From the Forgotten Bookshelf: Otto Piene's More Sky

Authors: 
Scott Skinner
Article type: 
Discourse

I don’t know how this understated paperback found its way to my bookshelf. I’ve walked into some great bookstores in every part of the country, including Powell’s in Portland, Tattered Cover in Denver, and Ken Sander’s Rare Books in Salt Lake City, to name a few. My memory is fuzzy, but More Sky might have been a Ken Sanders purchase, and I’m surprised and impressed every time I take it off the shelf and leaf through its pages.

Otto Piene was the first Fellow of the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies in 1968 and was a pioneering figure in multi-media and technology-based art. For readers of Discourse, you might have noticed his name in Clara Wainwright’s wonderful recollection of the Great Boston Kite Festival of the late 1960s. In fact, Piene mentions the event in More Sky: “The Boston Kite Flying Festival in Franklin Park united thousands of people and, when I experienced it, produced much joy, few words, little theory, and no scholars, except as people.”

In More Sky, as explained on its flyleaf, Piene “covers ‘things to do’ arranged alphabetically, A-M,… Like city planning, clothing, collaboration or electronic music, elements, engineering or government, graffiti, graphics, green toad jelly.” In fact, this book covers only A through M and I’m unaware of another volume that tackles N through Z. In this case, “half a loaf” is more than enough to sustain those of us who attempt to use the sky as our canvas. Illustrated by whimsical drawings, the book describes “some of the things that man the artist can do to purify the skies polluted by man the moneymaker and rendered fearsome by man the war-maker.”

Page Number: 
34