Campus News & Events

Emotions Stirred at Multi-Disciplinary Investigation of Human Relations to Chimpanzees


Lori Gruen displays her collection of primate portraits at the Who’s Looking exhibit inside Zilkha Gallery. This month, Who’s Looking will provide the Wesleyan community with opportunities to explore human’s complex relations to chimps through photographs, film, theater and words.
Posted 11/20/07
One cannot help but be stirred with emotions upon viewing Who’s Looking?

Who’s Looking? A collaborative, multi-disciplinary investigation of human relations to chimpanzees,” an exhibit at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery that runs until Dec. 2, explores what chimpanzees see when they look at humans and what humans see when they look at chimpanzees.

The exhibit, directed by Lori Gruen, chair and associate professor of the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, associate professor of philosophy, includes a photo installation by Gruen, a collection of primate portraits by Connecticut artist Frank Noelker and a film screening by award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo. Live theater events from the student-organized Guerrilla Chimpanzee Theater Company are also scheduled during the month.

Gruen has been interested in chimpanzees and our relationships with them for years. She was doing research for her upcoming book and her website which focuses on the first 100 captive chimpanzees in America, http://first100chimps.wesleyan.edu, when she had a Eureka moment.

During her research, Gruen befriended a 27-year-old chimpanzee named Darrell and his constructed family of chimps at the Ohio State University Chimpanzee Center.  She recently discovered that Darrell’s mother was a chimpanzee named Mary whose lineage can be traced back to Pan and Dwina, two chimpanzees born in the 1920s who were among the first four chimps studied in captivity in the U.S. Along with describing Darrell’s families, both actual and constructed, in her book, Gruen wanted to create a visual representation of her discovery for a larger audience.

Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions for the Center for the Arts, is excited to bring Gruen’s and Noekler’s work to the Zilkha because the content of the shows she curates often “deal with issues outside of the art world.” Felshin says the exhibit encourages people think about ethical issues involving chimpanzees “in a way that an ethics journal or a philosophy journal might not.”

Through the exhibition, the participants’ work is available to a large audience.

The format of the exhibition also makes it accessible. The gallery provides a small, intimate setting for the photographs.

Frank Noelker’s Chimp Portraits 2002-2006, pictured at left, is comprised of large, respectful photos where each chimpanzee seems to look directly into the viewer’s eye. Descriptions next of each of the photographs give the pictures context that both removes and shocks the viewer. For example, only by reading the accompanying description is it revealed that a solemn-looking retired research chimpanzee named Pepper would “still rather starve herself than face an unpleasant situation.”

Gruen’s piece titled A Family Portrait 1920-2007 shows photos arranged in a format that allows viewers to relate to the display. She’s displayed Darrell’s family members in framed photos of varying sizes, above a constructed fireplace mantel.

“Engaging with these remarkable creatures has really opened up new ways of thinking and seeing for me,” Gruen says. “I think about the meaning of family and of relationships and our obligations in different ways. My hope is that the installation will allow others to see differently as well.”

Gruen worked with Connecticut artist Will McCarthy to design and construct the mantelpiece and find appropriate frames.

“Even though the exhibit was going into a modern structure we didn’t want to make it look modern, we wanted to make it look more like something you might find in a home,” McCarthy says. “If you went into someone’s house or room, this is what you might see in their house or over their mantle. We wanted to keep it warm and friendly and family-oriented.”

Felshin says the arrangement of the chimp family portrait photos in a spontaneous fashion makes viewing the work a more aesthetic, poetic experience than looking at a traditional family tree layout.

“For me, when there’s a poetic element, it also allows the viewer to bring their own experience to it,” Felshin says.

Members of the Wesleyan community are invited to explore the exhibit and the accompanying events throughout the month in order to make their own impressions and take a moment to ponder who truly is looking at whom.

The closing reception for the exhibit with talks by Lori Gruen and Frank Noekler will be from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29. That same evening, Allison Argo’s film titled Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History will be shown at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema followed by a Q & A session.

A panel discussion called Re/Presenting Primates will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Nov. 30 in the Usdan University Center, Room 108. Lori Gruen will moderate the discussion, which will explore issues such as the ethics and politics of representation; what does looking at animals tell us about ourselves; how can art change attitudes about animals; and what does it mean to see and represent chimpanzees as individuals. The scheduled panel discussion participants are Kari Weil, critical theorist and Wesleyan College of Letters professor; Cynthia Freeland, author of the upcoming book Portraits: A Philosophical Inquiry; Frank Noelker and Allison Argo.

For more information on the exhibit go to http://chimpanzees.wesleyan.edu/.
 

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations. Photos by Olivia Drake.

Adaptation Series Films Highlight Literary Works to Film Translations


Posted 11/20/07
A new series of films will shine a spotlight on how literary works are translated onto screen.

The newly-created Adaptation Series, sponsored by the Center for Film Studies and Olin Library, will begin Nov. 29 with a talk by screenwriter and alumnus Stephen Schiff. Schiff will speak about his screen adaptation of Nabokov’s Lolita, filmed in 1997 by director Adrian Lyne. The talk will be preceded by a screening of the film, starring Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith and Dominique Swain.

This is the inaugural event of the Adaptation Series, which has been designed by Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and Barbara Jones, University Librarian.

