Nine Pivots is an essay focused on works held within the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art and Special Collections. It has been composed as a constellation rather than a narrative, deploying practices of cross-mapping as opposed to a singular and focused mode of academic specialization. I’ve borrowed this approach from Alexander Kluge, who describes cross-mapping as “the application of mutually contradictory maps, methods, or theories” and I’m using it here to indicate the breadth of these collections. It is also an attempt to acknowledge my curiosities and limitations as a researcher. Overall, I have tried to bring a range of traditions into proximity so that questions of responsiveness, communicability, wonder, violence, and care can resonate against and complicate one another. This particular cluster of associations and instigations seeks to enjoin a parallel process in readers and viewers. These are places from which to begin.

This project was completed in collaboration with the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art and the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio at the University of Iowa during the summer and fall of 2021. It was funded through a Graduate Digital Internship in the Humanities (IDIH), a joint English-History department program supported by the AAU PhD Education Initiative.

My thanks to Kimberly Datchuk, Cory Gundlach, Lauren Lessing, Sarah Luko, Derek Nnuro, Joyce Tsai, and Katherine Wilson for their encouragement and guidance in researching materials at the Stanley. Further gratitude is due to the UI Special Collections staff, specifically Pete Balestrieri, Margaret Gamm, Lindsay Moen, and Timothy Shipe. Mark Anderson’s patient attention on behalf of the IDSPS was also indispensable. My deepest thanks, as always, go to Lydia Diemer, who answered every question and listened to every sentence, usually twice.

This work is something of an addendum to my first book, Three Kinds of Motion, a piece of writing that was made possible by sustained, free access to the University of Iowa Museum of Art until the flood of 2008 forced its closure. I hope that some part of this essay will hint at this profound community resource in advance of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art’s anticipated inaugural exhibition in 2022.

Finally, since this past July, I have been part of a disparate community of people mourning the sudden and devastating loss of April Freely. “The furthest edge of longing” is a phrase that she placed into an essay about the Voyager Golden Record in 2014. It appears here as a modest tribute to her poetic gifts. More than anything, I wanted to make this the kind of communication April could believe in. Every word here is for her.