Latest Publications

A New CRC Monograph – Strategies to Manage Censorship Issues and Controversies in Museums – by Kyle San Giovanni

September 9, 2013

Dear Neil:

I am pleased that you are publishing my MA thesis on the Creative Research Center website.   I came to this topic through discussions with you a few semesters ago.  After researching several other topics, I wrote on managing controversies and censorship issues because I think that discussions about artistic freedom must continue to be at the forefront of museum managers’ concerns.

With this study, I identify the elements that go into successfully managing censorship issues when mounting museum exhibitions that may be considered controversial.   I create a proactive, business management approach modeled after “plan, do, check and act”.  I hope to ensure that any museum organization can better anticipate and successfully navigate issues that may arise when planning and presenting exhibitions. The problem is of interest to the museum industry because they are likely to struggle with the issue of censorship at one time or another, whether they are prepared to or not. Therefore, museums need a positive, proactive way to stand up for their actions and communicate with their public.

I find that while controversy can occur in any museum throughout the country, even in sophisticated cultural centers, organizations continue to have a hard time controlling the fallout. This can make it difficult and disruptive to maintain the relevance of the show, without exerting great effort to defend their decisions against dissenting opinion. There are legitimate reasons for deciding to present challenging, even difficult subject matter. Such actions expand the boundaries of art and culture, while engaging the public. For better or for worse, challenging exhibits have a way of complicating the operational process. However, the extra work brought about by producing demanding exhibits may be a windfall for an organization, if managed deftly. Enticing and demanding subject matter may create interest, thereby helping to enhance or sustain interest in museums. It is no secret that tantalizing shows attract visitors. Regardless of how the exhibition is produced or why scrutiny is brought to bear on a given museum, the organization needs to be in a position to take advantage of the situation.

While the difficulty in sustaining any museum is rooted in a healthy economy, contemporary art has become more sociologically and politically based during the last several decades. In order to best engage the public, the museum industry must continually look at itself critically. Understanding demographic and changing tastes are a few of the ways museums have changed for the better. In order for museums to move forward and continue growing stronger, they must reinvent themselves for new generations by incorporating contemporary subject matter and new perspectives into their exhibitions. This keeps shows fresh and young audiences attending. By addressing challenging socio-cultural issues, museums have captured the attention, imagination, and identity of the country and individuals. Connecting with the audience will enable longevity.

Enticing exhibitions, challenging subject matter, and great works define museums. Visionaries, solid leadership, and hard work will get an organization to where it needs to be. However, managing the museum of the future comes down to accountability to the public. Understanding the public’s desires and giving them what they want, sprinkled with what they need to know, will do more to solidify a museum’s place in the mind of its patrons than anything else it might do. Museums remain a substantial draw to visitors and residents alike. Devising a plan to include the public and other organizations before a controversy erupts will go a long way toward sustaining a museum’s place in the community.

My motivation for researching censorship controversies in art museums is to allow me to delve more deeply into the juxtaposition between art and culture, and the practice of organizational leadership. Through my research, I identify a need for a more proactive and innovative approach to managing controversies that arise from mounting challenging museum exhibits. This approach requires understanding, not arrogance, and the courage to refrain from bending to any political pressure that may arise. I hope this approach is valued by the museum industry as a way to manage such issues.

You asked me include some background about myself.

I have been a professional in Environmental Management and Public Health for more than two decades.  My vocation has seen its fare share of controversy through the years, from vaccine safety to global warming, so I am no stranger to the subject. Some early controversies I confronted came from being overtly philosophical and from my curiosity with the scientific theory of evolution. Additionally, I experienced “censorship” at an early age, in a variety of situations. My scientific curiosity, especially regarding prehistoric times, was met with disdain in my early school years. My interest in the sciences stems back to my childhood, but my passion has always been the arts.  Yet even the art topics I explored, which were typically of a darker nature than was expected from someone of my age, came under attack by school teaches, peers and even family members. Along the way, I developed a fondness and curiosity for all art forms, from literature, to performance and visual arts, especially for those that “push the envelope”.

Over the last decade and a half, I have performed extensively and increased my involvement with various arts organizations from the production side. I have worked with many performance groups throughout New Jersey, in addition to founding and operating my own theater troupe and music ensemble. Over the years, I have functioned as director, producer, writer, treasurer, fundraiser and board member. This work has amplified my interest in my thesis topic. Presently, my years of experience and education have culminated in my completing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Management. My educational background, personal interests and work experiences make me distinctly capable to undertake controversial subject matter involving museums.

To read my thesis, Strategies to Manage Censorship Issues and Controversies in Museums, click here.

Kyle San Giovanni

Zeros and Ones vs. “The real thing” – by Neil Baldwin

At first glance, does it appear contradictory that the Director of a virtual Center should express ambivalence about its medium?

I have remarked before that the Web does not care what I think of it; the Web continues to extend its fibers exponentially; new blogs are born, flourish, diminish and die.

Every month or so, I am moved to set down my ideas in this space, consonant with the mission of The Creative Research Center, and my columns begin self-referentially. If I were just writing per se, it would be with a different voice, because there would be less of an omnipresent other out there. It’s the difference between writing on paper with the door closed, and writing with pixels with the door open.

Part of this distinction is generational: My students have no basis for comparison. To them, writing is inputting, so they are not media-conflicted, except when I ask them if they would rather forget about coming to class and merely stay in the dorm and check in with me remotely. Oh no, they protest with vehemence, we need to get out of our rooms — and be with other people.