“The purpose of this series is to bring screenwriters to campus to discuss the difficulties in adapting literary works to the screen, laying out the differences between novels and screenplays, problems of censorship, budget, casting and condensing larger works into a shorter running time,” Basinger explains. “The series is sure to be thought-provoking, entertaining and educational simultaneously.”

The Film Studies Department has collaborated with the Olin Library staff in the past, putting together screenings that address issues of importance and are interesting to the general campus, community and Friends of the Library. The two departments decided to continue their collaborative efforts with the Adaptation Series.

“The idea of looking at famous and/or successful books that had been turned into movies seemed appropriate for both film and the library, and of great general interest,” Basinger says. “Furthermore, people often don’t understand the difficulties of screen adaptation, and we have alumni, such as Stephen Schiff, who are very articulate screenwriters on the subject.”

Schiff, a former staff writer for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, also is known for his work as the Film Critic of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” and as a correspondent on CBS-TV’s prime-time newsmagazine West 57th. His more recent screen adaptations include “Leatherheads” (a ’30s-style romantic comedy for George Clooney currently being edited for release in April, 2008), “The Deep End of the Ocean”, “True Crime,” Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” Patricia Cornwell’s thriller “Cruel and Unusual,” Nelson DeMille’s “The Charm School,” and an upcoming Keanu Reeves romantic thriller for Warner Bros.

“I am thrilled with the selection of Lolita as our first ‘adaptation’ because I am fascinated by the censorship issues surrounding both the publication of the book and the production of the film,” Jones says.

New York Times writer Janet Maslin praised “the imaginative fidelity” of Schiff’s screenplay for “Lolita” and NYT writer Caryn James wrote, “[Lyne’s] direction and Stephen Schiff’s discerning, faithful screenplay, are sensitive to Nabokov’s wit as well as his lyricism.”

“Steve is extremely witty and a great speaker. Hearing him discuss screenwriting in any form is always both fun and enlightening,” Basinger says. “He’s not only a Nabokov expert, he’s the perfect person to discuss all the various problems he had in adapting Lolita to the modern screen, one of which was, of course, censorship.”

The screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies.

The Friends of the Wesleyan Library and the Center for Film Studies are co-sponsoring the event. Upcoming Adaptation Series films will be announced at a later date.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Faculty, Alumnus Discuss Concept of “Islamophobia” in Co-Authored Book


Posted 11/20/07
Peter Gottschalk, associate professor of religion, and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 have written a new book Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy, published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

In the 1990s, Gottschalk heard a lecture as a graduate student at the University of Chicago by Professor John Woods about negative images of Muslims and Islam in political cartoons. He used some cartoons when he first began to teach. Following the 9/11 tragedies, Gottschalk started following certain cartoonists daily because of his concern regarding the rising anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment in the country.

Greenberg, a student in one of Gottschalk’s classes, got the idea of writing an honors thesis on the topic, investigating the history of cartoon portrayals over the past half-century. He was also motivated by the negative stereotypes he perceived of Muslims and Islam. At the successful completion of the thesis, Greenberg accepted Gottschalk’s proposal to co-author a book together.

Greenberg brought his training in history and use of primary texts while Gottschalk brought his background in Islamic and cultural studies. The following Q&A with Gottschalk and Greenberg explains how the book was created:

Q: What is your definition of “Islamophobia”?

A: Islamophobia is the social anxiety toward Islam and Muslim cultures that is largely unexamined by, yet deeply ingrained in, Americans.

Q: Why did you choose the title: Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy?

A: The original title of the book was Islamophobia: Muslims and Islam in American Cartoons. The publisher didn’t find this terribly engaging. During coffee and conversation with Vijay Pinch, professor of history, and Phil Wagoner, chair and professor, art history; professor, archaeology program, the subtitle came up and was perfect for what we were saying.

Q: What was the most satisfying part about writing the book?

A: The most satisfying part of writing the book is the feeling that we have something new to say as this important national discussion unfolds, and bringing the cartoon aspect to the table feels like a fresh approach.

Q: Does it concern you that a certain group of people or a certain industry (i.e. the news media, Hollywood) is ignorant about Muslims and stereotype them?

A: The problem with stereotyping of Muslims and propounding misinformation about Islam in the media is twofold. First, it misleads Americans who don’t have more contact with Muslims and little understanding of Islam. Second, to many Muslims domestically and abroad it proves the allegations they’ve heard that Americans are anti-Muslim and antagonistic to Islam.

Q: What can people in a position of power do to steer others away from Islamophobia?

A: The key to addressing Islamophobia is to recognize that it is as absurd to make universal claims about 1.2 billion Muslims as it has been to stereotype African-Americans, Jews, or women. Most Americans have developed a sensitivity to unfair portrayals of these groups and some might recognize that the stereotyping of all Muslims isn’t much different.

Q: I know there are many examples from your book, but can you highlight some of the ways in which Muslims are stereotyped in today’s culture?

A: Some of the stereotypes which come up again and again include that of the ever-present connection between Muslim women and oppression/repression; Muslim men with an irrational violence; the notion that jihad is the foremost tenet in the average Muslim’s life. So, for example, Muslim women wearing any kind of head covering is often taken as a sign of their oppression despite the fact that many voluntarily wear them, sometimes over the protests of men in their families. In another example, if Muslim men were as violent as the stereotype suggests, or jihad has pervasive an idea, then there would be an inestimatably greater amount of violence in the world in general and in the US, home to about 6 million Muslims.

