Arts & Culture

Draper ’12, Celestin ’13, Khandros ’13 Create Film Festival on Greek Island

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13, and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13 and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

How does one convert a shipyard into a cinema? “With a lot of gumption and very little sleep,” reports Nathaniel Draper ’12, the technical director of the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF).

For five days in July, Draper and his colleagues Cassandra Celestin ’13, Aaron Khandros ’13 and Jacob Moe will transform the small Greek island of Syros into a multifaceted cinema space.

Projectors hauled over three hours by boat from Athens will be erected on Syros’s docks, beaches and quarries to screen a variety of films, from art house to Hollywood. Musicians and filmmakers will gather for all-night multimedia performances and, with the help of participants, will construct musical instruments and perform. These are just a few of the unconventional features of the Syros International Film Festival.

Initiated in 2013 by Celestin and Khandros, the festival began as a DIY project financed out of pocket. But it has grown rapidly. Today, their sponsors—the Onassis Foundation, the US Embassy of Athens, Institut Français and Huffington Post Greece, among others—cover much of the expenses.

This year, the festival roster will explore the comedic and psychotic implications of its thematic idiom, “Cracking Up.” As such, it will feature a mix of cinema and expanded cinema that will, according to Draper, break open “the traditional confines of the projection experience.” One of the selections is a 1926 silent film by Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasais A Page of Madness, which depicts the lives of patients in a insane asylum through an expressionistic style.

These alternative cinematic performances inspired Draper and his team to engage with the shadow puppetry of Indonesian gamelan performance, which Draper was first introduced to through Wesleyan’s world music program. They hope to feature the experimental musician Mike Cooper, performing alongside Gods of Bali, a film that documents Gamelan music and dance. With the assistance of an expert from nearby Cyprus, volunteers and participants will also learn to perform in a Gamelan ensemble built from from items gathered on Syros.

Quite literally a product of its environment, the SIFF has also had to contend with the Greek economic crisis–ironically, the opening night of the 2015 festival coincided with Greece’s vote for austerity.

The SIFF is not Draper’s first experience curating film: As an undergrad, he helped create the “Cinema Sorcery Front,” a club that ran independent film screenings for students. A film major, he fondly remembers Associate Professor of Film Studies Steve Collins ’96, who supported his work and pushed the boundaries of his classroom education.

Audio Guide by Rowland ’11 Featured In 2017 Whitney Biennial

Cameron Rowland, Public Money, 2017. Institutional investment in Social Impact Bond. Courtesy the artist and ESSEX STREET, New York (detail). Photograph Bill Orcutt

Cameron Rowland, Public Money, 2017.

Every two years, the Whitney Museum of American Art showcases some of the most talented young artists from around the country in an exhibition filled with purpose and passion. This year, the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 78th installment of the longest-running survey of American art, features work by Wesleyan alumnus Cameron Rowland ’11. View the project online here.

“Arriving at a time rife with racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarizing politics, the exhibition allows the artists to challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community,” according to the Whitney. “The Biennial features 63 individuals and collectives whose work takes a wide variety of forms, from painting and installation to activism and video-game design.”

In line with this year’s theme, Rowland’s work involved having the Whitney Museum agree to invest $25,000 in a Social Impact Bond, or a “Pay for Success” contract that arranges for the government to support social-service organizations. On display is the document of their compliance. A framed printout of a wire transfer functions as the physical manifestation of his work.

Rowland also was mentioned in an article published online by W Magazine, which highlighted the other 20-something artists making great strides in the art community.

The exhibit is open now and runs through June 11.

Play by Jenkins Commemorates 350th Anniversary of Treaty of Breda

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is collaborating with a team of Indonesian artists on the creation of a new play: “Islands: The Treaty that changed the World.” It will include original gamelan music by Wesleyan Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito and original choral music by John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce.

The cast will Wesleyan students from India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China who will be joined by Indonesian guest artists Novirela Minangsari, Dinny Aletheiani and Nyoman Catra. The play commemorates the 350th anniversary of the 1667 Treaty of Breda in which the Dutch ceded control of Manhattan to the English in exchange for the Spice Island of Rhu, now part of Indonesia’s Banda Archipelago.

The play will premiere in the Center for the Arts Theater on April 21 at 8 p.m. and continue there on Saturday April 22 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Sunday April 23 Jenkins and the team will perform at 4 p.m. at the Indonesian Consulate in New York on 5 E. 68th Street. They’ll also perform the play with some Wesleyan students and a cast of 40 Indonesian children at the Mandara Mahalango festival in Bali. “We use music, dance, puppetry,oral history, and documentary texts to bring the treaty and its legacy to life,” Jenkins said.