This glaring midpoint of the summer –  the farther shore of spring classes receded out of sight behind me, the fall semester promontory still beyond range – is the natural spawning-ground for idealistic ruminations.

For example: The academic culture in America today is supposed to be in turmoil, but it does not feel akin to the social unrest my generation experienced four decades ago. The current disturbance, as my headline intimates, resides rather in the constantly-shifting frame of how information and knowledge are delivered, and to whom.  A new crisis in the humanities has arrived this summer. Defined through acerbic commentary in the Wall Street Journal, and dire reports from Harvard University, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the  crisis is spurred by widespread skepticism about the value of humanities degrees “rendered [supposedly] obsolete” in a warp-speed global culture desperate for marketable technical skills.

To which I respond that as I look back upon my lifetime of immersion in the humanities and the arts — digital and analog — they have provided me with not so much an arsenal of specific facts as a mentality that continues to be more open and permeable as  I get older.  When I entered the Academy as a latecomer half a dozen years ago, I was worried that in becoming confined to a college and a specialty within the University, I would sacrifice my habitual eclectic pleasures.

Much to my relief and delight, I am more interested in what the other people around me are doing than ever before.

This past academic year was also the year I realized that my so-called course load was inaccurately expressed. I do not teach three courses in a semester; I teach sixty-five individual students. Sixty-five individual human beings.

And teaching, for that matter, is likewise a term that has outlived its usefulness. It strikes me as unadorned and one-directional. We educators in arts and humanities are going through an upheaval questioning the micromanaged viability of disciplines.

Despite my belonging to a department, I do not think of myself as teaching a subject; rather, I try to convey my hunger and enthusiasm so that students will become emotionally engaged and thereby convinced of the enduring uses of all learning. 

I remind my students that at the root of  ”the humanities” resides the spirit of inquiry that makes us human.  This spirit has weathered many crises.

“A Day in the Life” – The Research Academy for University Learning @ Montclair State University – Fourth Annual Teaching & Learning Showcase/Symposium – by Neil Baldwin

At nine a.m., at the top of the first sheet of yellow legal pad, I scrawled this note: “Think about Personal resonance — what crosses my mind during this day.”  I had once again agreed to the request of my colleagues Cigdem Talgar and Julie Dalley to serve as rapporteur for the ambitious RAUL Symposium/Showcase.  I resolved as I took my seat in the cavernous lecture hall that I could not be in more than one place at a time, that I was not going to preach to the choir, and that the best way to serve readers who were not at the multitude of events and sessions would be to try to capture the ambience and spirit of the day, rather than the particulars.

So — a ‘shout-out’ to all of the presenters with thanks for your inspiration, discipline, perseverance and devotion to the field.

I first attended Ecoliteracy and Sustainable Pedagogy because I was seeking a new voice, and had not heard of Michael Lees, a charismatic self-described specialist-practitioner-scholar in “Contemplative Religions, Buddhist Studies, Indigenous Life Ways, Ecoliteracy & Sustainable Education” whose proposal had come in over the transom. The new voice was certainly present in the rhythmic, hypnotic and young/timeless Oglala Lakota song he sang to start, accompanying himself on a hand-drum. It was a song, Michael said, “sending out a voice…calling out to the different nations…[declaring that] I am here as a human being…saying what it means to be a human being on this planet…”

I alighted upon the irony that while native peoples base their entire world view on that very fact — that the world must be seen in one view – here we were at a big University struggling with how to integrate “interdisciplinarity” into an educational system parceled into multiple divisions.

The second song Michael sang was, he told us, about the necessity to “pause and look up at the sky and remember the bigger picture…What does it mean for me to engage with the world?”  As educators, we must ask ourselves this question daily as we stand in front of the classroom: just what it means to take on the responsibility to engage with such a diverse, demanding range of young people. What do we hope and dream for them, and for ourselves, at the other side of the semester?

Michael’s third song was from the Apache tradition, another hypnotic circling around the eternal truth of a holistic universe and the imperative to remind ourselves that each and every thing in nature is connected to each and every other thing. Synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Our speaker declared that today’s students suffer from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” The remark was greeted with knowing laughter.

Michael kindly sent The Creative Research Center some useful links to a selection of the diverse subjects covered in his talk: EcoliteracyEcologyEarth CharterGlobal Nomads GroupRed Hawk Native American Arts CouncilThe Journal of Sustainability EducationEcophilosophy & Deep Ecology, Peace Education, and Educational Psychology Interactive.

The session that followed exemplified what was to become a day of juxtapositions making bizarre sense in the context of the myriad of problems (“challenges,” to use the current euphemism) facing higher education in America. The conference planners deserve kudos for constructing such a diverse assemblage. Felice Frankel from the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at MIT was skyped in so that she could talk us through Virtual Strategies for Research Presentations, her display of digital Nikon lens science photography, framed and designed and lit and focused to “command attention” first and foremost, as the prerequisite for putting any pedagogical message across. The minutiae of nature – and even smaller essences – were atttended to and glorified. It did not matter if at first one did not know what a “hydrophobic surface” was.  ”I need to show the morphology of a thing,” Frankel said. “I do not want my viewer to be distracted by technique.”

