Arts & Culture

Siry’s Book on Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture Published

Joe Siry BookJoseph Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, is the author of Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970 (Penn State University Press, February 2021).

According to the book’s abstract, Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970 documents how architects made environmental technologies into resources that helped shape their spatial and formal aesthetic. In doing so, it sheds important new light on the ways in which mechanical engineering has been assimilated into the culture of architecture as one facet of its broader modernist project.

Tracing the development and architectural integration of air-conditioning from its origins in the late 19th century to the advent of the environmental movement in the early 1970s, Siry shows how the incorporation of mechanical systems into modernism’s discourse of functionality profoundly shaped the work of some of the movement’s leading architects, such as Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Bunshaft, and Louis Kahn. For them, the modernist ideal of functionality was incompletely realized if it did not wholly assimilate heating, cooling, ventilating, and artificial lighting. Bridging the history of technology and the history of architecture, Siry discusses air-conditioning’s technical and social history and provides case studies of buildings by the master architects who brought this technology into the conceptual and formal project of modernism.

Films Created by 9 Alumni Screened at 2021 Sundance Film Festival

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A film titled Bruiser was presented at the Sundance Film Festival 2021. Eight recent Wesleyan graduates created the film.

A film featuring the works of eight Wesleyan alumni was presented at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Titled Bruiser, the film focuses on a boy named Darious who begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood after his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley. Bruiser was presented in Sundance’s Short Films category.

The film was directed by Miles Warren ’19; assistant directed by Eliza McKenna ’20; written by Warren and Ben Medina ’19; produced by Gustavo René ’19, Albert Tholen ’15, and Lauren Goetzman ’19; and designed by Emma Cantor ’19. Costumes were designed by Regina Melady ’18.

Former classmates René and Warren began collaborating on projects during their freshman year at Wesleyan. “We switch off producing each other’s work,” René said.

During their sophomore year, René and Warren wrote a film called Huntress, which René produced and Warren directed. And during their senior year, Warren produced René’s senior thesis film, which ended up winning the Steven J. Ross Prize for best undergraduate film. Bruiser is their latest collaboration.

In addition, Richie Starzec ’14 worked as the assistant to director Edgar Wright, of the film The Sparks Brothers, which also screened at Sundance. The film illuminates Ron and Russell Sparks’ music journey that has so far spawned 25 studio albums.

The Sundance Film Festival, founded in 1978, is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It includes competitive categories, featuring documentary and dramatic films, both feature-length and short films, and out-of-competition categories for showcasing new films.

Trans in Trumpland by Zosherafatain ’10 to Stream Feb. 25 on Major Networks

Zosherafatain filmA four-part documentary film series directed by Tony Zosherafatain ’10 will stream on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Topic starting Feb. 25.

Titled Trans in Trumpland, the series investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans during the Trump administration era. The series was featured in VarietyNBC NewsDeadline, and The Daily Beast.

“We’re at a crucial moment in our country, and Trans in Trumpland encapsulates the past four years, not just for trans people, but for a wide variety of groups,” Zosherafatain said. “There is a lot of intersectionality in the series, including race, immigration, income inequality, and other structural issues.”

Zosherafatain, a trans-Iranian-American and co-founder of TransWave Films, began directing and producing films in 2012 after realizing that there weren’t many movies exclusively about trans people. He previously directed I am the T, a documentary series about trans experiences around the world.

“I was moved to create the series the first week that Trump took office. Within that first week, he removed any mention of LGBTQ rights from The White House website, creating a sense of urgency in me. I knew I had to do something to shed a light on the plight of transgender Americans,” Zosherafatain said.

With Trump now out of the White House, Zosherafatain credits President Joe Biden for passing executive orders that protect the LGBTQ community within a few days after the inauguration.

“I definitely think that things will improve drastically with Biden now in office. He has made other promises to advance trans rights. I’m very optimistic about his presidency. However, trans equality has a long way to go on the state level, which is an issue that Trans in Trumpland heavily investigates,” Zosherafatain said. “The next four years will be incredibly crucial for the transgender community.”

Zosherafatain and his work also have been featured in The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, BBC News, The Advocate, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine.

