Arts & Culture

MGMT’s Goldwasser ’05, VanWyngarden ’05 Release 4th Album

MGMT, a musical group formed in 2002 by Andrew VanWyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, is back on the scene with their fourth album Little Dark Age, released in 2018. This recent release is their first in half a decade and it represents a fresh, but familiar, musical direction.

Unlike their last two albums, which veered towards the eccentric, Little Dark Age exhibits a clear pop influence and psychedelic retro synths with haunting, serious, and dark undertones.

In their eponymous song, “Little Dark Age,” for instance, they hint at a quotidian melancholy in the first verse:

“The ruins of the day/ Painted with a scar/ And the more I straighten out/ The less it wants to try/ The feelings start to rot/ One wink at a time.”

Then, in the chorus, VanWyngarden croons into the mic, “Oh I grieve in stereo/ The stereo sounds strange.”

Like many alumni musicians, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser got their start on campus. At Wes, they went by the name “The Management” and during their four years both dabbled in an eclectic mix of genres like blues, hip-hop, prog rock, and even classic country. The music of the ’80s had a particular influence on their performances during college; as The Management, the two actually performed a 45-minute cover of the “Ghostbusters” song at a campus event.

Watch MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” below:

Baerman, Stanton Receive Artist Fellowship Awards

Noah Baerman

Nicole Stanton

Two Wesleyan faculty were honored for their artistic excellence by the 2018 Artist Fellowship Program.

Nicole Stanton, associate professor of dance, African American studies, and environmental studies, and Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, each received a $3,000 grant in the program’s Performing Arts category.

The Artist Fellowship Program recognizes individual Connecticut artists in a variety of disciplines and allows these artists the opportunity to pursue new works of art and to achieve specific creative and career goals. The program is highly competitive: for the 2018 round, more than 235 applications were received and reviewed by 48 professional panelists representing a wide array of artistic disciplines.

Baerman and Stanton are among 39 artists in the state of Connecticut awarded Artist Fellowship Grants.

Stanton will use her Artist Fellowship to work on a movement-based performance tentatively called “The Welcome Table.”

“I’m interested in using the lens of food—its preparation, its cultivation, and the ways in which people, families, and communities consume and dispose of it—as a way of telling black women’s stories,” she explained. “I want to explore the ways questions of food justice, social justice, and environmental justice all interweave in women’s lives.”

Stanton already presented a version of the piece at the We Create Festival: Celebrating Women in the Arts in Boston in April (pictured), and she’s working towards a campus showing for the fall semester.

Baerman will use his award to seed the development and recording of a recent body of work in response to the loss of Claire Randall ’12, who was murdered in December 2016. Randall was Baerman’s student and subsequently became a collaborator both in music and in the work of Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI), a nonprofit Baerman directs that addresses the intersection of music and positive change.

“After Claire was murdered, I began composing to process both my own grief and that of others bereaved by the loss, many of them also former students of mine at Wesleyan,” Baerman said. “The music was diverse enough stylistically that I couldn’t initially see how it might eventually come together, nor was that a short-term priority. Now I intend to take space to develop this music and eventually compile it into an album that embraces this eclecticism and the emotional rawness of the subject matter.”

The album will, in turn, serve as a benefit for Claire’s Continuum, an initiative that RMI is developing to commission new collaborations on music and interdisciplinary work that addresses social causes.

Krishnan Debuts Choreography at UC Davis, Jacob’s Pillow

“16 Shades of Red,” a full-length choreography created by Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, premiered at the Mondavi Center at the University of California, Davis, on May 12 and 13. Krishnan is a member of inDANCE, one of Canada’s most progressive dance companies. “16 Shades of Red,” presented in two chapters, integrates original courtesan dance from South India, complex choreography, and live music.

Watch a video of his performance below:

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At Wesleyan, Krishnan teaches Bharata Natyam, or South Indian classical dance.

“BN1 and BN3 students had performed material this semester at Wesleyan so incredibly well, and it was a crucial layer to building this new work,” Krishnan said. “I truly appreciate my job at Wesleyan where pedagogy and choreography are inextricably intertwined.”

In addition, Krishnan served as a Pillow Scholar-in-Residence June 20–24 at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass. On June 22, he debuted his solo choreography “Black Box 3,” which showcases virtuosic Bharatanatyam technique. The work features complex footwork, intricate gestures, architectural design, and a pulsating sound design of Indian, global percussion, and vocalized drum syllables.