Her oft-repeated disclaimer was “I am not an artist.” Her introductory explanations to awe-inspiring and seemingly-impossible images were prefaced by the words, “All I did was…” or “It was very simple to…” or “you don’t need expensive equipment to do this.”  I wrote on my pad, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The supersonic switch from Apache organic nature songs in the oral tradition over to high-tech electron microscopy of neural fibers in technicolor had the desired effect – on me anyway: intellectual vertigo, and the realization that the world of specialized knowledge cannot be the province of the few.

The keynote speaker, introduced eloquently by Cigdem Talgar and by MSU Provost Willard Gingerich, was Susan Ambrose, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, and Professor of Education, Northeastern University, and co-author of the best-selling book How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2010), widely praised for integrating fundamental research in the cognitive sciences to practical application in the classroom. An energetic woman constantly in motion and proudly microphone-less, Dr. Ambrose led the appreciative crowd through a brisk graphic succession of  principles aimed at making the classroom into an environment in which students will engage and learn. “However, to do this,” she told us, “the teacher must understand what the students bring into the room in the first place…We must understand students as complex beings,” she said. “They are the novices and we are the experts; and one of the pitfalls of expertise is the dangerous assumption that the students understand what we are saying.”

Reflecting upon her words now, I realize how deceptively-simple Dr. Ambrose’s talk was at the time of its iteration, as opposed to how complex and profound in retrospect.  [Hmmm...another cognitive exercise..."emotion recollected in tranquillity?"]  Sitting in the sanctuary of my study at home on a Saturday morning surrounded by dozens of papers waiting to be graded, I do not conceptualize my current “course load” as three classes or nine credit-hours. No – I think of my course-load this semester as sixty-five students.  The other day I actually said this to one of my classes, and there was a palpable murmur of agreement. These are individuals. Each person possesses his and her story within, and each discrete story must be coped with from moment to moment in the context of an entire room of people gathered, arbitrarily, twice a week for one hour and fifteen minutes each time —  with the (ostensible) purpose of “covering” a syllabus in a given term. [Now that is the proper example of a true challenge!]  Dr. Ambrose’s talk touched me at this  pragmatic and affective level;  judging from the rapt expressions on the faces of the attendees as I looked around the dining room I was not the only one to feel this way.

Dr. Ambrose’s rousing conclusion only made me resolve more — even now, when there are only two days left of classes! — to improve my technique, to seek, as she called it, “progressive refinement,” and to recognize that no matter how many years we have been at this job, “it’s never good enough.”

Onward — to another juxtaposition in this RAUL day of epistemological contrasts that served to reinforce each other in amazing ways. We were privileged to have a scholarly visitor from The University of Cyprus, Prof. Zacharias C. Zacharia, take us through Examining the Learning Experiences of Students in Physical versus Virtual Laboratory Experimentation. Within five minutes, after having witnessed an experiment in electrical circuitry take place before my eyes onscreen, complete with battery, wiring, voltage flow, and the ‘eureka’ illumination of a virtual lightbulb, I found myself questioning the “versus” in Dr. Zacharia’s title.

Rather, I thought, “why not?!” — everything else is going virtual — why not the lab? Our speaker’s rather transparent dialectic to help power his argument only served to align the virtual lab with the foregone conclusion that we are in the midst of a universal tsunami/migration of all analog things. Last night I was reading the current issue of The New York Observer and there was a fascinatingly apt article in the Arts section on the increasing use of Instagram as a vehicle through which to sell art work in the secondary market. Dealers are mocking this “crass” vehicle with one hand and espousing it with the other.

Dr. Zacharia’s metaphors were in the end redemptive. We desire what he called “active touch” in the laboratory as a place where, at least until recently, “physical manipulation is preferred,” and where virtual practice has, again, at least until recently, been stigmatized as “surrogate.” Likewise over on my side of the quad: I was recently criticized for proposing that the weighty, $95+ textbook that had been the standard tome for one of our introductory survey classes for over a decade be ditched in favor of a series of Web sites I had carefully curated and researched which, in depth and exhaustive detail, could step in at no cost and offer much freer navigation and variety to student and instructor alike.

Scientists tell us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; current practice in all fields tells me that for every “way we’ve always done it” there is an equal and, what’s more, possibly richer way awaiting us in the digital realm.  MOOCs as the panacea for our educational system are the one gargantuan exception right now, for me — but that is the subject of another essay.

The digital realm does not care whether I want to integrate it into my life as a teacher or not.  It already lives there.

Finally —  to the undoubtedly crowning event [is that the right word for it?] which cannot be properly described, and therefore in aid of which I am thrilled to provide these fertile, explicatory and highly-entertaining links. I just checked my email, and it is amazing but true that my first contact with artist Anuj Vaidya was on February 21, 2013, shortly after he arrived on the Montclair State University campus to begin his artist-in-residency opus, Hand Spun Tales: At the Crossroads of Sustainability in Art and Science.  (I had known and worked closely with Anuj’s brother, Prof. Ashwin Vaidya, for several years as a colleague and collaborator with the CRC.)