The Jakarta Post quotes Jenkins as saying “that the treaty was so valuable for history as it changed the life of the people on both Run Island and New York. It is the reason the people of Manhattan speak English, not Dutch. The show’s goal is to make the people of Manhattan learn that their history is really connected with Indonesia.”

More information on the play and its creation can be found here and from an interview Jenkins did for Indonesian Television.

Frosh Honored for First-Year Seminar Essays

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Five students from the Class of 2020 were honored for their First-Year Seminar essays during a ceremony March 28 in Downey House. The students include, from left, Daniel Atik ’20, Maya Bernstein-Schalet ’20, Gina Savoy ’20, Benjamin Glass ’20 and Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

During her fall semester First-Year Seminars intensive writing course, Gina Savoy ’20 investigated the career of artist Vincent van Gogh and penned an essay titled “The Church: A Lifelong Obstacle for Vincent van Gogh.”

On March 28, Savoy’s essay took top prize at the Endeavor Foundation First-Year Seminar Essay Contest. She and four other first-year students received cash awards ranging from $250 to $75 and a book, selected by their course instructor. With support from The Endeavor Foundation of New York, Wesleyan was able to offer the offer inaugural awards ceremony and celebrate the success of 43 FYS in the fall, and 10 this spring.

First-Year Seminars are writing intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of topics ranging from Greek mythology to neuroscience. Faculty teaching these classes highlight the type of writing associated with their respective disciplines, and help students develop, compose, organize and revise their writing.

“All first-year students at Wesleyan are strong students, but even still, they arrive with a range of writing abilities,” said Meg Furniss Weisberg, visiting assistant professor of French, interim director of academic writing.

During the FYS program, faculty teach students the specifics of college-level academic writing: formulating an original, debatable claim; supporting that claim with textual and scholarly evidence; making analytical rather than simply observational arguments; and synthesizing one’s points into an effective conclusion. Faculty also expose students to scholarly and critical articles, as well as teach them about this new kind of reading, thinking and writing.

In addition, the structure of the courses, which favor multiple drafts and peer workshops as well as feedback from the instructor, fosters an environment of individual and collective progress, rather than of pure skill acquisition.

“The first year of a student’s time at Wesleyan should be a time of exploration, of expanding intellectual boundaries, and taking some intellectual risks,” Weisberg said.

Savoy, who was enrolled in the Arts and Art History course Van Gogh and the Myth of Genius, taught by Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art history, associate professor of German studies, focused her essay on van Gogh’s tumultuous relationship with religion, specifically the church, which is illustrated through his increasing incorporation of nature in his work throughout his nearly decade-long artistic career. “Although van Gogh had to find a new source to satisfy his unwavering desire for religious meaning in his life, his resentment towards the traditional church did not translate to abandoning the subject in his artwork,” Savoy said.

Her paper examines several of van Gogh’s works that feature a church motif and uses the painting The Church at Auvers, completed in the last few months of his life in 1890, to analyze his nearly two-decade long religious transformation. “The evolution of the church motif in his work supports the argument that nature provided van Gogh a sense of meaning and purpose the church never could,” Savoy said. “This reality is reflected in his complete substitution of Christianity for nature in his work in the last few years of his life.”

Other essay winners included:

At right, Melissa Katz, visiting assistant professor of romance languages and literatures, speaks about the book she chose for essay winner Daniel Atik '20. Several faculty attended the essay content award ceremony to applaud and speak about their students' essays.

At right, Melissa Katz, visiting assistant professor of romance languages and literatures, speaks about the book she chose for essay winner Daniel Atik ’20. Several faculty attended the essay contest award ceremony to applaud and speak about their student’s essay.

Daniel Atik ’20 took second place in a tie with his essay “Converted Bells: An Exploration of Religious Power Dynamics,” written in his College of Letters 120 course, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Getting Along in the Medieval World. The class was taught by Melissa Katz, visiting assistant professor of Romance languages and literatures.

Maya Bernstein-Schalet ’20 also took second place with her essay, “Mocking the World in The Life of Symeon the Fool,” written in her College of Letters 150 course, Great Books UnBound. The class was taught by Tushar Irani, associate professor of letters, associate professor of philosophy.

Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20 took third place with her essay, “Subtleties of Subversion,” French in Translation 123 course, Love, Sex, and Marriage in Renaissance Europe. The class was taught by Michael Meere, assistant professor of French.

Benjamin Glass ’20 took honorable mention with his essay, “The Art of Stability. An Anatomical Explanation of a Mechanical Clock,” written in his Physics 162 course, It’s About Time. The class was taught by Lutz Hüwel, professor of physics.