Another pervasive trend is the conflation of Muslim with Arab, despite the fact that ethnic Arabs make up a minority of the world’s Muslims and that Arabs aren’t universally Muslim.

Q: Does your book speak at all about how religion interacts with politics?

A: The book’s first chapter gives a broad historical outline of the origins of Islam and the interactions of Westerners with Muslims. In that chapter we explain how Islam originated in a context in which politics was addressed directly. The last chapter, in which we demonstrate the portrayal of Islam and Muslims at specific moments of conflict with the U.S., points out how those depictions, at times, have served American political interests.

Q: Peter, do you discuss the ideas expressed in your book in any Wesleyan course you teach?

A: Yes, I include material from the book in a lecture I give in a few courses including Islam and Muslim Cultures, Religion and Film, and Constructing Hinduism and Islam. In each instance I use the lecture in an attempt to prompt students to recognize some of their preconceptions in regard to Islam and Muslims.

Q: What has been the early response to your book?

A: We have been very pleased with the list of scholars who have already endorsed the volume. Each is an outstanding specialist whose work we admire. Although all their comments are salutary, the two blurbs that made the greatest impression on us were those of Yvonne Haddad of Georgetown University and Jane Smith of Hartford Theological Seminary. These two scholars have authored many important works on Islam in America and so their endorsement means a great deal.

But really, we’re honored by all the endorsements. We’re also pleased by the immediate response from some radio stations that have demonstrated interest in discussing the issues we’ve raised.

Q: With all of the Islam-focused books that have come out since Sept. 11, 2001, do you think non-Muslims have learned anything about the religion and its adherents?

A: It was very encouraging after the 9/11 attacks that demand for information on Islam was so great, many Islamic organizations ran out of copies of their material on the topic. There is a greater interest in learning about Islam and a higher level of awareness. However, the demand has also led to a cottage industry of scholars and sudden specialists writing about Islam with a particular focus on violence. Even the most balanced approach, if primarily concerned with the relation of Islam to violence, only reinforces the impression that conflict is one of the prominent features of Islam. So, yes, a longer and deeper understanding of the history of the myriad Muslim cultures helps offset this approach.

Q: Does it surprise you that people are still misinformed about Islam with close to 6 million Muslims living in the U.S. and a total of 1.2 billion Muslims living around the globe?

A: It is amazing in a way. But when you realize that public school systems tend to avoid teaching about religion for fear of running into legal issues and add to that the enduring hostile stereotypes of Muslims and Islam that have pervaded America since before the Revolution, it’s less surprising.

A book release party and book signing for Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy will be held at Broad Street Books on at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
 

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations

Roth Inauguration a Celebration of Ideas, Possibilities


Jim Dresser ’63 shakes hands with Michael Roth during the 16th Wesleyan President Inauguration event Nov. 2.  Roth was installed as president in front of more than 1,500 people.

Posted 11/05/07
“Today, Michael Roth, you are formally charged with the duties, obligations and opportunities of the office of president of Wesleyan University. Today, especially, we express our gratitude that you have so fully and enthusiastically assumed these duties in the service of our beloved University.”

With these words by Jim Dresser ’63, Michael S. Roth ’78 was formally installed as the 16th President of Wesleyan Nov. 2 in front of more than 1,500 faculty, students, staff and members of the university community at Silloway Gym in the Freeman Athletic Center. Hundreds more watched the event live on the web. An archived webcast of the full ceremony can be found here: http://condor.wesleyan.edu/openmedia/ur-media/video/HC07/inauguration.qtl.

The ceremony brought together the Wesleyan community with words, music, awards and, perhaps most important, ideas and goals for the future of the university. These ambitions were reflected in Roth’s theme for his inauguration: “Liberal Education and Public Life.”

“Our campus community is a learning community,” Roth said in his written introduction featured in the inauguration program. “It helps us consider how we can all be more engaged in connecting the lessons in freedom through liberal learning to our social and political lives – to our public life.”

The ceremony opened with a procession of Wesleyan faculty as well as delegates from other universities and academic organizations from across the nation, a tradition that reaches back centuries. Participants included representatives from Yale University, Williams College, Amherst College, Trinity College, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, Spelman College, and 52 other institutions.

The ceremony included greetings and congratulations from Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics and chair of the Wesleyan faculty, Matt Ball ’08, chair of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), and Nancy Stack ’74, chair of the Wesleyan Alumni Association. A letter of congratulations from Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell was read.

Extended remarks were provided by Beverly Daniel Tatum ’75, P’04, president of Spelman College, and by Carl Schorske P ’81, a historian who taught at Wesleyan from 1946 to 1960, and later as a visiting professor in 1976-77. Roth was a student of Schorske’s at Wesleyan that year, and Schorske supervised Roth’s Ph.D. dissertation in history a few years later at Princeton. They have remained friends ever since.

“Having observed him for 30 years in a variety of functions and contexts, I have some sense of the dimensions of his approach in the past,” Schorske said of Roth. “Scholar, teacher, institutional leader, if Michael’s past experience and performance are any guide, he will remain vigorously active in all of these dimensions of academic and intellectual life. … I invoke this record of Michael’s performance to introduce you to a person fully committed to the holy trinity of scholarship, teaching and administration.”

Roth’s inaugural speech complemented Schorske’s, focusing on teaching, scholarship, and sustainable institutional excellence in all areas (the full text can be found at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/president/inauguration/speech.html ).