This is how Anuj introduced himself:

          I am trying to find students to collaborate with me on a project which will culminate in a multi-media performance on campus at the end of April/early May. Julie Dalley of RAUL suggested that I speak to you as you might be able to offer advice on how to recruit students for this project, and also because the themes that we are exploring would be of interest to you personally and to the CRC. The project is an exploration of sustainable practices in the arts and is a collaboration with the science department. I am working towards a multimedia performance piece to be performed/exhibited on campus around the theme of ‘ecology in mythology’. More specifically, the piece will be a conversation between Sita, Loowit and Gaia – three embodiments of the earth from different mythological traditions (South Asian, Native American and Greek respectively). 
          In keeping with the ecological theme, the project will be created and exhibited without the use of any electricity – instead, all parts of the project will be human powered: hand-crank mechanisms will power our video and audio recording devices, and bicycles will power the monitors that we screen the films on (both developed by Prof. Ashwin Vaidya and his students in the Physics Department); the background score and text will be performed live by musicians and performers.  I would love to have a conversation with you about how to recruit/whom to recruit, in terms of performers, to be part of this project.
A couple of weeks passed, during which Anuj and I remained in contact, and I received this provocative and interesting addendum from him which he had forwarded to the University community:
          The project as it is unfurling addresses my current concerns around sustainability in my own artistic production – both in terms of the personal and the ecological – and how much I consume in the production of my films. There are some who have argued that artists are already on the margins as a social group, and therefore do not need to consider this; while others have argued that art is a noble calling and a work of art determines its own limits of production – that any amount of resources are justified in bringing to life an artistic vision. As I inch towards a production of means, especially through this project, a questions arise that perhaps you can help me answer: Should artists be concerned with the carbon footprint of their practice?
I soon received this additional request to actually participate in one of Anuj’s avant-garde film works, to which I demurred, respectfully but, in retrospect, with what now seems to be inordinate fear. He wrote as follows:
           My project has taken another slightly different turn as it’s been hard working out the schedules of all the participants. So the final piece is going to be a live performance interview – a Diane Sawyer exclusive interview with Miss Piggy (BFA Theatre major Aryana Sedarati will be playing Diane Sawyer and I will be Miss Piggy) to talk about her new celebrity cause – Ecology. The performance will be peppered with video clips (made using the hand-crank cameras). Why Miss Piggy you ask? I have been interested in animal voices – or giving voice to other species through my work – and I want to approach these topics with a sense of humor (humor/satire are a big component of my work).
          The focus on the work is still ecology – but i want to take a children’s entertainment format to drive home the point that we as adults are just like children when it comes to questions of ecology – and that we have a lot to learn still about how to responsibly live on this planet – which we share with so many other species. I don’t want my work to be dogmatic – and i think humor is a great way to get folks to enter the work.
Introduced by Prof. Ashwin Vaidya and his longtime research partner, Dr. Mika Munakata, Anuj Vaidya showed us three videos drawing upon the multitude of interlocking themes described in his own words above, so pertinent to the overall theme of the Symposium — for your viewing pleasure, here they are.
[And also here.]
It was a trail unlike any of us in the lecture hall that afternoon had ever followed: From the syllabus of a physics course which began with the premise that neither the professor nor the students knew how it would end; to the construction of a generator from spare parts and a recycled and repurposed bicycle; to the “empowering” of a battery cell at the rate of six hours of pedalling for every minute of usable electricity; to the installation of that homegrown cell into a video camera; to the casting, staging, scripting, acting, directing, and hair and makeup by MSU students of three surreal, instructive and frankly unforgettable videos that must be seen to be believed.
You intrepid readers who are still with me know that the journalistic long form is still alive and well on the Web — and in that spirit and conviction, I offer thanks to The Research Academy for University Learning at Montclair State University for encouraging this kind of expansive institutional discourse and, most importantly, for taking just one day out of our encroached lives to reaffirm the enduring power of multiple platforms both analog and virtual where the pedagogical imagination will live long and prosper.

 

 

 

Noteworthy Eclectic Selections from This Month’s Virtual Mailbag – by Neil Baldwin

“Digital platforms are worthless without content. They’re shiny sacks with bells and whistles, but without content, they’re empty sacks. It is not about pixels versus print. It is not about how you’re reading. It is about what you’re reading.”  – Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, March 10, 2013.

 

March 2013

[I am coming around to believe that it is a curatorial syndrome of running a virtual Center -- as time passes, more and more items of interest move to the forefront of my thinking. And you...? -- NB]

Claremont Graduate University presents The STEAM Journal ["on the intersection of STEM and Art"]

Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort introduce Platform Studies, an important and timely initiative from MIT Press.

The New Media Coalition 2013 Horizon Project Summit Communique on The Future of Education.

Kenneth M. Price and Ray Siemens, editors, present Literary Studies in the Digital Age, the first born-digital open-access anthology to appear on MLA Commons.

Mark Eisen in the University of Wisconsin Isthmus on A new campus to lead a new world [the mission of David Krakauer and his Wisconsin Institute for Discovery]

Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle of Higher Education on New Ideas in Scholarly Publishing: Look to the Library.

Ellen Garvey on Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance.

The Cultural Studies Association Annual Meeting: Beyond Disciplinarity – Interventions in Cultural Studies and the Arts.

David Brooks on What Data Can’t Do.

The CUNY Graduate Center on The Future of Longform.

The Indigenous and American Storytellers Conference in Commemoration of The 400th Anniversary of the Guswentha “Two Row” Wampum Belt.

Will Miller of The Wallace Foundation on their New Website, strongnonprofits.org.

Titus Kaphar on The Vesper Project: Remnants of a Fractured Family.

