Jon Leaver, associate professor of art history, presented his faculty lecture titled “Urban Sublime: Visualizing the Immensity of L.A.” in the President’s Dining Room Monday.
Leaver broke his lecture into three parts showing Los Angeles from the view of panoramic photographs, from a street view and explained the idea of the mathematical sublime and its connection with the Los Angeles area.
“I’m fascinated with things that are huge,” Leaver said. “That idea of the sublime to me is extraordinary.”
He explained that his captivation with the sublime stemmed from a film called “Powers of Ten” he saw at a museum when he was younger.
Leaver showed panorama pictures of Los Angeles.
He explained that though they did show a large amount of the area in one picture, they did not show a good representation of all that goes on.
He introduced the audience to photographs taken by Ed Ruscha, who strapped a camera to the back of his car and took pictures along Hollywood Boulevard and then pieced them together into one big image.
In order to fully explain the immensity of Los Angeles, Leaver drew from the ideas of the sublime according to the early 18th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant.
Kant labeled the mathematical sublime to be the superiority of reason over nature.
The sublime is something to be found in a formless object in something that is boundless.
The mathematical sublime portion of the lecture was by far the most popular with the group of 30 students and faculty members.
“I thought the whole idea of the mathematical sublime and the urban sublime was really interesting because it’s kind of almost comparing Los Angeles to a force of nature,” said junior political science major Christina Delgado.
Leaver showed a picture of an Edison snow surveyor and explained it was his favorite.
Through the picture, he showed that everything in the world is interconnected because the snow in that picture will eventually melt and that water may travel down the mountain and power the lights to an entire city.
“It really kind of opened a perspective for me because you don’t really think about L.A. as really anything like what he described,” senior art history major Lauren Rios said.
“There’s a connection between the environment and just the idea or the concept of art as a whole,” Rios said.
When asked about what he hoped that students would take away from his presentation, Leaver said, “All I can ask is that people want to know more and that their awareness of the vastness and complexity of things is bigger than they think.”
Kat Simonelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.