In his address Roth emphasized that the commitment to the highest quality academic work characterized his own Wesleyan professors, as well as today’s faculty:

“Our faculty expect that students bring ‘their best selves’ to class, but they are also wise enough to know that this won’t always happen. That’s where great teaching comes in. Our professors understand that there will be times when students don’t know how to access their capacity to be rigorous, passionate learners. And our professors know how to help students find that capacity and to use it.”

Roth described having been mentored both as a student and after, citing Professor of English Henry Abelove, who helped Roth when he was writing his first book, and Professor of Philosophy Victor Gourevitch, who assisted with the translation of a previously unknown correspondence between Leo Strauss and Alexandre Kojeve that Roth had unearthed while studying in France.

“These were heady experiences, but they were not singular,” Roth said. “I know of many, many Wesleyan students who can tell similar stories of close relationships with their teachers that led to an active life of the mind, of research, of creativity and of productivity.”

Roth also noted the link between the high quality of teaching at Wesleyan and the high standards of scholarship among the university’s students, and he challenged the institution to add a new measure of learning at Wesleyan.

“We should require that every student have the experience of producing original research,” Roth said. “Whether one majors in biology or music, film or philosophy, as a Wesleyan student you should become a participant in, and not just a spectator of, the professional practices in your area of study. We have a glorious tradition of active learning at this university, and we must ensure that every student who receives a diploma has a first-hand experience of it.”

Roth also announced a new financial aid initiative that will replace student loans with grants for Wesleyan’s neediest students beginning with the Class of 2008. As part of the initiative, students who do receive loans will see their four-year total loan indebtedness drop by an average of 35 percent—with the difference made up in grant aid.

During the ceremony, trustee emeritus Kofi Appenteng ’81, P ’07 was presented with the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal for his service to Wesleyan over the past three decades, including his role leading the recent presidential search that resulted in Roth’s selection as president. The Baldwin Medal is the highest award of the Wesleyan University Alumni Association. It was presented by Chair of the Board of Trustees, Emeritus, Alan M. Dachs ’70, P ’98, who himself had received an honorary doctorate at Commencement in May.

Roth added his recollections and thoughts regarding the inaugural event, which can be read online at: http://roth.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2007/11/07/coming-home/.

The theme “Liberal Education and Public Life” was reflected in several special Inaugural Events during Homecoming/Family Weekend. Read more about them at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/2007/1107homecoming.html.
 

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photos by Bill Burkhart and Nick Lacy.

Film Studies Faculty Speaks on Technicolor Process at Museum of the Moving Image


Posted 11/05/07
In the 1930s, Hollywood unveiled a new way of watching film with the introduction of three-color Technicolor.

Scott Higgins, left, associate professor of film studies, will speak on the 75-year-old color film process technique during a three-weekend retrospective of Technicolor films at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City. His lecture, which begins at 2 p.m. Nov. 17, will be held in conjunction with the publication of his book Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s (University of Texas Press).

“Filmmakers had already mastered the art of monochrome, of translating stories into a world of black and white, light and shadow. Technicolor was both a threat and a gift,” Higgins explains. “Now cinematographers, set designers, and directors had to consider how to guide the viewer’s attention, highlight key actions, and underline dramatic developments with this new tool. On one hand, color was thought distracting, glitzy and detrimental to drama. On the other hand, it could offer a new emotional register, a new form of spectacle, and a fresh way to shape the image.”

Although many producers and filmmakers initially resisted the use of color, Technicolor designers developed an aesthetic that complemented the classical Hollywood filmmaking style while still offering innovative novelty. By the end of the 1930s, color in film was thoroughly harnessed to narrative, and it became elegantly expressive without threatening the coherence of the film’s imaginary world.

Higgins’ book, published in November, is the first scholarly history of Technicolor aesthetics and technology, as well as a thoroughgoing analysis of how color works in film. He draws on extensive primary research and close analysis of well-known movies, including “Becky Sharp,” “A Star Is Born,” “Adventures of Robin Hood,” and “Gone with the Wind,” to show how the Technicolor films of the 1930s forged enduring conventions for handling color in popular cinema.

Higgins argues that filmmakers and designers rapidly worked through a series of stylistic modes based on the demonstration, restraint, and integration of color—and shows how the color conventions developed in the 1930s have continued to influence filmmaking to the present day.

Technicolor taught filmmakers how to use a broad palette to tell stories. But in the past 10 years or so, digital techniques have returned color’s pride of place in popular filmmaking.

“Filmmakers again face a new color technology and we can see them repeating some of the aesthetic struggles of the early Technicolor era,” Higgins says.

He sites films like “O Brother Where Art Thou “and “The Aviator,” which use this digital technology to emulate the old Technicolor look. Other productions like “Sin City” and “300” revel in color’s power and experiment with its potentials in a manner akin to the earliest three-color Technicolor films.

“It is a very exciting time for color in the cinema, quite like the 1930s in that regard,” he says.

He also formulates a new vocabulary and a method of analysis for capturing the often-elusive functions and effects of color that, in turn, open new avenues for the study of film form and lay a foundation for new work on color in cinema in the 312 page book.

Higgins will host a book signing after his lecture, and the museum will continue its celebration of Glorious Technicolor! through Dec. 2. The first three-strip Technicolor feature, “Becky Sharp” (released in 1935), and the first commercial three-strip cartoon, “Flowers and Trees” (released in 1932), will be shown at the museum. A rare, three-strip camera used by the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation will be on display.

