Private Passions, Public Exposure
Ray Mathew Lecture
Andrea Goldsmith has chosen the mysterious workings of the imagination as her subject for the 2015 Ray Mathew lecture. She has long been fascinated by the strange alchemy whereby the private and ephemeral meanderings of a freely-ranging, borderless mind transmogrify into tangible, observable behaviours – whether it be a decision to marry or move house, or an artwork such as a novel or a painting.
In her lecture, she shows how an imagination fuelled by reading can help a child through the bewildering thicket of childhood; how music can provide solace and respite from grief over the death of a beloved; how mental travelling can remove a person from a life grown too hard and lead to a new novel about memory. She takes a walk across the vast landscape of Kilauea, the longest continually active volcano on the face of the earth, a landscape that might well be a 3D version of the imagination. She explores how Brueghel’s painting, ‘The Fall of Icarus’, inspired Auden’s great poem, ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, and how this poem in turn shaped a novel of her own.
She believes that if the imagination is to range freely, in addition to solitude, privacy and contemplation, the demanding, look-at-me, like-me, connect-with-me self needs to be muted. She suggests that the self – promoting it, modifying it, pleasing it, sharing it – has become the paramount creative project in the modern world.
Andrea Goldsmith embraces the digital world but she also thrives on the imagination’s power. In her lecture, Private Passions and Public Exposures, she reveals that if mindful and selective of what each of these two powerful human spheres can provide, we can have the best of both worlds.