3 Alumni Authors Published in Ploughshares

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Works by Steve Almond, Fay Dillof, and Christina Pugh are published in the Winter 2020–21 issue of Plougshares.

Works by three Wesleyan alumni are published in the Winter 2020–21 issue of Ploughshares. Founded in 1971 and published at Emerson College, Ploughshares is an award-winning journal featuring the freshest voices in contemporary American literature.

The issue includes: “The Man at the Top of the Stairs, On Rendering the Inner Life” by Steve Almond ’88; “Private Practice” by Fay Dillof ’87; and “Reading for the Plot” by Christina Pugh ’88.

Almond, an English major, is also the Kim-Frank Visiting Writer at Wesleyan this spring. He’s the author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (Workman Publishing, 2004) and Against Football: One Man’s Reluctant Manifesto (Melville House Books, 2014). His stories and essays have appeared in Best American Short Stories, the New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. His most recent book is William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life (Ig Publishing, 2019).

This spring, Almond is teaching Writing Certificate Senior Seminar: Writing and Publishing at Wesleyan.

Work by Dillof, a university major, is published or forthcoming, in New Ohio Review, Green Mountains Review, FIELD, Barrow Street, Rattle, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She has been awarded the Dogwood Literary Prize in Poetry and the Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry.

Pugh, who majored in English and French language and literature, has published five books of poems, including Stardust Media (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and Perception (Four Way Books, 2017), named one of the top poetry books of 2017 by Chicago Review of Books. Her poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Yale Review, and other publications. A former Guggenheim fellow and visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome, she teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Pugh’s Stardust Media was also featured in this April 2020 “You Just Have to Read This…” article by Sara McCrea ’21.

The Ploughshares Winter 2020–21 Issue, edited by Editor-in-chief Ladette Randolph and Poetry Editor John Skoyles, also features poetry and prose by Nick Arvin, Gina Ochsner, Sylvie Baumgartel, and Jennifer Givhan, as well as Kelli Russell Agodon, Justin Balog, Shauna Barbosa, J. Mae Barizo, Christopher Buckley, Michael Burkard, Nora Caplan-Bricker, Elaine Hsieh Chou, Emily Cinquemani, Katie Condon, Jackie Craven, Caroline Crew, Evgeniya Dame, Shangyang Fang, Corey Flintoff, Jessica Goodfellow, Matthew Henry, David Keplinger, Ted Kooser, Laurie Lamon, Michael Lavers, Kathleen Lee, Eugenia Leigh, Ruth Madievsky, Alexandra Marshall, Gary McDowell, Paul Muldoon, Janice Northerns, Suphil Lee Park, Madelin Parsley, Emily Pittinos, Jeremy Radin, David Roderick, Craig van Rooyen, Noah Warren, Mason Wray, He Xiang, and Jane Zwart.

Wesleyan University Press Authors Longlisted for PEN Awards

Wesleyan University Press authors Hafizah Geter, Rae Armantrout, and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers were recently longlisted for awards from PEN America.

Un-American book

Un-American, published by Wesleyan University Press, is longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award.

Hafizah Geter’s debut poetry collection, Un-American, is longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. The PEN Open Book Award honors a work of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, or poetry written by an author of color. The award was created by PEN America’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Geter’s collection moves readers through the fraught internal and external landscapes—linguistic, cultural, racial, familial—of those whose lives are shaped and transformed by immigration. The daughter of a Nigerian Muslim woman and a former Southern Baptist Black man, Geter charts the history of a Black family of mixed citizenships through poems imbued by migration, racism, queerness, loss, and the heartbreak of trying to feel at home in a country that does not recognize you.

Rae Armantrout’s Conjure and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis are both longlisted for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. The PEN/Voelcker Award honors a distinguished collection of poetry that represents a notable and accomplished literary presence.

Armantrout takes pleasure in uncertainties and conundrums, the tricky nuances of language and feeling. In Conjure that pleasure is matched by dread; fascination meets fear as the poet considers an increasingly toxic world.

The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Phillis Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley’s “age”—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade.