For more information about the Museum of the Moving Image Glorious Technicolor event go to: http://www.movingimage.us/.

For more information about Higgins’ book, or to order the book, go to:
http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/highar.html.
 

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Upward Bound Celebrates 40th Anniversary


Posted 11/05/07
For 40 years, Wesleyan’s Upward Bound Program has prepared hundreds of underrepresented local youth for college by providing rigorous academic summer experiences, motivational “boot camps”, college visits and assistance with the challenging college application and financial application processes.

On Nov. 10, Upward Bound will celebrate its 40th anniversary inside Wesleyan’s newly renovated Fayerweather Building in the Edgar F. Beckham Hall. Beckham was one of the Upward Bound founders, and along with Willard McRae and others, they had a vision that local, low income students should have the opportunity to consider the college dream.

“Upward Bound has been empowering eligible youth to pursue their dream of a higher education,” says Donna Thompson, ’80, Upward Bound project director. “Students receive so many negative messages from peers and adults saying ‘you can’t’ or ‘you don’t belong.’ We create a culture of challenging academic expectations and expect students to push themselves continuously.”

Thompson says many students confess that initially, they secretly believed that college was not a possibility for them.

“As they are the first in their families to consider college, our students become trailblazers for their extended families and friends,” she says. “Through intensive leadership development experiences and self-directed learning activities, coupled with high expectations from a committed staff, students gradually realize and demonstrate that their dreams can become reality.”

More than 80 percent of the students who begin the four-year commitment continue with the program compared with a 60 percent retention rate nationally. Between 90 and 95 percent enroll in college and graduate at significantly higher rates then their peers.

The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Connecticut Department of Education and the boards of education of the Middletown, Meriden and Portland Schools. In addition, Upward Bound has received supplemental funding from the Liberty Bank Foundation and other sources.

“We are grateful for the many supporters and cheerleaders in the community who have believed in our mission over the years,” Thompson says.

The Wesleyan Upward Bound 40th Anniversary Gala will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 10 in Beckham Hall. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $25 for Wesleyan students and children, and $40 for Wesleyan faculty, staff and the general public.

For more information go to http://www.wesleyan.edu/boxoffice, www.wesleyan.edu/upwardbound/ or call 860-685-3194.

Artist Examines Media Coverage of Worldly Events


Alfredo Jaar is displaying three of his exhibits inside Zilhka Gallery.
Posted 11/05/07
Is a media giant like Newsweek able to shape public opinion by defining what is newsworthy? This is one question internationally acclaimed artist Alfredo Jaar leaves for his audience to answer in a current exhibition in Zilkha Gallery.

Jaar’s exhibition is on display in Zilkha Gallery through Dec. 2. He will present an art seminar at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 6 in Zilkha 106 and a music colloquium at 4:15 Nov. 7 in the Music Department.

Through a straightforward photography installation that addresses the media coverage of the Rwandan genocide, Jaar expands the ongoing debate among art and cultural critics about documentary photography. His work, Untitled (Newsweek) is one of three works reflecting his ongoing examination of the dichotomy between the authority of an image and its failure to fully convey an event.

The work in this exhibition examines economic and social injustice in Africa, specifically Rwanda, Angola, and Sudan. He draws attention to poverty, economic exploitation, global injustice and genocide.

“The work is about much more than conditions and events in these particular countries—genocide, colonialization, and famine—it is about systemic injustice, about the dynamic and tension between those who have absolute power and those who have absolutely none, suggesting parallel or related situations in Iraq, New Orleans, the Middle East, the South Bronx, or Bridgeport, Connecticut,” says Nina Felshin, curator of the exhibition.

Untitled (Newsweek) consists of 17 digital prints of Newsweek magazine covers chosen from issues published over a four-month period, from April 6 to Aug. 1, 1994. On April 6, the plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana was shot down as it was preparing to land at the airport in Kigali. This event triggered the beginning of 100 days of premeditated slaughter, which resulted in the deaths of one million members of the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus. International response was barely audible. Newsweek’s response was silence, raising questions about the mainstream media’s relationship to those in power.

Jaar has added text below each Newsweek cover reporting statistics and events in Rwanda that correspond to the date of the magazine. After 16 weeks of the genocide, Newsweek finally accorded it a cover.

In addition to Untitled (Newsweek), a film and haunting video-installation are on display. The film, Muxima, meaning “heart” in Kimbundu, an indigenous language of Angola, is a cinematic elegy dedicated to the people of Angola.

“During the process of organizing my extensive collection of Angolan recordings, I discovered that I had in my possession six different versions of a song called ‘Muxima,'” Jaar explains.

And a film was born —a film that poetically portrays the evolving history of Angola through alternate interpretations of this single folk song. Muxima is rooted in his love of African music and the belief that music can resonate with and therefore help communicate the experiences of the people.

The video installation, titled The Sound of Silence, features a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph shot in the Sudan in 1993 by the late South African photojournalist Kevin Carter and the controversy it sparked. The eight-minute videotape is housed within a structure that evokes the interior of a camera obscura, forcing the viewer to become part of a captive audience while at the same time implicating us in the controversy that surrounds this image. The predominantly text-driven video challenges us to examine the broader implications of another’s suffering in terms of our personal ethics.

