Today I began to put together materials for my spring course website. We’ll be looking at the history of our school and our city this spring, and I wanted historical images of VCU to post online. In looking through archives I found copies of our old yearbook, Cobblestone, from 1973. The images are amazing. It’s easy to see how remarkable a school VCU was in the 70’s, with vibrant art and social programs.
From the Department of Psychology:
from Art History:
The School of Education:
The School of Community Services:
Communication Arts and Design:
members of the Nyeusi Theater Troupe:
The images are accented with small passages from artists, writers, thinkers, and frequently from Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, no doubt in an effort to speak to their project of documenting the present. The present, they realize, is quick to pass:
The impulse toward transience in art explains the whole development of that most transient of art works, the ‘happening.’ The happening, according to its proponents, is ideall performed once and once only. This happening is the Kleenex Tissue of art.
Looking through the yearbook, VCU gives me the sense that it was one long happening: a performance one would be lucky to catch. Today these images look unspeakably nostalgic, and Toffler’s analysis seems to apply not only to the celebrities of his era, but to the people pictured above, as small ambassadors of a university that has changed tremendously in the past 40 years.
“Twiggy, the Beatles, John Glenn, Billie Sol Estes, Bob Dylan, Jacky Ruby, Norman Mailer, Eichmann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Georgie Malenkov, Jacqueline Kennedy—thousands of ‘personalities’ parade across the stage magnified by contemporary history. Real people, magnified and projected by the mass media, they are stored as images in the minds of millions of people who have never met them, never spoken to them, never seen them ‘in person.’ They take on a reality almost as (and sometimes even more) intense than that of many people with whom we do have ‘in-person’ relationships.”
I have searched VCU’s system, and few of the people pictured above appear. Today I am a faculty member at their school, doing a similar job in a now dissimilar campus in a city they might not recognize. Their presence seems like a kind of celebrity; they’re mythic, as is their era.
The passages above come from Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. I don’t know what edition the editors of Cobblestone had, but my own copy is about the right period:
Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock. New York: Random House, 1970.