MODERNIST WRITER JENNIFER KABAT SPEAKS AT UALBANY
Award winning modernist, writer and blogger Jennifer Kabat spoke at the University at Albany on Thursday, September 27.
Kabat grew up in Catskill, New York, and developed a passion for landscape and writing. Landscape inspired her to open her mind to the world in many ways. She said, “seeing a landscape around me that shifted how America views itself and was really important for our image of our country was a big part of why I started writing about the landscape and history, but I love nature and am always thinking about how place, space and ideas intersect.”
At her show “Future Perfect” Kabat went through a series of slides and excerpts. These excerpts were taken from essays she creates. In each of her essays, Kabat talks about Modernism and “Future Perfect”. Future Perfect at UAlbany represented the relationship between humans and nature. “The Butterfly Effect” is Kabat’s essay that was inspired by the grounds we walk on here, at the University at Albany. “The essay started with my love of the campus and thinking about how it was built on these glacial sands and that these sands were, for years, thought to be wasteland.” In “The Butterfly Effect”, Kabat connects butterflies with Nelson Rockefeller tossing sand, Rockefeller’s dream, universal truth, and concrete. She connects all of her ideas of to the campus of UAlbany.
Kabat referenced many historical images and meanings throughout her show. She talked about how Timothy O’Sullivan was willing to lie through the photographs he took during the American Civil War, how drones are connected with American power, the Cold War, and how since the inception of social media, the color blue was used on icons. Kabat makes all of these connections within her essays.
One of the connections that Kabat made with the Cold War was on a snowy, winter day, Kabat and a group of people treaded up a hill towards the reservoir in Catskill, NY. They wanted to get a taste of New York City that wasn’t very far from home and she also loves snow. While walking around, Kabat remembered the first large scale experiment which took place in the Catskills, a weather modification system was developed by GE during the Cold War to be used as a weapon. Professor Kevin Vonnegut who was a Professor here at UAlbany worked on this weather modification system. Kabat said, “He made it snow as a tool for war. And this technique of weather modification also developed into how we have man-made snow at ski hills.” Kabat reflects on this experience in her essay “The Rainmakers of Flood” which was also published in Harper’s Magazine.
She’s currently working on a book called Growing up Modern, which will include many of her essays linked together. She hopes that when people read her work they “think critically of the world around us and all of its unseen histories, think about what we engender and how we build civic and civil society, particularly now.”
“What do we choose? How do we choose it? How do we speak to each other?”