Alfredo Jaar was born in Santiago, Chile in 1956. He currently lives and works in New York City. His work has been shown extensively around the world. He has participated in the Venice, São Paulo, Johannesburg, Sydney, Istanbul and Kwangju Biennales and in Documenta in Kassel. Major solo exhibitions have been presented at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Whitechapel in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985 and was named a MacArthur Fellow in the year 2000.

Alfredo Jarr’s exhibition is sponsored by the Raymond E. Baldwin Lecture Fund, Office of Academic Affairs, Office of Affirmative Action, Department of Art and Art History, Raymond E. Baldwin Lecture Fund, Center for African American Studies, The Office of the Dean of the Arts and Humanities, Music Department and The President’s Office.

Wesleyan Men’s Crew Working on Masterpiece


Wesleyan’s men’s crew team took second place at the annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass.
Posted 11/05/07
The sport of rowing requires strength, endurance and technique. The pattern of striking the water with a perpendicular blade, pulling through a stroke, raising the blade while feathering for the next stroke, and contacting the water again is rhythmic. Perfecting this action, especially in an eight-person boat, is an art.

If that is the case, then Wesleyan men’s crew is right up there with Van Gogh.

This year, despite having three rowers and the coxswain graduate, Wesleyan opened the season by taking first place among 14 crews in the collegiate eight race at the Head of the Housatonic in Shelton, Conn. Two weeks later, the Cardinals came up with their best-ever effort at the Head of the Charles, capturing second of 42 entries, losing to Trinity College in the three-mile event by 3 seconds. In the team’s third and final fall action, the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, N.Y., Wesleyan again grabbed second, this time a mere 0.15 seconds behind Colgate.

This success is just the latest addition to a much bigger picture that has been growing during the last several years. This includes:

  • A New England title in 2004 capping a 7-3 dual-race season.
  • A 9-3 dual-race mark in spring, 2006, and fourth-place finish in New England.
  • Fifth of 58 crews in the collegiate eight race at the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2006.
  • Second place in New England in Spring 2007 with an 11-1 record.

    Since the second and third varsity eights joined the first varsity as New England silver medalists in spring, 2007, Head Coach Phil Carney had a lot of talent to choose from in filling his empty seats. Unlike most team sports, moving talent up brings in individuals of equal experience to those who departed. Crews usually have three or more boats in action during any given dual event, giving upwards of 30-40 athletes an equal opportunity to exhibit their ability.

    Determining the members of each boat falls upon the coaching staff. Carney, a 1985 Trinity graduate and former crew co-captain there, is in his 21st year with the Cardinals.

    “You can’t make just anyone a competitive rower,” he explained. “Physical attributes are a major plus but the key ingredients are dedication and hard work. We can teach technique and some master it better than others.”

    As far as what makes a group of eight rowers and a coxswain a cohesive unit, “It’s an intangible,” Coach Carney stated. “Fortunately our squad really has it. I see us a little ahead of last year.”

    With a variation in size from a max of 6-5, 210 to a minimum of 6-0, 165, this fall’s varsity eight had Doug Cody ’09, Parker Cook ’10, Gael Hagan ’09, Norman Azoulay ’08, Tom Volgenau or Adam Nikolich ’09, Ross Heinemann ’09, Matt McLarney ’08 and Jeremy Brown ’08 as its rowers while George Bennum ’09 in the coxswain.

    Coach Carney feels he might have five boats racing this spring with 48 men currently on his roster. He attributes an increase in high school rowing, especially among public schools, for the improved talent pool.

    “We have 30 guys on the squad this year who rowed in high school. That’s outstanding.”

    Wesleyan’s first spring rowing will take place in Deland, Fla. where the team travels during spring break for training. After that, the team will have five straight Saturday’s of dual-race rowing leading into the New Englands and ECAC Collegiate Championships in May.
     

  • By Brian Katten, Sports Information Director. Photo by Steve Cook P’10.

    Inauguration Events Key Part of Homecoming/ Family Weekend


    Janice Astor del Valle, left, director of the Green Street Arts Center, listens to Sonia BasSheva Manjon, director of the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, speak on “Building Bridges between University and Community” during a Inauguration  Event Nov. 2 in Memorial Chapel. Manjon and del Valle each spoke on how their arts center has helped their local communities.
    Posted 11/05/07
    One of Michael Roth’s predominant themes during his inauguration, as well as his professional life, has been “Liberal Education and Public Life.” This theme was reflected in several special Inaugural Evenst during Homecoming/Family Weekend.

    The presentations began before the inauguration ceremony itself with a WESeminar titled “Building Bridges Between University and Community” which was held on Friday morning. The presentation brought together Sonia BasSheva Manjon, executive director of the Center for Art and Public Life at Roth’s former institution, the California College for the Arts, in Oakland and San Francisco, Calif., and Janis Astor del Valle, director of the Green Street Arts Center in Middletown.

    The presentation detailed how both organizations provide a unique mix of art and arts programming for the community and a high level of public service, which has been quite successful in both cases. More of a challenge has been teaching students, faculty and others about the value and need of art in society, and how to combine these needs with arts and service education. Both presenters were frank in their comments, indicating that this is not an easy task at any level.

    An inauguration-linked benefit reception and dinner was also held for the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC) Nov. 3 featuring cabaret signer Andrea Marcovicci. A veteran of the Broadway stage, Marcovicci continues to tour her numerous, critically-acclaimed cabaret shows, including “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Love Songs of WWWII,” and “Marcovicci sings Rodgers and Hart.” The event raised more than $43,000 for GSAC scholarships.