During the ceremony, Ellen Nerenberg, dean of the Arts and Humanities and the Hollis Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, presented the the students with their awards, and Meg Furniss Weisberg presented the students with a a book chosen by their course instructor. Contest judges included Nerenberg, Weisberg and Wesleyan faculty Andrew Curran, Marc Eisner and Joyce Jacobsen.

Photos of the awards ceremony are below:

During her fall semester First-Year Seminars intensive writing course, Gina Savoy '20 investigated the in-depth career of influential artist Vincent van Gogh and penned an essay titled “The Church: A Lifelong Obstacle for Vincent van Gogh."

Gina Savoy ’20 won the top prize with her essay, “The Church: A Lifelong Obstacle for Vincent van Gogh.”

Daniel Atik '20 took second place in a tie with his essay “Converted Bells: An Exploration of Religious Power Dynamics," written in his College of Letters 120 course, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Getting Along in the Medieval World. The class was taught by Melissa Katz, visiting assistant professor of romance languages and literatures.

Daniel Atik ’20 took second place with his essay “Converted Bells: An Exploration of Religious Power Dynamics.”

Maya Bernstein-Schalet '20 also took second place with her essay, “Mocking the World in The Life of Symeon the Fool,” written in his College of Letters 150 course, Great Books UnBound. The class was taught by Tushar Irani, assistant professor of letters, assistant professor of philosophy.

Maya Bernstein-Schalet ’20 took second place with her essay, “Mocking the World in The Life of Symeon the Fool.”

Sophia Dora Tulchin '20 took third place with her essay, “Subtleties of Subversion,” French in Translation 123 course, Love Sex, and Marriage in Renaissance Europe. The class was taught by Michael Meere, assistant professor of French.

Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20 took third place with her essay, “Subtleties of Subversion.”

Benjamin Glass '20 took honorable mention with his essay, “The Art of Stability. An Anatomical Explanation of a Mechanical Clock," written in his Physics 162 course, It’s About Time. The class was taught by Lutz Hüwel, professor of physics.

Benjamin Glass ’20 took honorable mention with his essay, “The Art of Stability. An Anatomical Explanation of a Mechanical Clock.”

White ‘93, Greenidge ‘04 Win Whiting Awards for Writing

Kaitlyn Greenidge ’04 (Photo by Syreeta McFadden)

Kaitlyn Greenidge ’04 (Photo by Syreeta McFadden)

This month, two Wesleyan alumnae writers, Kaitlyn Greenidge ’04 and Simone White ’93 received the prestigious Whiting Award. Given annually to only 10 emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry, the award provides recipients with a $50,000 grant and is the largest of its kind. Previous winners have gone on to receive the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships. Some Whiting Award winners include Jeffery Eugenides, Colson Whitehead, Tracy Smith and David Foster Wallace.

Greenidge’s 2016 novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman is her most recent work and was published by Algonquin Books. The unconventional story chronicles a family of color fluent in sign language that travel to western Massachusetts to participate in a research experiment. There, they live with a chimpanzee named Charlie and attempt to teach it sign language.

The Whiting Award committee wrote that Greenridge “is at work on a broader underlying story: our inability to find a common language for a discussion of race in America. The sense you get is that she’s nowhere near her full powers yet, and the prospect is thrilling.”

Simone White ‘93 (Photo by Pat Cassidy Mollach)

Simone White ‘93 (Photo by Pat Cassidy Mollach)

White, program director at The Poetry Project and visiting assistant professor of literary studies at The New School, Eugene Lang College, has published several collections of poetry. Her most recent collection, Of Being Dispersed, was printed in 2016 by Futurepoem Books.

The Whiting Award selection committee praises White for “[deconstructing] our ideas of Americanness and the failure of language to be the transparent scrim we sometimes mistake it to be.” Dear Angel of Death, a book of criticism and poems also by White, is forthcoming with Ugly Duckling Press.

Playwright Emily Mann in Conversation with Quiara Alegría Hudes

Emily Mann

Director and playwright Emily Mann will give a talk at Wesleyan on March 28.

Director and playwright Emily Mann will give a talk at Wesleyan on March 28 as part of the Performing Arts Series of the Center for the Arts. Mann will be in conversation with Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater Quiara Alegría Hudes.

“Emily Mann is a revered theatrical auteur,” said Hudes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who teaches playwriting to beginning and advanced writers at Wesleyan. “An accomplished playwright, director, and artistic director of a leading regional theater, Mann is known for her probing inquiry into our nation’s most urgent issues. Her art has time and again advanced the national conversation.”