 

New Book by Sachs ’97 Inspires Readers to Push Thought Boundaries

Ready to step outside your comfort zone? We recently spoke to Jonah Sachs ’97, who explores what empowers some people to respond to change with creative breakthroughs while the rest of us spend our lives clinging to the safety of “the way it’s always been done,” in his new book, Unsafe Thinking: How to Be Nimble & Bold When You Need It Most (Da Capo Press, 2018). Filled with ideas and tips on everything from embracing risk and inspiring unsafe thinking in conservative business cultures to bouncing back from failure, as well as a mix of brainteasers, experiments, and puzzles, Unsafe Thinking is both inspirational and entertaining—and the perfect springboard to your next big idea. Sachs is the award-winning founder and a partner of Free Range Studios, a brand and innovation company that transforms companies through unsafe thinking.

Students Perform West African, Hip-Hop, South Indian Dances


On May 11, the West African Dance and West African Music and Culture classes performed at the Center for the Arts Courtyard. The invigorating performances featured Wesleyan Artist-in-Residence and choreographer Iddi Saaka, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music and master drummer John Dankwa, and master drummer Mohammed Alidu. Throughout the semester, students learned the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

New Book by McIntyre ’84 Explores How We Arrived at a Post-Truth Era

Did you ever wonder how we arrived in a post-truth era, where “alternative facts” are substituted for actual facts and feelings are given more weight than evidence? In Post-Truth (MIT Press, 2018), Lee McIntyre ’84—a research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an instructor in ethics at Harvard Extension School—explores the long history of the phenomenon . . . and what’s different this time around.

Post-Truth book cover

Q: Many people think that post-truth is a new idea, borne of Brexit and the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but in your book, you explore the history behind the concept. Historically speaking, when did the idea first arise?

A: The word “post-truth” first started to be used in the 1990s, in a political story in a magazine. But the real interest here is that in 2016 the Oxford Dictionaries named post-truth their word of the year. This was due to a 2,000% increase in usage from 2015! So the word post-truth is of fairly recent origin. But the roots behind it, as I explore in my book, go back to science denial in the 1950s and cognitive bias that has been with us since the dawn of human civilization.

Q: As you note, the idea of a single objective truth has never been free from controversy. If this is true, can it be argued that post-truth is really just an alternative view of the truth? Can there be such a thing, in your opinion? 

A: An alternative view of truth—or the claim that there is no such thing as objective truth—is the bread and butter of epistemology. Philosophers debate the meaning of truth all the time: what is the appropriate concept of it, what its relationship is to knowledge, belief, certainty, etc. In the political context, though, things are different. Post-truth arose not from some philosophical quarrel, but from politicians who wanted to impose their reality on others. Here I draw a distinction with something like “spin doctoring” where everyone really knows that the person is lying and shading the truth, e.g., “my candidate obviously won the debate last night,” versus claiming that obviously false things are true, e.g., “the murder rate went up in the USA last year.” I see post-truth as the first step toward authoritarian rule.

Q: You argue that when we set forth a statement as fact with the intent to manipulate someone into believing something that we know is untrue, we have crossed the line from interpretation to deliberate falsification. Is this, for you, where post-truth begins?

A: Like lying, post-truth is intentional. It is a strategy. There are many different tactics that one might use in post-truth (lying, propaganda, selective exposure to information, etc.), but the intent is what matters. The analogy with lying is telling: A lie has to be made on purpose. One cannot accidentally lie. Similarly, post-truth is the deliberate attempt to see information through a political lens before it is shared with the public. That is when post-truth begins. When political expediency is more important than telling the truth about reality, we have crossed over into post-truth.

Q: We talk about political spin and how its intent is to influence others. But you see post-truth in its purest form to be when one thinks the audience’s reaction to the lie told actually changes the lie to truth. Can you give an example, from both sides of the political aisle, of this phenomenon of a lie “becoming” truth?

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Supports ICPP’s Performing Artist Case Studies

Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) has been awarded a two-year, $200,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Introduced as a pilot initiative in 2011, the ICPP is the first institute of its kind, a center for the academic study of the presentation and contextualization of contemporary performance. The low-residency program offers students a master’s degree in innovative and relevant curatorial approaches to developing and presenting time-based art.

The grant will be used to support performing artist case studies, working with artists at critical points in their careers to provide analysis of their entrepreneurial strategies, as well as engagement with the economic drivers of cultural production. This funding will further ICPP’s efforts to bring to light different models for artist development, and highlight successful tactics for philanthropic support over the arc of their career. Findings developed during the case studies, including best practices and replicable models, will be shared via a website and print publication, as well as at various conferences.