    Also Nov. 3, a WESeminar titled “Thoughts on the History of Lesbian/Gay/Queer Activism at Wesleyan University” was presented by Henry Ablelove, Wilbur Fisk Osbourne Professor of English Literature. Ablelove was a mentor of Roth’s during and after his Wesleyan undergraduate years, spoke of lesbian/gay/queer activism on Wesleyan’s campus from the 80s until today, discussing benefits, consequences and unintended outcomes.

    On Nov. 4, the final inauguration event, “Stories and Lessons from the Climate Wars, and featured Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics. Yohe is also a senior member and lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was a co-recipient if the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Yohe spoke about his experiences on the committee, some of the battles they fight with each other, and the newsmedia, over the veracity of certain climate change data, papers and scientific reports. He also detailed some of the difficulties inherent in a committee that comprises almost 2,000 scientists and represents more than 130 national governments.
     

    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo by Olivia Drake.

    Wesleyan Replaces Loans with Grants for Neediest Students


    Posted 11/05/07
    Wesleyan University will eliminate loans for its neediest undergraduates and replace these with additional grants, President Michael S. Roth has announced. The policy will be part of a new initiative to reduce overall student indebtedness by 35 percent to make Wesleyan even more accessible to students regardless of their financial capacity.

    “Access to a Wesleyan education for students from all backgrounds has long been one of the core values of this community,” Roth says. “It remains one of our highest priorities. As I begin my presidency, I see this new effort as a down payment on our goal to endow financial aid and need-blind admission more fully in the next campaign.” Roth was formally inaugurated as Wesleyan’s 16th president at ceremonies on campus on Nov. 2.

    Beginning with the first-year class enrolling in the fall of 2008, most students whose total family incomes are $40,000 per year or less will receive an aid package that substitutes grants for any loan obligation. Beginning with the same class, all other students who receive aid will graduate with a four-year total loan indebtedness reduced by an average of 35 percent. Aid packages will include a single student loan, the federally subsidized Stafford Loan. The interest rates for Stafford Loans are among the lowest available.

    Wesleyan will raise endowment sufficient to fund the $3.2 million annual cost of this initiative. In fact, preliminary conversations with Wesleyan donors about the goal of reducing student indebtedness already have yielded over $10 million in new commitments to student aid, Roth reported.

    Wesleyan admits students without regard to their financial circumstances and then provides a financial aid package that meets each student’s full demonstrated need. Forty percent of its 2,900 students currently receive grant aid. The average grant is $27,151. Wesleyan currently budgets $35.4 million of its own resources annually for grant aid for undergraduates. Federal and state sources contribute an additional $2.7 million.

    Since the 1960s, Wesleyan has aggressively pursued diversity in the form of affirmative action and need-blind admissions.

    Thirteen percent of Wesleyan students currently receive Pell grants; the federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to postsecondary education.

    Wesleyan also is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Upward Bound program. Upward Bound is an educational opportunity outreach program supported through federal TRIO funding, as well as through grants from Connecticut Department of Education and the boards of education of the Middletown, Meriden and Portland schools; it provides fundamental support to low-income students in their preparation for college. Wesleyan recently received a TRIO grant to establish a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program focused on students in the sciences; the McNair program prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds and who have demonstrated high academic potential for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.
     

    By Justin Harmon, vice president of Public Affairs

    Students Promote Campus-Wide Religious Pluralism


    Nadeem Modan ‘10 and Adina Teibloom ‘10 attended interactive workshops, panel conversations with leading think tanks and foundations at the Interfaith Youth Conference Oct. 28-30 in Chicago, Ill. They are sharing what they have learned with their Wesleyan peers.
    Posted 11/05/07
    Two Wesleyan sophomores met with renowned religious scholars, interfaith activists and peers from around the world recently to promote peaceful relations between different religious groups.

    Nadeem Modan ‘10, who is Muslim, and Adina Teibloom ‘10, who is Jewish, attended interactive workshops, panel conversations with leading think tanks and foundations, and an interfaith concert at the Interfaith Youth Conference Oct. 28-30 in Chicago, Ill. This year’s conference was titled “Crossing the Faith Line.”

    Modan, an active member of Wesleyan’s Interfaith Justice League and the Advisory Committee for Spiritual and Religious Life, attended the conference to discover methods to encourage further religious pluralism at Wesleyan. He’s also striving to develop a Middle Eastern Studies Program at Wesleyan, where is planning to major in pre-med and religion.

    “Many of us grapple with the same problems: How do we create a safe space in which people feel comfortable enough to share their beliefs? How do we guide a discussion in which authenticity is not lost while trying to maintain community? And how do we deal with the elephant in the corner that is the Middle East?,” Modan says. “By attending this conference, I was able to get answers to these questions, all of which will help in working towards religious pluralism on campus and beyond.”

    Modan says Wesleyan, which prides itself on its diverse student body, often excludes religion as a form of diversity.

    “’Unless you’re like me, unless you believe this, unless you don’t believe that, you are wrong.’ This attitude is still very prevalent at Wesleyan, and it is espoused not only by those who identify as religious, but arguably even more so by those who don’t,” Modan says.