Sven Birkerts on The Pump You Pump the Water From

Ada Louise Huxtable [her final published article] on The New York Public Library’s New Development Plan.

Timothy van Laar and Leonard Diepeveen on Artworld Prestige: Arguing Cultural Value

 

 

 

Curating performing arts/Montreal, revitalizing American Studies/Newark, improving quality of life in South Africa/Stellenbosch – by Neil Baldwin

[One of the many benefits of running a virtual interdisciplinary Center like the CRC is the 'news and views' we receive from our diverse listserv friends around the nation and the world. This month, we chose just three recent notices to bring to the wider attention of our readership.  We were impressed by the intensity of mission, ambition of subject-matter, and breadth of constituencies. Click on the links below -- and let us know what you think. creative@mail.montclair.edu]

Envisioning the Practice: Montreal International Symposium on Curating the Performing Arts, April 2014.

ACAQ [Montreal Association of Arts Curators] is organizing its first symposium, Envisioning the Practice: Montréal International Symposium on Curating the Performing Arts, April 10-13, 2014.

The symposium will be hosted by the PHI Centre and the Faculté des arts of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Montreal (Canada).

Envisioning the Practice strives to create further parameters and grounds on which to foster theories and critical thinking about the practice of curating the performing arts through the presentation, discussion and publication of academic papers on related topics.

This symposium brings together proponents of recent critical and practice-based discourses on curating the performing arts (dance/movement, émergent practices, interdisciplinary forms, media arts, music/sound, theater/text-based) in order to enrich, structure and theorize the practice of curating in the field, with an interest in best practices.

Over the last 40 years, there have been numerous events, publications and graduate university programs dedicated to examining the role and deepening the knowledge base of professional curators in the visual arts. However, curators of the performing arts – who variously call themselves presenters, programmers, artistic directors, producers, diffuseurs,cultural agents and more — have been missing from these developments. In recent years there has been considerable momentum generating through formal and informal conversations on the subject of curating in the performing arts, aiming to flesh out issues about the practice. A first collection of texts, for instance,“Curating Performing Arts” was edited and published in 2010 by Frakcija Performing Arts Journal #55 in Croatia. Two exploratory meetings of artists and arts presenters were organized in North America and Europe:  “The Culture of Curation in Toronto, Canada in 2010 by the Canadian Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and “Beyond Curating: strategies of knowledge transfer in dance, performance and visual arts” held in Essen, Germany in 2011 by Tanzplan Essen.

As well as these specific conferences and publication, over the years an increasing number of international performing arts marketplace events have included conferences, round tables and discussion opportunities that sometimes move towards consideration of the vocation of the performing arts presenters.  A premiere graduate programme Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) at Wesleyan University (U.S.A.) began in 2011.

Building on these previous advancements, “Envisioning the Practice: Montréal International Symposium on Curating the Performing Arts”  strives tocreate further parameters and grounds on which to foster theories about the practiceof curating the performing arts.This symposiumseeks tobringtogether recent discourses on curating the performing arts (dance/movement, music/sound, theatre/text-based, interdisciplinary, media arts and emergent practices) in order to enrich, structure and theorize possibilities of curating in the field, with an interest in “best practices”.

To identify shared critical curatorial methods among practitioners, artistsand institutions and to devise new territories for expanding the practice, the symposium will present current research and critical thinking on topics related to curating the performing arts.

Curators(institutional, independent, artist-curators, critic-curators, among others), artists, artistic directors, programmers, presenters, producers, scholars, art administrators, art historians, art critics, independent scholars and graduate students are invited to submit proposals.

For more information, go here or email Symposium Planning Committee co-chair Dena Davida: dena@tangente.qc.ca

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‘Battlegrounds’ in Newark/Challenging Modes of Oppression: The American Studies Graduate Student Conference April 2013. 

It is the province of the historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating.” – Henry David Thoreau, A Week on Concord and Merrimack Rivers

The Rutgers University American Studies Graduate Program seeks papers for its upcoming conference “Battlegrounds.” Even as “battlegrounds” implies a divisive undertaking––a material or rhetorical cleavage, or even an academic violence between fields, ideas and scholars––we encourage subverting oppositions that only serve to reify the modes of oppression they challenge. Thus, we embrace intersectionality, affect theory, post-humanism, borderlands studies, and other realms of interdisciplinary inquiry. To limit this conference and conversation to a single discipline or intellectual approach would be to undermine the very nature of “the battleground” as a multi-ocular and multi-modal space.

Interested graduate students should submit a 300-400 word abstract by January 7th, 2013 along with your name and department. Please send submissions as a PDF attachment to battlegrounds2012@gmail.com.

We will inform selected presenters by January 31st, 2013.

This conference will approach battlegrounds in the following contexts:

Cities: Post-industrial and global cities are battleground spaces. The geographic home of this conference, Newark, has long been made visible as a battleground. Both the events of 1967 and the histories of industrial pollution have marked Newark as such. The project of neoliberal urban renewal of which Newark is today a fragile example now reorganizes and sublates that history through a new securitization of the city, a total collapse of public and private logics of “development,” a deployment of superpanoptic technologies of surveillance, policing, and imprisonment, and state-sponsored gentrification.

Weather: Recent weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Colorado Wildfires, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami remind us that issues of “climate change” and “climate science” are often contextualized through the rhetoric of “battle.” What are the ramifications of couching terms like “climate” and “weather” within the discourse of “battle?” How have battles related to climate, weather, and the “ecological” been waged in physical space? How have they been made manifest in political, social, economic ideology and policy?