Hudes believes those in attendance will benefit from hearing Mann’s views on the arts. Hudes explained, “The audience can expect to hear from a pioneer and trailblazer about what it means to have a vision, how to build and sustain an artistic vision over decades, and how word meets flesh at the intersection of the script and stage.”

“I am honored to be joining Quiara Alegría Hudes at Wesleyan for what will no doubt be an exciting day, both in our class workshop and our public conversation in the evening,” said Mann. “I am very much looking forward to an engaging talk with Quiara, discussing a wide range of topics including the state of the American theater, the American playwright, and opening doors to a whole new generation of voices.”

Known for her politically edgy and documentary style, Mann is currently in her 27th season as artistic director and resident playwright of the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. In 2015, she received both the  Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwrights’ Award, and the Margo Jones Award, given to a “citizen of the theater who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to the encouragement of the living theater everywhere.”

A Conversation with Emily Mann will take place in Memorial Chapel at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 28 and is free and open to the public.

Wesleyan Joins the Northeast Small College Art Museum Association in Statement in Support of Major Arts Agencies

With the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), one representative of the arts community at Wesleyan has petitioned against these cuts alongside the Northeast Small College Art Museum Association (NESCAMA).

Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University, joined the initiative on behalf of Wesleyan.

In 2014, the Davison Art Center was the recipient of a three-year IMLS grant in the amount of $111,000 to further the digital imaging of works on paper in the art center’s permanent collection.

Rogan explained, “The Institute of Museum and Library Services has been transformative in the ways people can study the Davison Art Center’s internationally renowned collection. The ability for anyone on campus, or even on the other side of the world, to download high quality images and study these rare works of art is something that can’t be accomplished without this kind of funding.”

The statement, signed by 18 institutions affiliated with NESCAMA, explains how college art museums rely on funding from these sources.

With small operational budgets, college and university art museums are particularly reliant on funding from the NEH, NEA, and IMLS. This funding preserves artistic, ethnographic, scientific, and historic collections, and creates access to cultural heritage unique to our respective diverse communities. This funding not only supports essential infrastructure, it enables us to pursue transformative programs that provide employment for emerging and young professionals. This funding ensures that our collections are interpreted, understood, and valued.

The statement encourages members of Congress “to recognize that the resilience of the NEH, NEA, and IMLS, despite opposition over the years, is a testament to their enduring value.”

CFA Performing Arts Series Concert to Feature Italian Baroque Chamber Music

Photo by Andy Kahl

Tempesta di Mare will perform on March 31, concluding the 2016-2017 season of the Center for the Arts’ Performing Arts Series. (Photo by Andy Kahl)

Members of the Philadelphia-based ensemble Tempesta di Mare will perform baroque chamber music from Venice and Naples on period instruments for the Connecticut premiere of A Tale of Two Italian Cities in Crowell Concert Hall at 8 p.m., Friday, March 31.

This performance by Tempesta di Mare is part of the Performing Arts Series at the Center for the Arts, and the conclusion of the 2016-2017 season.

“These performances feature a wide array of world-class musicians, cutting-edge choreography, and groundbreaking theater,” explained Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “We’re excited to include a baroque chamber orchestra this year and we think the audience will love experiencing the sounds and culture of Italy.”

The audience can expect to hear music that reflects the two cities’ different cultures, explained Richard Stone, co-director of Tempesta di Mare. “Venice was Italy’s party town, while Naples was where you’d go to university or, if you were a musician, to conservatory,” said Stone. “Neapolitan music grabs its listeners with a heady intensity, while the Venetian music catches you with technical brilliance. That’s the generalization though. Naples’ music could get pretty wild, and Venetian music can get pretty cerebral. They’re both great musical worlds to dive into.”

Celebrating their 15th anniversary season, the members of the ensemble performing at Wesleyan will play recorder, violin, cello, lute and harpsichord on trios, quartets and concerti written by Antonio Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Dario Castello, Andrea Falconieri, Francesco Mancini and Giovanni Legrenzi.

Tickets can be purchased through the Wesleyan University Box Office. Tickets are $28 for the general public; $26 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, and non-Wesleyan students; and $6 for Wesleyan students and youth under 18.

Dance Department’s Krishnan ‘Slaughters’ Stereotypes

(photo c/o Michael Slobodian)

Hari Krishna (Photo by Michael Slobodian)

In the March 21 issue, the Toronto Star profiles Associate Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan in connection with his latest full-length work, “Holy Cow(s)!”

Krishnan discusses the ways in which he often endures “ridiculous if non-malevolent cultural prejudices,” such as assumptions that he practices yoga or doesn’t eat beef due to his Indian heritage.

