Museum of Contemporary Art debuts three new exhibits

28 May

Originally printed in The DePaulia: May 28, 2013

With the turn of seasons comes a new rotation of exhibits for Chicago’s art scene, and the Museum of Contemporary Art is on board with three new exhibits that all opened May 18.

Theaster Gates’ “13th Ballad”

Theaster Gates’ “13th Ballad” is hard to miss, but easy to overlook. The bulk of the exhibit is in the atrium of the museum, just beyond the front entrance. However, museum visitors might mistake the rows of church pews for museum equipment or event seating.

As is so often the case in modern art museums: determining what is and what is not art can be deceiving. A closer look reveals that the atrium has been deliberately arranged as a chapel by the artist to compare museums to churches as places of contemplation and reverence.

Gates’ materials have an interesting history. Most of the scrap wood and household items in the exhibit originate from the reconstruction of neighborhood homes on the South Side of Chicago. Some of the building materials from this Chicago project were repurposed for the restoration of a historic home in Kassel, Germany and an exhibit called “12 Ballads for Huguenot House.”

“12 Ballads,” and its reworking in “13 Ballads,” explore migration and marginalization in two very different communities: the African American community on the South Side of Chicago and French Huguenots who fled Catholic France to Protestant Germany in the 16th and 18th centuries. 

The MCA exhibit consists of arrangements of building materials from these projects, supplemented by video and audio installations located on the fourth floor. The exhibit will also feature three events titled “The Accumulative Affects of Migration 1-3” June 30, Aug. 11 and Sept. 22.

“13th Ballad” runs through Oct. 6.

“Think First, Shoot Later”

Moving through the atrium into the museum, the first exhibit on the left is another newcomer titled “Think First, Shoot Later: Photography from the MCA Collection”. This exhibit is a curated collection of photographs from the1960s forward that explores a period in the history of artistic photography in which artists moved away from the spontaneity and dedication to the truth of previous decades in favor of a more critical approach.

Artists featured in this exhibition deal with the mass media and the idea of infinite industrial reproduction. They question the assumption that photography represents objective truth. Through photography, the works range widely in subject and form from staged portraits, extreme close-ups and fabricated optical illusions. Each work intends the viewer to question the veracity of its content.

“Think First, Shoot Later” runs through Nov. 10.

“MCA DNA: Chicago Abstraction, 1986-1995”

Move to the fourth floor to explore the third new exhibit titled “MCA DNA: Chicago Abstraction, 1986-1995.” While “13 Ballads” represents the vision of a single artist, and “Think First, Shoot Later” is united around a common genre and theme, “Chicago Abstraction” is united not by content, but by style, place, time and a close-knit social circle.

These various links are not immediately apparent in the exhibit. In fact, a quick glance will not reveal why the works are grouped together. The museum’s choice to display these works together is based on the social bonds that have developed among this group of Chicago-based artists, most of whom graduated from the School of the Art Institute.

Accompanying the exhibit is a table full of pamphlets and flyers that present a history of the galleries and exhibitions organized and participated in together by the group of artists. Working independently, but living proximally to each other, the MCA identifies this group of artists that includes Jeanne Dunning, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dan Peterman and Tony Tasset as pioneers in Chicago’s abstract art scene.

“MCA DNA: Chicago Abstraction, 1986-1995” runs through Sept. 29.

Museum of Contemporary Art debuts three new exhibits

28 May

Originally printed in The DePaulia: May 28, 2013

With the turn of seasons comes a new rotation of exhibits for Chicago’s art scene, and the Museum of Contemporary Art is on board with three new exhibits that all opened May 18.

Theaster Gates’ “13th Ballad”

Theaster Gates’ “13th Ballad” is hard to miss, but easy to overlook. The bulk of the exhibit is in the atrium of the museum, just beyond the front entrance. However, museum visitors might mistake the rows of church pews for museum equipment or event seating.

As is so often the case in modern art museums: determining what is and what is not art can be deceiving. A closer look reveals that the atrium has been deliberately arranged as a chapel by the artist to compare museums to churches as places of contemplation and reverence.