According to PEN America’s press release, the 2021 Literary Awards Longlists span 11 book awards and encompass more than 125 writers and translators, representing the year’s most extraordinary literary talents. Over 80 judges have selected the longlists, which are made up of categories including the novel, short story collection, translation, poetry, science writing, essay, biography, and more. (Read the full release here.)

Finalists for PEN America Literary Awards will be announced in February 2021.

Wesleyan University Press publishes books of poetry, and scholarly books in dance, music, and literary studies. The Press has garnered national and international accolades for its work, including six Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, three Griffin Poetry Prizes, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award, among many others.

Krishnan’s Book Receives Special Citation from the Dance Studies Association

DSA awardA book written by Hari Krishnan, professor and chair of dance, received a special citation by the awards committee of the Dance Studies Association.

Krishnan’s Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam (Wesleyan University Press, 2019) was honored with the 2020 de la Torre Bueno® First Book Special Citation for being an “invaluable addition to scholarship on Bharatanatyam in the crucial period between the 1930s and 1950s, offering an impeccably researched and well-argued revision of the common recounting of this phase of the dance’s history.”

Krishnan’s archival work “is impeccable,” the citation reads, “combining interviews with readings of key films and reconstructions of lost works using songbooks. Throughout, he is deeply attuned to gender, class, and caste, especially in charting devadasi genealogies in early cinematic works. He includes invaluable reflections on the complexity of working artists’ lives in these crucial periods, and argues persuasively that specific dimensions of some lives undergird the cinematic invention of ‘classical’ Bharatanatyam as a middle-class form.”

Behind the Beard: Cooper ’79 Captures Images, Stories of Professional Santa Clauses

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Ron Cooper ’79 is the author and photographer of We Are Santa.

A couple years ago, Ron Cooper ’79, a retired corporate executive-turned-travel, documentary, and portrait photographer, was in New Mexico to photograph cowboys, Civil War re-enactors, gunslingers, and snake-handlers. After completing the shoot, one of the subjects asked if he could show Cooper a very different character that he also portrayed.

“I agreed and he went to change. He came back as Santa Claus in a terrific Western-style Santa suit, complete with bolo tie. As it turns out, he had a side gig during the holiday season as Santa Claus at a shopping mall in Albuquerque,” Cooper recalled. “Not long after that, I saw a news story about the Charles W. Howard Santa School, a venerable institution that’s been around since 1937 and has trained hundreds of professional Santas. Then I learned that Santa Claus is the most photographed character in the world. I’ve always been interested in meeting and photographing people who follow their passions, especially when those passions take them outside of, or beyond, the realm of their daily lives.”

Gamelan Ensemble Provides Virtual Mini-Concerts, Demonstrations During Pandemic

On Nov. 19, students from the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble presented their work-in-progress, a number of compositions in different tuning systems, and formal musical structures.

On Nov. 19, students from the MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners class presented their work-in-progress as part of a virtual mini-concert series. Both the beginning and advanced classes are allowed to perform in person as long as they remain six feet apart and wear masks and disposable gloves.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of Wesleyan’s musical activities and classes were canceled, drastically adjusted, or moved to virtual platforms. Fortunately, for Wesleyan’s Javanese gamelan classes, students were still allowed to meet in-person as long as they followed strict guidelines: wear a mask and disposable gloves, social distance, and frequently use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

“The university made all of these available to the students in the World Music Hall, where the gamelan meets,” explained Winslow-Kaplain Professor of Music Sumarsam. “The gamelan instruments were set up six feet apart, and the students were required to maintain that distance while playing or sitting in the audience area for discussion, and when lining up to enter or exit the hall. We also planned to have occasional online lectures and discussions, so the group did not have to meet in person as often.”

In the process of planning their hybrid MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners and MUSC 452: Javanese Gamelan-Advanced courses, Sumarsam and fellow gamelan instructor I.M. Harjito, University Professor of Music, decided to create a biweekly series of virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations, each one showcasing a different theme or style in 30-minute formats. “The production staff of CFA has worked tirelessly to publicize and produce these virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations,” Sumarsam noted.