“As older infrastructure for arts support erodes, performing artists are developing inventive new models for sustaining a career,” said Sarah Curran, managing director of ICPP. “These case studies will allow us to work with artists to both assess and suggest new entrepreneurial strategies, and create and share models of best practice. Our hope is that this process will spark dialogue not only with artists and curators involved in the studies, but also with arts organizations, cultural policy makers, and grant makers about how best to support artists in this shifting arts economy.”

“The continued support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation recognizes the impact that the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance has beyond the Wesleyan campus,” said President Michael Roth. “These case studies will provide a new assessment of best practices and inventive strategies for the arts.”

Mixed-Race, Interfaith Identities Explored through Performative Conversations

Middletown-based ARTFARM artistic director Marcella Trowbridge, center, works with Lola Makombo ’20 on crafting a performative conversation based on interviews with a family member.

Students in the Mixed in America: Race, Religion, and Memoir course explored mixed-race identities not only through reading, writing, and classroom discussion, but through performative art.

Matt Kleppner ’18 created a short performance based on an interview with his uncle.

Throughout the semester, students used the genre of the memoir as a focusing lens to look at ways that Americans of mixed heritage have found a place, crafted an identity, and made meaning out of being considered “mixed.”

The course is part of Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative, which pairs non-arts faculty with artists for collaborative teaching and research. Professor Liza McAlister teamed up with the local professional theater organization ARTFARM to offer students a module of four classes under the instruction of artistic director Marcella Trowbridge.

In the students’ exploration of memoir, Trowbridge asked them to interview a family member and craft a short performative piece based on their interviews–or–their responses to their interviews.

“We spoke about ‘brass tack’ strategies for interviewing and documentation, but then left the linear procedural work for a process-based inquiry,” Trowbridge explained.

The class collaboratively brainstormed and worked physically with mark-making, personal items, architecture, kinesthetic response, and the use of space. Students also learned about using text, gestures, movement, sound, repetition, and props in a performance.

On April 18 and 19, the students shared their compositions with their classmates.

Bùi ’07 Shares Photos, Paintings, Video at CEAS Gallery

On March 29, Vietnamese artist Lêna Bùi '07 spoke to gallery goers at the opening reception of her exhibit, Proliferation at the College of East Asian Studies. In Proliferation, Bùi draws on her context of living in a rapidly changing country. Her abstract paintings, photographs, and candid video broadly examine the less obvious effects of development on the socio-political and cultural fabrics of the country, and specifically dealing with people's negotiation with nature in various forms.

On March 29, East Asian studies major Lêna Bùi ’07 spoke to gallerygoers at the opening reception of her exhibit, Proliferation, at the College of East Asian Studies. In Proliferation, Bùi draws on her context of living in a rapidly changing country. Her abstract paintings, photographs, and candid video broadly examine the less obvious effects of development on the socio-political and cultural fabrics of the country, specifically dealing with people’s negotiation with nature in various forms.

Helping Widowed Fathers Move Forward with Their Children: An Interview with Author Rosenstein ’80, MD

In The Group: Seven Widowed Fathers Reimagine Life (Oxford University Press, 2018), Donald L. Rosenstein ’80, MD, and Justin M. Yopp, PhD, tell the stories of how seven men whose wives died from cancer came to terms with their grief and learned how to move forward into a meaningful future with their children. The book is based on the experiences of the men as members of a support group run by Rosenstein and Yopp at the Comprehensive Cancer Support Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All proceeds from the book will be donated to Rosenstein and Yopp’s clinical and research work at UNC with widowed parents. For more about the widowed parents group, visit widowedparent.org.

Ulysse’s Book Long-Listed for PEN Open Book Award

A book by Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse was long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award.

The PEN Open Book Award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color to celebrate racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Ulysse’s first poetry collection, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, me & THE WORLD, was published in 2017 by Wesleyan University Press. The lyrically vivid meditative journey embraces and reclaims a revolutionary Blackness that has been historically stigmatized and denied. Ulysse crafts experiments with “ethnographic collectibles” of word, performative sounds and imagery to blur genres and the lines between the geopolitical and the personal. These poems, performance texts and photographs gather fractured memories—longings laced with Vodou chants confronting a past that looms in the present.

Ulysse also is professor of anthropology and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Read “I am a Storm” from Because When God Is Too Busy in this Wesleyan Magazine Backstory.