    At the conference, Modan and Teibloom had the opportunity to participate in dozens of workshops, led by spiritual leaders from around the country. Topics included Youth as Leaders in the Interfaith Movement; the Relevance of Religion in 21st Century Curriculum; Faith, Democracy, Jazz: The Applications of Universal Language Skills; Baha’i Faith; Enhancing U.S. – Muslim Relations on Campus; Evangelical Christianity; Creating Interfaith Dialogue on College Campuses; Deepening Interfaith Service Learning Through the Arts; Addressing the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Interfaith Dialogue; Fostering Mentoring Communities Through Interfaith Service Learning; among many other topics.

    This was Teibloom’s second year attending the interfaith conference. She has worked with the organization for five years, and was invited to facilitating a brainstorming session about how to be an effective interfaith leader on campus. She also wrote a pamphlet about the Days of Interfaith Youth Service, which was widely distributed.

    Teibloom, who is planning to major in religion, hopes to begin a summer program for students in high school and college to experience religious diversity and work together toward common action. She wants to pilot the program at Wesleyan.

    “Our campus lends itself to interfaith work because it is an accepting environment to begin with,” Teibloom says. “I hope that an interfaith culture can be started on this campus and become a tradition that will continue even after I have graduated. If we can come to understand each other across difference perhaps we can begin to consider ending these conflicts with fair, peaceful solutions.”

    Modan and Teibloom attended several talks by featured speakers such as Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core; Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, chair and scholar-in-residence at the Nawawi Foundation; Sally Mahe, director of Organizational Development for the United Religions Initiative; Ji Hyang Sunim, Buddhist advisor at Wellesley College; Eliyahu McLean, director of Jerusalem Peacemakers; Sally Quinn, editor of the Washington Post; among others.

    Participants also attended a networking dinner, interfaith concert, a screening of “Encounter Point,” featuring a Q&A with director Ronit Avni of Just Vision; and the 2007 Days of Interfaith Youth Service Awards Banquet.

    “I see religious pluralism as a way of life,” Teibloom says. “It’s a place where everyone is constantly striving to understand and empathize with people of all different moral and religious traditions. For me, pluralism is more than the existence of diversity but the dedication to encounter it with openness and acceptance at every moment.”
     

    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

    Student Singer-Songwriter on Ballot for 3 Grammy Awards


    Skye LoGuidice ’09 is on the ballot for three Grammy awards. She write songs on life, tackling love, life and loss.
    Posted 11/05/07
    Skye LoGuidice ’09 is working toward graduating with a degree from the College of Letters, but first she may receive a Grammy Award – or two, or even three.

    LoGuidice, who musically goes by Skye Claire, is listed on the 50th Annual Grammy Awards official ballot in three categories. The singer-songwriter was chosen among thousands of artists and bands nation-wide.

    “I haven’t told that many people yet, because I don’t know how to react to this, or how to bring it into a conversation,” says LoGuidice, who learned of her ballot placement Oct. 30. “It’s hard to just say to someone, ‘I am on the Grammy ballot.’ I’m still spending a lot of time in my room just freaking out.”

    Skye Claire is on the ballot in Category 1: Record of the Year with her song, “Hope It Helps;” Category 5: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Hope it Helps;” and Category 11: Best Pop Vocal Album for her seven-track 2006 EP Good Boys Don’t.

    She writes her songs based on actual events that have occurred in her life, tackling love, life and loss. She sets her vocals to guitar in rock-infused pop.

    “A lot of that album is about a guy I broke up with my freshman year at Wes,” LoGuidice says. “And my most recent songs are about my new boyfriend. He’s a student here, too.”

    Members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will vote for their favorites on Nov. 7, and the top five in each category will be announced Dec. 6. Nominees will have the opportunity to attend the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles Feb. 10, 2008.

    LoGuidice is well aware of her steep competition. In the Record of the Year category, she’s up against Smashing Pumpkins, Bob Seger, George Strait and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. Among those with her on the ballot for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance are Nelly Furtado, Christina Aguilera and Norah Jones. In the Best Pop Vocal Album, she’s up against 263 others, including Carly Simon and KT Tunstall. Still she hopes she will make the cut to be a finalist.

    “That would be a fairytale ending,” LoGuidice says. “I could go to the Grammys and be among all those celebrities, and actually get to say, ‘Hi Avril (Lavigne)!’”

    Louise Brown, associate dean of the college and dean for the Class of 2009, was thrilled to learn about her student’s success.

    “I’ve heard her CD and she definitely rocks,” Brown says. “The nominations, even at this early stage, give her a greater visibility and a new and bigger audience than she’s had, so it’s all good. What a fabulous opportunity and recognition of her work this is.”

    “Skye Claire” rarely meshes her musical career with her academic life. The Manhattan, N.Y.-raised performer prefers to keep her music in New York and her studies in Middletown. Although her ideal goal would to become a famous singer-songwriter, she’s also planning to pursue a law degree after graduating from Wesleyan.

    “I guess I lead a double life,” she says, smiling. “Here, I just like to concentrate on my school work and friends. I don’t want to have to think about performing too much when I’m on campus, so it’s better than I just keep them separate.”

    Skye started writing music at 13, and recorded her first demo album at 16. At 19, she recorded her second CD and produced and arranged all but two songs. Now, at 20, she’s a self-taught guitarist, singer and group leader of a four-member band. Her proud parents and independent music promotion firm Big Noise help market the rising pop-star.

    More information about Skye can be found online at http://www.skyeclaire.com/.
     

    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor