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The Big Think bridges the gap between history and art

District Staff

By Kylie Ruffino.

Place tells a story unique to each perspective, but built off of the same foundation.
Savannah, Georgia is known to tourists as a bar hopping, haunted town. To people who live
here, its a ‘don’t go downtown on a friday’ and find the whole-the-walls type of place. Even to us
art students, Savannah is a collage of old and new, cheap restaurants and hip coffee shops.
Professor Holly Goldstein describes an entirely different history of Savannah through art of
invisible voices.
Last week’s conference in Arnold Hall, The Big Think, featured four liberal arts professors, Holly
Goldstein, Susan Falls, Kate Newell and David Stivers, to discuss the definition of place.
Goldstein’s presentation on hidden history of place is found through what is not shown.
“Savannah, Georgia is a place that means so many different things to so many different people,”
Goldstein said. “How do we know what Savannah means just by walking around?” Slave labor
is where the economy came from, where the buildings came from, the famed grey brick came
from and yet Savannah’s historical markers all tell the story of white powerful men. Kate
Newell’s presentation on networks of adaptation through place reminded us that as places
change through the present day, we try to bridge the gap to the past.
While Newell focused on great literary achievements and their iconographic moments in
place, we can see this bridge forming here in Savannah. Goldstein touched on how SCAD
contributes to creating a more inclusive history by adding memorials like the Weeping Time, a
Savannah protest in the 1960s of young civil rights activists in front of Jen Library. A past
exhibition at the SCAD Museum of Art by Hank Willis Thomas, commemorated the labor force
who built Savannah as it is today.
Even the idea of ‘today,’ presents its own anthropological studies of place through the
lense of personhood and citizenship as Susan Falls discussed. “Adaptation pervades our
culture and art,” Falls said. “So many read, watch and view adaptations on a regular basis often
without thinking or engaging with adaptation. The most recognizable adaptations are those that
identify themselves as such.” Science in artificial intelligence leads to the global discussion of
what counts as a person versus other. The adaptation of place leads to the construction of
juridical persons, an entity given distinct identity and legal personality. For example, a river
given legal rights or artificial human intelligence given citizenship.
David Stivers finished off the presentation before a Q-and-A with a final discussion on the view
of place through destination and vacation, especially in the literature of Agatha Christie. It is not
about the space itself, but the view of the space. Exploring this perspective led to comments on
the imagination of space drawing people in and leading to disappointment.
Through the entirety the well rounded Big Think, the exploration of
place offered some interesting food for thought on what it means to define these spaces. For
more information and further study, these professors also offer course electives such as
Anthropology 107, English 235, English 363 and Art History 493. In different realms of art and
design, place continuously affects the setting of art and therefore, plays an important role in