Gates’ materials have an interesting history. Most of the scrap wood and household items in the exhibit originate from the reconstruction of neighborhood homes on the South Side of Chicago. Some of the building materials from this Chicago project were repurposed for the restoration of a historic home in Kassel, Germany and an exhibit called “12 Ballads for Huguenot House.”

“12 Ballads,” and its reworking in “13 Ballads,” explore migration and marginalization in two very different communities: the African American community on the South Side of Chicago and French Huguenots who fled Catholic France to Protestant Germany in the 16th and 18th centuries. 

The MCA exhibit consists of arrangements of building materials from these projects, supplemented by video and audio installations located on the fourth floor. The exhibit will also feature three events titled “The Accumulative Affects of Migration 1-3” June 30, Aug. 11 and Sept. 22.

“13th Ballad” runs through Oct. 6.

“Think First, Shoot Later”

Moving through the atrium into the museum, the first exhibit on the left is another newcomer titled “Think First, Shoot Later: Photography from the MCA Collection”. This exhibit is a curated collection of photographs from the1960s forward that explores a period in the history of artistic photography in which artists moved away from the spontaneity and dedication to the truth of previous decades in favor of a more critical approach.

Artists featured in this exhibition deal with the mass media and the idea of infinite industrial reproduction. They question the assumption that photography represents objective truth. Through photography, the works range widely in subject and form from staged portraits, extreme close-ups and fabricated optical illusions. Each work intends the viewer to question the veracity of its content.

“Think First, Shoot Later” runs through Nov. 10.

“MCA DNA: Chicago Abstraction, 1986-1995”

Move to the fourth floor to explore the third new exhibit titled “MCA DNA: Chicago Abstraction, 1986-1995.” While “13 Ballads” represents the vision of a single artist, and “Think First, Shoot Later” is united around a common genre and theme, “Chicago Abstraction” is united not by content, but by style, place, time and a close-knit social circle.

These various links are not immediately apparent in the exhibit. In fact, a quick glance will not reveal why the works are grouped together. The museum’s choice to display these works together is based on the social bonds that have developed among this group of Chicago-based artists, most of whom graduated from the School of the Art Institute.

Accompanying the exhibit is a table full of pamphlets and flyers that present a history of the galleries and exhibitions organized and participated in together by the group of artists. Working independently, but living proximally to each other, the MCA identifies this group of artists that includes Jeanne Dunning, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dan Peterman and Tony Tasset as pioneers in Chicago’s abstract art scene.

“MCA DNA: Chicago Abstraction, 1986-1995” runs through Sept. 29.

War Baby/Love Child comes to DPAM

30 Apr

Originally published in The DePaulia, April 29, 2013.

Image

Organizing curator Laura Kina leads a guided tour through the DPAM exhibit.

What are you? It’s a question people of mixed race have heard before, it’s a question without a very clear answer, but it’s also a question a new exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum is trying to answer.

War Baby/Love Child opened Thursday at the DePaul Art Museum and will run through June 30. The exhibit is co-curatedby Vincent DePaul Professor of Art, Media and Design Laura Kinaand San Francisco State University professor Wei Ming Dariotisand features the work of 19 artists, all of mixed race Asian-American descent.

The title for the exhibit, War Baby/Love Child, is a reference to a common stereotype regarding mixed race Asian Americans.

“I always wanted a t-shirt that said ‘War Baby’ on the front, and ‘Love Child’ on the back, because a lot of people would ask me, was your father in the military? Which is just a ridiculous question because we weren’t fighting a war in China in the late ’60s. But that image of the war baby is so strong, that that’s what people think of,” said Dariotis, who identifies as Greek, Swedish, English, Scottish, German, Dutch, Chinese-American.

The choice of title was controversial, with one gallery declining to show the exhibit because of the title.

“Art takes things that can be painful and transforms them into beautiful things,” said Dariotis. “We wanted to create something that people would be able to have not just an intellectual relationship with, but a passionate relationship.”

The exhibit features works from a variety of artistic styles and philosophies. One gallery features three works on similar subjects from very different perspectives.