Otake on “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries”

As a dancer and choreographer, Wesleyan’s Visiting Dance Artist-in-Residence Eiko Otake spent the past 45-plus years of her career presenting her work in theaters, universities, museums, galleries, outdoor sites, and festivals worldwide. But like other artists navigating through the crisis, Otake was forced to find creative ways to re-focus, re-imagine, and share her work during the ongoing pandemic.

In March 2020, the Center for the Arts invited Otake to begin a Virtual Creative Residency, during which she began shifting her performance-based art to an online venue named Eiko Otake’s Virtual Studio. Here, Otake posts her new creations, dialogues, and reflections.

On Nov. 15, Otake led a virtual tour and conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” She was joined by two of her collaborators, DonChristian Jones ’12 and Iris McCloughan ’10. McCloughan also moderated the discussion.

The group shared works such as Your Morning Is My Night, Fish House, Visit, Attending, A Body in a Cemetery, Saving, and others.

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On Nov. 15, Eiko Otake, DonChristian Jones ’12, and Iris McCloughan ’10 presented a live, virtual conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” McCloughan also moderated the discussion. In 2020, Otake was invited by Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts (CFA) to its first Virtual Creative Residency. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Otake created Virtual Studio, a space to share newly created and newly edited video works, written reflections, the voices of her collaborators, dialogues with artists and writers, and response from viewers.

2 Wesleyan University Press Books Win 4 Awards

booksTwo Wesleyan University Press music titles garnered four awards, from the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) and the American Musicological Society (AMS) this month.

Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, by Maria Sonevytsky, received the 2020 Lewis Lockwood Award from the AMS. The Lockwood Award honors a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career who is a member of the AMS or a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States.

Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, edited by Victoria Lindsay Levine and Dylan Robinson, received the 2020 Ellen Koskoff Edited Volume Prize from the SEM, which annually honors a book collection of ethnomusicological essays of exceptional merit edited by a scholar or scholars. Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America also received the 2020 Ruth A. Solie Award for edited collections from the American Musicological Society (AMS), which annually honors a collection of musicological essays of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country and edited by a scholar or scholars.

In addition, co-editor Dylan Robinson received the SEM’s Helen Roberts Prize for his chapter contributed to Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, “Speaking to Water, Singing to Stone: Peter Morin, Rebecca Belmore, and the Ontologies of Indigenous Modernity.” The prize recognizes the most significant article in ethnomusicology written by members of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

7 Wesleyan Faculty, Alumni, Graduate Student Make Presentations at SEM Annual Meeting

semFour faculty, two alumni, and one graduate student participated in the virtual Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting held Oct. 22–31.

As part of a panel addressing contemporary musical issues in Iran, Bridgid Bergin MA ’17 spoke about the Iranian Female Composers Association (IFCA), which was established in 2017 by three female-identifying Iranian composers: Anahita Abbasi, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, and Aida Shirazi. IFCA supports Iranian female-identifying composers by encouraging organizers and ensembles in Iran and beyond to commission and engage these composers in collaborations, while also discovering and mentoring young female composers who are fighting against all odds to become contemporary classical composers in 21st-century Iran. In 2018 the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) became an organizational partner in reinforcing IFCA’s platform as well as advocating for its members. Bergin presented three composer portrait videos and explored IFCA’s “her-story”—its founding members and an analysis of the intersections of gender, music, politics, and identity.

Eric Charry, professor of music, spoke about “An Ethnography of the Five Spot Café,” as part of a panel on rethinking jazz canons. Drawing on cultural geography, Charry examined from multiple perspectives the Five Spot Café (on the Bowery, 1956–62), one of the most important venues in jazz history: as an object in the Lower East Side and in downtown New York City jazz club landscapes; as a place imbued with sociocultural meaning; as a phenomenological space with a unique feel; and as a flashpoint in a historically dynamic scene. Moving beyond reports by American and European journalists, over a half-dozen live LP recordings, and published interviews with musicians, Charry focused on photographs taken inside the club. In this talk, Charry investigated race, gender, age, and especially modes of participation in jazz performance, and explored how an expanded view of ethnographic analysis of the inner workings of a historic venue has much to offer the history of jazz.