



When you have experienced each of these activities, state the activity and the consequences as a blog post.