Digital Culture: Physical “battlegrounds” are still hallowed ground to some in our country–– commemorations are held, souvenirs are sold.  The technoscientific invitations of a digital age, however, radically reconfigure what counts as “cultural production” altogether.  How are today’s culture wars fought on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Are the Culture Wars over? Is using that term even appropriate? Or, are the Cultural Wars entering a new phase that is related to digital technology? What is to be done when divergent, battling groups see their “culture” as increasingly dominant precisely because of their choice of media? The technoscientific innovations of the digital age have seemingly calcified divergent “cultural” groups into even more oppositional categories. Groups of varying political persuasions are able to mobilize using the cultural edifices of sites such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. Yet older technologies like TV and Radio still garner frenzied listeners as well. How might “cultural production” be re-conceived so that we may at once classify the divergent groups by both their physical and electronic presence?

Gender &  Sexuality: The presidential election cycle is a reminder of the ways in which the bodies of women are made available for circulation between male subjects in a phallocentric political structure.  The “battle” over access to birth control and abortion rights is being reformed along new tactical lines as the administrative state takes an increased regulatory role in a healthcare system whose growth remains one of the largest reliable engines of the economy. At the same time, other bodies become differently a battleground: transgender youth deploy their own counter-tactics to survive schools in the shadow of the newly protected white, gay male body of the teen bullying and suicide “epidemics” of the United States.

Race: In the twilight of the first-term of a presidency in a so-called “post-racial” era the call to examine the battlegrounds constitutive of and constituted by race and racialization becomes ever more urgent.  Certain contemporary battlegrounds are explicitly marked as racialized: mass incarceration, the erosion of affirmative action, new technologies of immigration, surveillance, detention and deportation; yet, others are not: the obesity “epidemic,” the dismantling of the welfare state, and the State promotion of gay marriage.

Transnationalism, the State, & Globality: America’s hegemonic positions in flows of transnational violence, war and capital, are more complicated than ever.  Where does the threshold between a “foreign” and “domestic” conflict begin and end? At the deployment of occupying armies and bases around the world? At the racialization of sexuality through the regulation of the bodies of Black and Latina women in domestic welfare reform? At the new frontier of NGO-governance funded by the United States to replace the postcolonial state? What is the structure of American discourses of battle and struggle on the contemporary international scale?

To learn more about The Rutgers University American Studies Program, go here  or email Sara Grossman, sargross@andromeda.rutgers.edu

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A Case Study from the Global South:  ’The iShack Project’ to Improve the Quality of Life in Stellenboch, South Africa [An Ongoing Transdisciplinary Conversation.]
Enkanini is an informal settlement of about 8,000 people located in the vicinity of Stellenbosch University, South Africa.  Small shacks, water sanitation challenges, poverty, lack of electricity characterize this informal settlement as does its tight social networks, groups and religious organizations.  As part of their doctoral training in transdisciplinary research, PhD students at Stellenbosch work with colleagues across disciplines and Enkanini inhabitants in order to strengthen the local capacity to improve living conditions. The students’ task is to employ disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary inquiry approaches to meet their development goals in sustainable ways. Working in Enkanini where actors have not yet organized in rational and democratic institutions reveals the need for new approaches to local engagement, transdisciplinary knowledge construction and development work.This case study documents the Enkanini initiative. It outlines the project’s context and goals; the composition of working team and recruited forms of expertise; key moments and challenges in the project’s life as well as emerging lessons and challenges.  A concrete instance of transdisciplinary research in a developing country and a training ground for researchers employing transdisciplinary approaches, the case provides a common ground for deliberation around two questions:

Question one:  How might current conceptions of transdisciplinary research be enriched through the lessons learned from developing contexts where rational democratic practices and institutions are only emerging?

Question two What lessons can be drawn from the case to address the challenge of preparing masters and doctoral candidates to conduct research that is at once rigorous and responsible and able to address problems of our time—e.g. from poverty to climate change to the protection of universal human rights?

State of the Art : THE CONTEXT

Approximately 25% of South African urban households live in informal structures of various kinds, despite a massive house building program put in place by the South African government since 1994. In recent years, a new housing policy introduced by the government, called Breaking New Ground: A Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Sustainable Human Settlements (commonly referred to now as BNG), shifted the emphasis from building new structures in greenfield sites on the urban peripheries to the “incremental in situ upgrading” of informal settlements where they are more or less currently located. It was envisioned that this Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) would move the focus away from building housing units to addressing the need for more integrated sustainable human settlements. However, the shack dwellers in line for incremental upgrading often wait an average of no less than eight years before the electricity and water grid is installed.One such informal settlement is Enkanini, located within walking distance of the center of Stellenbosch, which is a town of nearly 200 000 people located 40 minutes by road from Cape Town. Enkanini is a growing informal settlement, currently home to about 8000 people. It is a proper illegal settlement and un-serviced, unlike most of Cape Town’s settlements that are legal informal, or legal serviced with shacks. Its location on a steep slope has made it an unlikely candidate for the upgrading programme because of the engineering difficulties involved. Any provision of services would come at a high cost, and neither the municipality nor the poverty-stricken inhabitants have any incentive to press for upgrading.As such, Enkanini presented an opportunity for a project group from the University of Stellenbosch and the Sustainability Institute to test the idea of an alternative trajectory for incremental upgrading with ecological design, in particular with energy, sanitation and waste technologies. Using an ecological design approach, the iShack project based in Stellenbosch developed an approach that provides shack dwellers with immediate solutions that can improve their lives before electricity and water grids are installed. The iShack project, the focal point of this case, is one of three related innovations in Enkanini. The other two projects addressed sanitation issues and social processes of social mobilization and institution building respectively.
For more information, and to join the conversation, click here and here and here

A view of Enkanini

     [A view of Enkanini]

Catching up with the Zeitgeist…finally! – by Neil Baldwin

The CRC has been so busy for the past six months producing our critically-acclaimed one-hour documentary on The Scientific Imagination that we have fallen behind in our annotated readings. [Not an excuse...a reality.]

