March 8, 2001 – Rebecca Solnit: “Annihilating Time and Space: Some Notes on Place, Pace and Technology”

Thursday, March 8 | Oakes Mural Room | 4:00PM


This talk with slides draws on Rebecca Solnit’s current book in progress, which traces the genesis of the Hollywood film industry and of Silicon Valley through an examination of transformations in the technologies of everyday life dating from the 1870s. The talk also draws on her two most recently published books, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Viking, 2000), and Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism (Verso, 2000). At the center of all three books is a concern with pace in contemporary life: the acceleration of everyday life through technology, the rhetoric celebrating efficiency and convenience as ultimate ideals, and with the pace at which place is experienced or obliterated. Solnit’s current project examines phenomena ranging from the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 to Richard Misrach’s photographs of race cars in the Bonneville Salt Flats– where the world’s speed records were set– to the spread of Starbucks and pedestrian fatalities in contemporary San Francisco.

Rebecca Solnit is a writer, art critic, museum exhibition curator, and political activist. She won wide acclaim and recognition for her 1994 book, Savage Dreams : A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West (Vintage). Centering on counter-histories of Yosemite National Park and the landscape of Nevada’s nuclear test sites, Savage Dreams is a destabilizing and demystifying intervention into the tragic and romantic mythopoetics of place in the American West. Her 1997 A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland (Verso) is a travel narrative which navigates through ideas about remembering and forgetting, identity and landscape, and patterns of movement, from colonialism to tourism and nomadism. Her recently published Wanderlust, Solnit writes, is a history of “walking as a cultural activity, from the peripatetic philosophers of ancient Greece to the contemporary paleontological arguments about bipedal evolution, from an aesthetic pleasure in eighteenth-century England to the growth of politically active walking clubs at the turn of the century and the birth of the outdoor industry and climbing gyms, as well as histories of the rise and fall of urban walking as a pleasure, pedestrian uprisings, and the gender politics of public space.” Hollow City combines text by Solnit with photo essays by photographer Susan Schwartzenberg, and traces the devastation that has come in the wake of San Francisco’s dot-com fueled gentrification: skyrocketing residential and commercial rents that are driving out artists, activists, and the poor, the homogenization of the city’s appearance, industries and population, the decay of public life and the erasure of the sites of civic memory.