Arts & Culture

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

Sarah Ashkin: I find the Wesleyan alumni network continues to be one of the most creative, boundary-pushing, careful, and intelligent communities, and I am so grateful to be a part of it. Brittany and I have been working together closely since we were undergraduates when we were both members of Professor Alejandro’s dance company Pedro Alejandro Dance and Dancers. The Wesleyan Dance Department offered us a remarkable toolkit for dance-making, which prioritizes improvisational forms, critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking.

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Art by 4 Alumni Featured in Popular Michael Jackson Exhibit

Artistic creations by four Wesleyan alumni are displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s landmark exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall.

The contemporary art exhibition, which closes on Oct. 21, explores the influence of pop-music icon Michael Jackson and spans several generations of artists across all media. The exhibition opened to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, on Aug. 29, 2018.

The exhibit occupies 14 rooms and includes the works of Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, Michael Gittes ’10, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88. The Wesleyan alumni are among 48 artists who have their work displayed, including Andy Warhol,  KAWS, Candice Breitz, David LaChapelle, Kehinde Wiley, and Mark Ryden.

Although the majority of the pieces are drawn from public and private collections around the world, some works were made especially for the exhibition, including an experimental video by American studies major Gittes. Gittes was honored by 43 Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends in London on July 3.

Horowitz, who majored in philosophy at Wesleyan, also contributed a video to On the Wall. In 1997, Horowitz created “The Body Song,” which is a video reverse of Jackson’s “The Earth Song” music video. In the original video, disaster occurs and is undone through Michael’s healing rage. In “The Body Song,” disaster occurs and is undone through the repression of Michael’s rage.

Ligon ’82, an art major, contributed his ink drawing of “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old.”

And Harris, an art studio major, recreated a 2017 cover of Ebony magazine on an African funerary fabric, a year after the King of Pop’s death.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Glenn Ligon ’82 created “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old,” using ink and graphite on paper in 2005.

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 recreated the cover of Ebony using acrylic on kente cloth in 2009.

De Visé ’89 on the Tour de France, Greg LeMond, and Heroes

In The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France (Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2018), journalist Daniel De Visé ’89 has written “a sprint through a big swatch of cycling history, focusing on racer Greg LeMond’s triumphant return from disaster,” according to Kirkus Review. In this Q&A below, he traces his path from a childhood love of the sport to Wesleyan, and through the journey of this book. Read an excerpt from his book online.

Q:  Tell us about your time at Wesleyan. What was your major?

A:  It was as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I had grown up in Chicago, in the city, and when I arrived on that picture-postcard campus, it felt like some kind of academic Disneyland. I lived in West College, where, on certain occasions, an entire dormitory room would be assembled upside-down on a basement ceiling. I lived on the same first-year hall as Stephen Trask ’89, cocreator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and This Ain’t No Disco. Another friend and I created a ’60s show for WESU. I majored in philosophy, but I took so many classes in history and religion that I almost ended up short of actual philosophy credits. I met my enchanting future wife, Sophie Yarborough ’88, in a history classroom. I took an extra course here and there and finished in three years (very much in the spirit of President Roth’s degree-in-three program). I used the extra cash to pay for journalism school at Northwestern.

Q:  You’ve written several biographies. What sparked your interest in the genre—and what are your favorites (authors or actual titles)?

A:  I’ve written or cowritten three books, and all have extensive biographical content, but none is pure biography. The first, I Forgot to Remember (Simon & Schuster, 2014), was the memoir of an amnesiac I’d profiled in the Washington Post as a reporter. The second, Andy & Don (Simon & Schuster, 2015), was a dual biography, chronicling the lifelong friendship of actors Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I wrote that really for Don, who was my brother-in-law. The Comeback is more a work of narrative nonfiction, similar in structure to The Boys in the Boat or Seabiscuit—both personal favorites. It chronicles the rise of Greg LeMond, an American outsider, to the top of the European cycling sport; his near-death, in 1987, in a hunting accident; his incredible return to the top of cycling and victory in the greatest Tour de France ever staged, in 1989; and, lastly, his epic feud with Lance Armstrong, whom LeMond accused of doping, a battle that ended with LeMond’s vindication a few years ago. The book encompasses the first comprehensive biography of LeMond, and also a somewhat shorter bio of Laurent Fignon, the Frenchman whom LeMond defeated in ’89. The narrative lingers for several chapters on the spellbinding ’89 Tour.

Excerpt: De Visé ’89’s The Comeback: Greg LeMond, The True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

As the Tour de France continues, we hope you enjoy this excerpt from the book by Daniel De Visé ’89, which chronicles Greg LeMond’s 1989 victory. Kirkus Review writes, “It’s a pleasure to ride in the peloton alongside LeMond, who emerges from this account as America’s once-and-future cycling great.” Also see our exclusive Q&A with the author.

Alumni Gather in London for Artists Reception, Honoring Gittes ’10

Artist Michael Gittes ’10, at right, speaks to fellow alumni and guests about his recent work during a gathering in London.

Forty-three Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends gathered in London on July 3 for a reception featuring artist Michael Gittes ’10.

Gittes, an American studies major, discussed his work, which is being displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall. For the exhibit, Gittes created an experimental video.

In addition, alumni Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 also have works exhibited in the gallery.

Ulysse Commissioned to Create Work for British Museum

Gina Athena Ulysse.(Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

Gina Athena Ulysse. (Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

In response to an exhibit focusing on the Haitian Revolution of 1791, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, presented a commissioned work on March 16 at the British Museum.

The exhibit, titled “A revolutionary legacy: Haiti and Toussaint Louverture,” featured a selection of objects, artworks, and poetry from the 18th century to the present. Objects explored the legacy of the Haitian Revolution and its leader Toussaint Louverture. Louverture was one of the leading figures in the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1791 as an uprising of enslaved men and women in what was then a French sugar colony. It culminated with the outlawing of slavery there and the establishment of the Republic of Haiti.

Ulysse, a Haitian-born artist-anthropologist, presented a multivocal remix of words (archival and oral history, poetry, personal narrative) titled “Remixed ode to rebel’s spirit: lyrical meditations on Haiti and Toussaint Louverture.” Her response is online here.

Ulysse’s audio accompaniment also includes a contemporary juxtaposition of Vodou chant with words of anti-imperial protest. While the U.S. occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, a religion practiced by people in the African diaspora was suppressed. During the Haitian Revolution of 1791, Vodou helped unite communities and helped enslaved people to organize themselves against injustice.

Guralnick ’83 Explores the Art of Order in Remodelista: The Organized Home

Margot Guralnick ’83 (Photo by Laure Joliet)

In this Q&A, Margot Guralnick ’83, coauthor of Remodelista: The Organized Home, speaks about her new book. The website, The Organized Home, features daily tips and ideas on discovering the art of order.

Q: The current organizing philosophies are all about order over beauty. You believe order doesn’t have to be artless. Tell us about how you developed your philosophy.

A: This idea is part of the core philosophy at Remodelista. We’re a 10-year-old website that Julie Carlson, my coauthor, founded to demystify the home design process and celebrate pared-back living. So we, of course, took an interest in Marie Kondo and the whole decluttering movement. Noting that the focus was on clearing out with no mention of how to live well, we felt compelled to join the dialogue.

Q: Were you a collector as a child?

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,

Hari Krishnan performs in “16 Shades of Red.”

“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.

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 will be a Pillow Scholar-in-Residence June 20–24 at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass. On June 22, he will debut 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.

Krishnan will offer a talkback following the performance.