Jenifer Wofford’s piece ‘MacArthur’s Nurses’ portrays a group of Filipino women walking through water. The piece references a staged photo of General Douglas MacArthur. Kip Fulbeck’s piece is a very straightforward photo portrait of a man, with the words “I am 100% Asian and 100% Black” written underneath in a rejection of the either/or mentality. Finally, a piece by Mequitta Ahuja features a woman’s head with a colorful explosion of culturally significant images emerging from it.

“So you see the three different approaches, one based on history and broader context , the self with a very straightforward portrait, and one that’s about the internal life,” said organizing curator Laura Kina.

For many of the artists, this exhibition is a unique experience.

“This is the first explicitly mixed race show I’ve been in, and it’s exciting,” said artist Chris Naka. “Being involved in this show makes me think about my own practice and how my identity and my work is affected by being mixed race”

For Native American and Korean-American artist Debra Yepa-Pappan, this exhibit is an opportunity to show her work in a new context.

“This is the first time I’ve displayed my work where the target audience wasn’t other Native Americans,” saidYepa-Pappan. “I’m really glad to see that I’m getting a lot of support from the Native American community. For those Native Americans that are mixed race, and a lot of them are, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to choose one side or the other. You don’t have to deny your non-native part.”

Kina is teaching an Honors Junior Multiculturalism Seminar at DePaul that explores the issues raised in this exhibit, guided by the accompanying book, which she and Dariotis co-wrote.

 “We’re always interested in a good hook in order to pose a question or make an argument through our exhibits,” said DePaul Art Museum Director Louise Lincoln. “And particularly with this show it’s good because it’s an extension of Laura’s teaching function.”

The museum will be hosting a variety of events to accompany the exhibit, including a screening of the film, “The Woman, The Orphan, and the Tiger” by Danish artist Jane Jin Kaisen Monday, April 29 from 6-8 p.m.

Hope for progress remains after devastating earthquake in China

29 Apr

Originally printed in The DePaulia, April 29, 2013

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Photo courtesy of AP

Lightning is not supposed to strike twice in the same place, but the same doesn’t go for earthquakes. A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit near the city of Ya’an in Sichuan province in central southwest China April 20, the same province where a 7.9 magnitude quake hit in 2008.

DePaul sophomore Yue ‘Ivy’ Li is from the city of Chengdu in theSichaun province. She was in middle school when the earthquake hit in 2008.

“We were ready to start class, and I was the person in charge of leading the songs, and while we were singing, that’s when it started shaking,” said Li.

Li’s mother came to pick her up from school, and instead of returning to their apartment in the city, they stayed in the suburbs, living in a makeshift tent for about a month.

“I hated living in the tent, but we were scared it was going to shake again,” said Li.

Their fears were not unfounded. A tectonic fault line runs through Sichaun province, making seismic activity a not an uncommon occurrence.

Li was in Chicago when the earthquake hit April 20. With phone lines down, she got in touch with her family using an instant messaging service.

“I wish I could have been with my family at that moment,” said Li. “Families take care of each other during hard times.”

Li’s family is unharmed, but wary of the dangers of future earthquakes.

“They’re staying in our apartment this time,” said Li. “But they’re worried anytime it shakes, that the house will fall down.”

The biggest difference between 2008 and 2013 is in the numbers. Most recent estimates place the death toll at about 200 for the April 20 earthquake, while the May 2008 event caused more than 70,000 deaths.

For Chinese students and faculty members studying and working at DePaul, another big difference between the two events was the increased role of social media in dispersing information about the quake in and outside of China.

China’s number one microblog sit, Weibo.com, has over 500 million users, roughly the equivalent of Twitter.Weibo has become an important source of information for many Chinese citizens as well as the Chinesediaspora.

“You can get first hand information from Weibo, from people who were affected by this disaster,” said Li Jin, Head of DePaul’s Chinese studies department. “Right now social media is really shaping the entire dynamic in China for people who are using the Internet.”

Weibo users face some of the same frustrations with social media in a time of crisis as users of sites like Twitter and Facebook faced in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“It’s really fast, so things spread immediately,” said Zhu ‘Summer’ Zhuquing, a first-year DePaul graduate student from Jiangsu province. “So there are many messages that are wrong.”

On the other hand, the Chinese media landscape is less diverse than that of the United States. State-run media generally dominates information distribution systems. However, the emergence of citizen journalism via social media is challenging China’s centralized media system.

“The Chinese government is really adept at censoring things,” said Jin. “People trust Weibo more than the government’s official media.”

Another big difference since 2008 is in how people have responded to the earthquake.

“We have experience now, so people can organize quickly,” said Zhuquing. “People know how to protect themselves, and how to react.”

“I think after the first earthquake they are more prepared,” said Jin. “They know now how serious these earthquakes can be,” Jin said.

Chinese students at DePaul raised $260 this week at an event for the DaringQ Foundation, a humanitarian organization that is fundraising for the victims of the earthquake. They are in the process of planning other events to raise money to support long-term rebuilding in Sichaun province.

“In the past, everyone was talking about moral decay in Chinese society, because of economic development and such a fast speed of social life, when a disaster happens,” said Jin. “It’s good to see that there’s still love, there’s still care between people. I want to say I feel warmed about this kind of compassion among Chinese people.”

Cozy: 2012 November/December Playlist

19 Nov

I’ve decided to make the collaborative playlist idea a regular thing.

My vision for this blog at this point is to experiment with different kinds of interactive media/shared curations etc.- book clubs, film discussions, live watching things together. I want to have a conversation with you. More on that soon (anyone wanting to watch Borgen, LinkTV will be posting the episodes online starting on Thanksgiving and they’ll be available for two weeks. I cannot recommend it enough, seriously watch it and watch yourself slowly, magnetically pulled toward Denmark. I’m ready to move to Copenhagen at the drop of a hat now myself.

So I posted on Facebook about the collaborative playlist earlier this week and so far have had a great response with a ton of great songs.

The theme is cozy and I’ve gotten a great mix of songs. It’s kind of nice to have a playlist that’s not so in-your-face Christmasy, to enjoy in the late November/early December period. You know, because ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ can wait a few weeks, but you can never get enough of Judy Garland singing ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ or Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas album.

From the six collaborators (seven counting me) so far we’ve got 55 wonderful tracks- Christmas music, songs about Winter and generally songs to wear wool socks and read leatherbound books by the fire to.

Anyone is welcome to add away- the more the cozier!

Watch with Me – Borgen

26 Oct

I’m the kind of person who gets a kick of out of electoral politics. I’m a political junkie, not of the highest order, but of definitely above-average enthusiasm. As I begin to mourn the passing of this year’s highly entertaining, albeit deadly serious election season, I’m starting to look for other ways to reclaim the euphoria of civic engagement percolating through my feeds and timelines (oh, and real life).

And how best to understanding real-life problems than by escaping to the world of television dramas, am I right? My friends and family will tell you that I am a nut for the West Wing. My dad, in his infinite wisdom, bought all seven seasons on DVD and I have made good use of those discs, rewatching every few years to remind myself that America is a good idea. (Just let me have that one)

Instead of returning to my beloved Barteletts et. al., this year I’ve been fortunate enough to find another avenue by which I can revel in the world of democratic politics.

Of the Danish variety.

Borgen. I know it sounds like something the Muppet chef would say but that’s Swedish and I’m not interested in your giggling about Scandinavian stereotypes. I am not even cracking a smile when I say that Borgen is seriously some top-notch political theatre.

The following is a reproduction of a piece I wrote for The DePaulia (DePaul’s student paper) on the show: 

“As election season heats up, a crop of new and returning political dramas are filling our Twitter feeds, TV review columns and DVR queues. In the midst of the buzz over new and notable political dramas on American cable television, it can be easy to miss the Danish show that many critics are praising as the best political drama on TV.

“Borgen”(translated to: “The Castle”) won 2012 International British Academy of Film and Television Academy Award and has been hailed by Newsweek as “the best political show ever.” The series is a compelling portrait of national politics in Denmark featuring vicious parliamentary politics, international relations fraught with colonial history and complex media relationships among other issues.

The first season opens on an election well underway and follows Moderate Party leader Birgitte Nyborg’s rise to power during and after the election. Accompanying this main plot thread are a number of well-developed subplots including a young female reporter’s role as a political TV host as well as her off-screen relationships that leave her trying to conceal her role in an emotionally wrought headline news story.

The show weaves together the public and private lives of its well-drawn characters to create a powerful portrait of the Danish political scene and the politicians, media leaders and private interests who populate it.

The central issues “Borgen” examines, such as honesty and authenticity in political discourse and the role of the media establishment, are questions that are familiar to American audiences.

At the same time, the series showcases a multi-party political system that operates very differently from the American two-party system, which helps the American viewer to gain a more nuanced understanding of how a European parliamentary government compares and contrasts with the US system.

Originally aired on Danish TV in 2010, “Borgen” was eventually syndicated by the BBC in the U.K. and was finally brought to the United States via online broadcast on Link TV spoken in Danish with English subtitles. Episodes are available on Link TV for two weeks after they originally air.”

 LINK TV is rebroadcasting the first two seasons of Borgen, starting with the pilot on November 16. Each episode will be available online for 2 weeks after broadcast. Watch for my thoughts on each episode as they air.

Things I Love About Enya (That You Should Also Love About Enya)

10 Oct

Yesterday was a slippery slope of internet distraction for me. Sure, I read the assigned UN Report on social conditions in the Soviet-bloc transition, but you can bet I read some Rookie articles and retweeted some very important things between pages (let’s be honest, between sentences).  It wasn’t good.

One of my many vital distractions was music browsing. In a pathetic attempt at justifying my non-homework browsing, I decided to find some good ‘study music’. Honestly, the only thing I’ve ever effectively studied to has been the soundtrack from the infinitely inferior non-BBC movie version of Pride and Prejudice…so that’s weird. So deep down I knew I was just wasting precious time, but the overt justification kept my conscience at least marginally cleaner.

At first I was hitting up some Celtic Woman, but it didn’t quite hit the mark, so I sidled over to another old favorite in the PBS-esque Celtic pop genre (which I love, by the way. No apologies.) to the GODDESS OF NEW AGE CELTIC POP.

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Enya, of course. (pictured here impersonating a pensive poppy)

Who else?

I’ve been rocking out to Enya since I was a 4th grade Catholic school girl who would pretend to céilí dance in the living room. My love for Enya only intensified during my hard-core Lord of the Rings fandom slash write-poems-about-elves phase, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

What do I love about Enya?

1. Her 90s aesthetic feels very homey and comfortable to my 1991-present self.

2. The font of her signature, which appears on all her album covers. Can I get that font? Can I use it on all future documents? Can I print resumes in that font?

3. She makes a ton of Tolkien references. From a song called Lothlorien to her actual appearance on the soundtrack to the Fellowship of the Ring, you can tell she’s familiar with Middle Earth, which in my eyes is a sign of good character.

4. Her given name is: Eithne Ní Bhraonáin. So yeah, she’s Irish.

5. Everyone secretly loves Enya. If you think you don’t like Enya, you need to look deeper into yourself.

6. Before she started her solo career, she played keyboard for her family band (promoting Teamocil perhaps?)- which is a sign of her independent spirit, as if the flowiness of her dresses wasn’t already sufficient proof of that.

7. She started her own recording studio, and it’s called ‘Aigle’, French for eagle. Again, her spirit is the most free.

8. Her heavy use of backup singers singing in unknown tongues.

9. Mainstream musicians routinely sample Enya songs. Mario Winans sampled the Enya song Boadicea, but only after producer P. Diddy personally contacted Enya to ask for permission. Enya walked away with 60% of the profits from the song.

10. Sail away, sail away, sail away…

What do you love about Enya? Because it’s not a question of whether or not you love her…you definitely do.

Enya – Book Of Days – Remastered 2009 – still brings the tears. Post your favorite Enya song or your favorite Enya fact in the comments.

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