Krishnan would prefer people to look beyond the stereotypes, beyond what he calls such false binaries as East/West, white/coloured, masculine/feminine, tradition/modernity.

Says Krishnan: “I’m brown. I’m a beef-eating Hindu from Singapore and I’m proudly gay. I’m not a tourism poster.”

Krishnan, an award-winning dancer/choreographer, is founder of the performing company inDANCE. The writer describes his style: “Krishnan’s dances, whether full-on Bharatanatyam — he’s won a coveted Bessie award in New York for his own performance of this Indian classical form — or a contemporary hybrid of styles is consistently exuberant, physically dynamic and often more than a little bit naughty.”

Of the latest performance, he writes:

Holy Cow(s)!, with a cast of two women and five men, is unusual in that while most of the choreography is Krishnan’s it also includes three solos, each made for him by an outside choreographer and expressing very different movement esthetics. The original intent was for Krishnan to perform these himself but a knee injury put paid to that. With the concurrence of American choreographers Sean Curry and David Brick and Vancouver’s Jay Hirabayashi, Krishnan has now distributed these among three of the cast’s men.

Watching a studio run-through of Holy Cow(s)!, it is clear Krishnan relishes the opportunity to explode any number of assumptions audiences might make about a choreographer of South Asian descent. The movement vocabulary at times references, even parodies, classical Indian dance but it also embraces a whole range of cultural forms. It pokes fun at the stereotypes of beguiling female and chest-thumping machismo. It is sensual to the point of overt eroticism. Krishnan even manages to work in some thinly veiled political criticism, alerting us to the dangerous bigotry that the current climate has unlocked.

Says Krishnan: “My mission is to slaughter every one of these holy cows.”

Hecht ’04 Finds the Irresistible Music for Commercial Clients

Jonathan Hecht ’04, whose company, Venn Art, finds the perfect music for commercial clients, was photographed at the premiere of a snowboarding documentary he worked on for Red Bull, The Art of Flight.

Jonathan Hecht ’04, whose company, Venn Arts, finds the perfect music for commercial clients, was photographed at the premiere of a snowboarding documentary, The Fourth Phase, which he worked on for Red Bull.

“Wait, turn that up! What is that song?”

If you’ve ever watched a commercial that became more significant the second you heard a song you just had to hear again, chances are Jonathan Hecht ’04—founder of Venn Arts—was behind its discovery.

His interest in pairing music with picture was inspired by the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights: “I realized how different some of the musical selections were, but how they all fit together to create a sound and musical character for the film.”

He began to wonder if he could create a career out of this observation—which became Venn Arts, the music supervision company specializing in curating and procuring licensed music for commercial projects. Hecht took the name from a Venn diagram, with its “intersection or coming together of two things to make something unique,” he said. For Hecht, one of those “things” is always music: “There are so many nuanced emotions that can be inflected when you find the right music.”

Now, collaborating with brands such as Under Armour, Free People, Mercedes, and most recently, supervising the music for Subaru’s phenomenally effective “Love” ad campaign, he is gaining attention: Forbes recently wrote about his work as a music supervisor to Subaru’s marketing and rapid sales growth. “I’ve been working with Subaru’s ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, since 2011 and have placed more than 30 songs into national TV ads for the brand,” he says.  The campaign was also highlighted as “Ad of the Day” on Adweek.

Otake, Johnston ‘Fukushima’ Project Culminating Events in NYC on March 11

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Eiko Otake stands on the top of a breakwater in a dark gray kimono. To her right, the ocean crashes into piles of concrete cubes–their shapes, stacked together, seem almost too clean, like abstractions of stone. She clutches a large but frayed scarlet cloth that catches the wind and encircles her, hovering just inches from her skin. Following the breakwater into the distance, a large cubic structure is visible along the water’s edge. It is the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant, 12 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. She is standing at the midpoint between the infamous two, in the area where the tsunami wave reached 68 feet and the level of radiation remains very high.

Tableaux like this constitute A Body in Fukushima (2016), a series of photographs by Otake, visiting artist in dance and the College of East Asian Studies, and her collaborator William Johnston, professor of history, East Asian studies, science in society and environmental studies. The series shows her, a lone body in the landscape of Fukushima, Japan, in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This collaborative photo exhibition had been on Wesleyan’s campus from February through May 2015.

Currently in New York City as part of The Christa Project: Manifesting Diving Bodies, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the exhibit will culminate in Remembering Fukushima: Art and Conversations at the Cathedral on March 11, the sixth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns that followed.