So, herewith a curated selection for your interest prior to archiving into our Web-Bibliography/Living Document.

- The “buzz” on technology in the classroom, and the concomitant blurring of information with knowledge, has become significantly more noisy of late: Learning How to Learn, by Neil Baldwin, The Teaching Times in Higher Education, I.2, Spring 2012; Search Gets Lost, by Anthony Grafton, The Nation, May 29, 2012; The Trouble with Online Education, by Mark Edmundson, The New York Times, July 19, 2012; Don’t Confuse Technology with College Teaching, by Pamela Hieronymi, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2012; Future of Data: Encoded in DNA, by Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2012; In Defense of the Living, Breathing Professor, Adam F. Falk, The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2012; Back to the Future: Will distance ed be the future of higher ed? by Cynthia Eaton, AFT on Campus, September/October 2012; For Better and for Worse, Technology Use Alters Learning Styles, Teachers Say, by Matt Richtel, The New York Times, November 1, 2012;  Hey, Academic Writers, You Can Have Style and Substance, by Julie Dalley, The Teaching Times in Higher Education, III.1, Fall 2012; Face Time at the MLA Convention [launching the MLA Commons], by Rosemary G. Feal,  MLA Newsletter, Fall 2012; Highlights of the Tenth Anniversary Report, by the New Media Coalition Horizon Project, Fall 2012.

- These fascinating, timely new/forthcoming books from university presses caught our eye as pertinent to the mission of the CRC: Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness, by Jean-Luc Marion (Stanford University Press);  Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting, by Sianne Ngai (Harvard University Press); The Total Work of Art in European Modernism, by David Roberts (Cornell University Press); Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, by Tony D. Sampson (University of Minnesota Press); The Digital Condition, by Rob Wilkie (Fordham University Press); and a dynamic new journal series from Northwestern University Press: FlashPoints, IDIOM, and LitZ.

- Four new Web sites that CRC friends will definitely want to visit: The Creativity Center at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota; The Motion Bank, a new four-year project of The Forsyth Company; The Agency of Unrealized Projects; and The Journal for Artistic Research.

- A forthcoming conference at the Beinecke Library of Yale University, April 26-27, 2013, free & open to the public, registration required: Beyond the Text: Literary Archives in the 21st Century.

- A lively debate [still open for comments] about Walter Benjamin’s seminal 1936 Work of Art essay and the perennial question of “The Aura” on New Media Narratives.

- And last but definitely not least, a visionary book that has been out for a while but only just came to my attention, thankfully; imagine my surprise when I found a citation from my book, Edison: Inventing the Century, on p. 69 of Rhythm Science, by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid (MIT Press/Mediaworks, 2004).

Art’s New Media – The 50th Anniversary Issue of ARTFORUM – by Neil Baldwin

“Media resist unification. They resist ontology. They are much like art. And art, we might say, is always becoming media.”Michelle Kuo, editor, ARTFORUM, September, 2012.

This 500-page “embarrassment of riches” arrived on my doorstep three weeks ago. It has taken me until today to read it selectively and carefully and set down my admiring thoughts.   That said,  to begin by addressing Ms. Kuo,  let’s assume she means, in the above citation from her lead essay, that the various “existences” and “beings-in-the-world” of media cannot be categorized; and therefore, in that respect, media share evolutionary essences with art.

And that the two possess this shape-shifting and fluid quality and will continue to do so to the point of intermingling…?

Then the set of cultural and aesthetic references that began to assemble in the previous mid-century won’t go away, and instead the pre-digital part of me weighs in with the notion that surely art has always been manifested via different media;  the medium is the vehicle through which the artist finds expression and conveys his/her intentions…?

Or is that definition obsolete, now that we inhabit the virtual?

My question was (temporarily) answered when I flipped a few pages along and came across an advertisement for Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, an art gallery at 620 Greenwich Street.  An “enterprise,” a place in a building, but not a place by name; rather, an entrepreneurial state of being, looking to the future.

Deeper into the magazine, in one of many fascinating side-bars called Media Study, film-maker Michael Snow itemizes the disappearing media that governed his work: “35 mm, 16 mm, Super-8 and 8-mm film; 35-mm slides; quarter-inch audio tape and cassettes; LP’s; several breeds of video…” Snow responded to the MoMA’s conservators’ plea that — if they were going to collect him — they required a more permanent iteration of his legacy. His existential response? To “shoot an HD-video documentation that could be used in the future when all the slides have finally faded.”

