“List of Lists”

Interesting read:

Umberto Eco: master of the list – The Art Newspaper
The author discusses his turn as guest curator at the Louvre

By Cristina Carrillo De Albornoz. Web only
Published online: 11 November 2009

After Robert Badinter, Toni Morrison, Anselm Kiefer and Pierre Boulez, Umberto Eco is the next special guest curator of the Louvre. A noted historian and semiotician before he brought these sensibilities to bear on major novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, Eco has spent almost two years in residence at the Louvre. His chosen subject is “The Infinity of Lists”, a tour through art, literature and music based on the theme of lists and motivated by his fascination with numbers (until 13 December). “The subject of lists has been a theme of many writers from Homer onwards. My great challenge was to transfer it to painting and music and to see whether I could find equivalents in the Louvre, because frankly when I suggested the subject I had no idea how I would write about visual lists,” says Eco.

“The starting point for my ‘list of lists’ was Homer’s Iliad: firstly the creation of Achilles’ shield by Hephaestus, which not only symbolises perfect form but is in itself a work of art on which is engraved what is considered an allegory of the creation of the universe, an overall vision of Homer’s world. And secondly, the part where he lists all the ships leaving for the Trojan war.” Eco plays with these two opposing dimensions—perfect form and the list—in an attempt to rationalise the world. “The shield of Achilles is the epiphany of form, and every picture in an artist’s search for that form is a shield of Achilles,” concludes Eco. “Behind each list is the sense of ineffability.”

*

I’ve always loved lists of things (names not so much). As a kid, one of the things I liked most about Robinson Crusoe was the list of goods he accumulated from the wrecked ship:

My raft was now strong enough to bear any reasonable weight. My next care was what to load it with, and how to preserve what I laid upon it from the surf of the sea; but I was not long considering this. I first laid all the planks or boards upon it that I could get, and having considered well what I most wanted, I got three of the seamen’s chests, which I had broken open, and emptied, and lowered them down upon my raft; the first of these I filled with provisions-viz. bread, rice, three Dutch cheeses, five pieces of dried goat’s flesh (which we lived much upon), and a little remainder of European corn, which had been laid by for some fowls which we brought to sea with us, but the fowls were killed. There had been some barley and wheat together; but, to my great disappointment, I found afterwards that the rats had eaten or spoiled it all. As for liquors, I found several, cases of bottles belonging to our skipper, in which were some cordial waters; and, in all, about five or six gallons of rack.

I felt the same way about the lists in Walden.

I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteen long, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite. The exact cost of my house, paying the usual price for such materials as I used, but not counting the work, all of which was done by myself, was as follows; and I give the details because very few are able to tell exactly what their houses cost, and fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various materials which compose them: —

  Boards, .............................. $8.03½, mostly shanty boards.
  Refuse shingles for roof and sides, ... 4.00
  Laths, ................................ 1.25
  Two second-hand windows with glass, ... 2.43
  One thousand old brick, ............... 4.00
  Two casks of lime, .................... 2.40   That was high.(4)
  Hair, ................................. 0.31   More than I needed.
  Mantle-tree iron, ..................... 0.15
  Nails, ................................ 3.90
  Hinges and screws, .................... 0.14
  Latch, ................................ 0.10
  Chalk, ................................ 0.01
  Transportation, ....................... 1.40   I carried good
                                                 part on my back.
       In all, ........................ $28.12½  (5)

[5]    These are all the materials, excepting the timber, stones, and sand, which I claimed by squatter’s right.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s