Arcosanti - An Urban Laboratory in the Arizona Desert.

[VIDEO] Quaderno 90 ~ A Tribute ~

[VIDEO] Quaderno 90: A tribute

by Tomiaki Tamura

(This video was originally shown at the Paolo Soleri 90th Birthday Celebration in 2009.)

One of Paolo Soleri's favorite books as a boy was Tarzan of the Apes, a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan questions his identity ("Am I ape or man?"). It may be one of the quintessential existential questions Soleri identified with as he lived through Italian fascism, the rationalist movement, and modern trends in philosophy, literature, and science, all prompting the questions: what are we and why are we here? All of the visual and literary references used in this tribute video are by people who influenced Soleri in one way or another when he was searching for answers and formulating his ideas.

Incidentally, Soleri was also known to wear his handmade Tarzan outfit at Taliesin West and he sported a bikini for his afternoon swim until recently. Soleri started binding volumes of Tarzan stories together and, in the process, he may have found a "religion" of a different sort. He calls it "binding," which is the root meaning of "religion" (religare) in Latin.

This tribute video is built around the musical piece Enigma Variations by Sir Edward Elgar, which Soleri mentions in each of his Quaderno (notebook in Italian) publications, 14 volumes in all to date. The title "Quaderno 90" refers to the body of work Soleri has produced in the last 90 years. For the Arcosanti segment of this video, I chose Elgar's Variation IX (Adagio), also known as "Nimrod," the ruler of Babylon in the Old Testament who aspired to build the Tower of Babel. The tower was to be built up by his people to reach the heavens. The problem was that only God can occupy the heavens, so God's will was to scatter people around the earth instead of aggregating them upward. Nimrod earned the wrath of God and was condemned to the "lake of fire." "Nimrod" in Hebrew means "rebel" (against God?).

Soleri named quite a few arcologies after "Babel," such as Babel Canyon, Babelnoah, Babeldiga, Babel IIa, Babel IIb, and Infrababel. When Soleri refered to the Enigma Variations, he was not necessarily thinking of the Elgar's "Nimrod," but as I see it, he was still a "rebel," a "loner," an "idealist," a "realist," a "pessimist," an "optimist," etc... He was "coherently ambivelent,"  somewhat oxymoronic, perhaps better described as an "enigma."