Does anybody out there remember Jack Burnham‘s 1968 manifesto on “System Aesthetics?”  It defined art as “a disparate, sprawling, yet rule-bound system within which artists must strategically acknowledge dealers, viewers, performers, participants, buyers, fabricators, curators, programmers, institutions, infrastructures…”   Caroline A. Jones argues in her fine essay, System Symptoms, that over the past half-century the artist him/herself has likewise become a system: “systems are us.”

In Critical Condition, Hal Foster meditates on the changes in the concept of the canon that have taken place during the lifetime of ARTFORUM, and wonders whether we are better off now, at a time when the status quo is built upon shifting sands, and fundamental dialectical and modernist criteria have been “junked.”

John Rajchman offers an excellent essay, Strange Trip, on the revival of interest in the work of Vilem Flusser (1920-1991), first introduced into the pages of ARTFORUM by editor Ingrid Sischy in the mid-80s.  Flusser’s deracinated personal journey informed his theories on what he called a “search for a home” for communication; that “the real problem…is how to actually make a real image or piece of writing, one that causes us to think…”

The next page that seized my attention — given that every page of this compendium is worth attending to for one reason or another, I needed to exercise editorial selectivity — was a fabulous ad for another innovative gallery that has captivated me for its four years in NYC, Haunch of Venison, at 550 West 21st Street, where a stunning exhibition of sculptures by Kevin Francis Gray opened a week ago.  Speaking of media: porcelain, brass and marble are contoured in blatant homage to classical tropes.  Gray’s work is a chorus of paeans to romanticism and antiquity in an of-the-moment context.

David Velasco recalls the prophetic editorial stance of Annette Michelson in the early 1970s during a proliferation of articles about dance in ARTFORUM. Indeed, nowadays, it is becoming just as feasible to view dance in the Whitney as it is at the Joyce or City Center. In the Facebook era, “performativity” is no longer the sole province of those who set their bodies in motion.

The retrospective essay on photography by the brilliant Robert Pincus-Witten, Artificial Paradises, speaks my language, “the training of my distant generation,” he writes, “formal analysis and iconography.”  Those of you who likewise became enamored of Susan Sontag “back in the day” will know what Pincus-Witten references.  There once was a time when what you saw was what you got. There was the moment within which you stood in full confrontation with the work; you were inside that moment, and then, when you left the room, it went away. This forced attention without recourse to infinite access made for a different species of perception. Photography’s analog identity reinforced that perception.

There’s another seductive Media Study box, this one by Thomas Hirschhorn, that leaps out at the reader. The first sentence, boldface and all caps, is “I LOVE TO PRODUCE MY WORK!”  The artist goes on to assert that “To not produce or to refuse to do something, or to not participate, can be as important as doing something. As an artist, I have to confront this question every day.”

Further on, a “heads-up” I want to share with CRC blog readers: The NY Art Book Fair presented by Printed Matter, Inc., is returning to its old stomping grounds at MoMA/PS 1, September 28-30. I’ve been a faithful visitor for the past five years; this show never fails to deliver. Such variety! It’s cool and hip without being in the least bit pretentious. The people at the booths are friendly, cosmopolitan, engaging, and love what they do. There are books and book-like items for every budget, from pamphlets and posters and manifestos and stickers all the way to one of a kind artifactual pieces. The show is crowded, but in a good way, and when you get tired of milling about inside, the vast, unadorned courtyard with its concrete geometry welcomes you to hang out and enjoy a cool drink, listen to a DJ, chat and people-watch.

Tacita Dean‘s work has been of interest to me since I first saw her video of Merce Cunningham on view in the vast basement space of Dia:Beacon four summers ago. Rosalind Krauss, in Frame by Frame, discusses Dean’s Film, 2011, made for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, with provocative perceptions about the artist’s continuing  glorification of “the intrinsic object of pure aesthetic judgment.” Film, 2011, reductively speaking —  it must be seen to be believed — takes the medium’s “old” visual qualities, including frames and sprocket holes, and blows them up to fill a giagantic doorway-like void. It’s hard to know “where” the “film” actually “is” — [hmmm...shades of Michelle Kuo's ontology.]

Dave McKenzie echoes Thomas Hirschhorn’s rumination on choices in his Media Study “box,” reminding us assertively that “The ability to do something, to participate in something, or even to access something should be critiqued by acknowledging one’s desires and needs and by imagining the possible outcomes of one’s actions.”  I will confess that as I sit here typing the foregoing, I wonder whether, in my case, the decision to put this decidedly long form essay/blog out there was made with sufficient imagining of the consequences, i.e., will anybody even read this far into it, once they see how extensive the piece is turning out to be?  [One reflexive (or narcissistic) way to find out is by asking anybody who does read to this extent to email me at baldwinn@mail.montclair.edu.]

Fans of Theodor Adorno will enjoy On All Channels, Diedrich Diederichsen‘s reflection on Media, Technology and the Culture Industry. Do not be put off by the portentous title. Again, as in so many of the essays and sidebars in this magnificent ARTFORUM, the core concepts are sharply-etched. Diederichsen enacts some eye-catching riffs on Martin Heidegger‘s concept (with which I was heretofore unfamiliar) of  ”The Gigantic.”  And guess what? Heidegger was writing in the 1950s about the still-emerging medium of radio: “The Gigantic presses forward in a form which seems to make it disappear; in destruction of great distances by the airplane, in the representation of foreign and remote worlds in their everydayness produced at will by the flick of the switch.” Once more the theme of predetermination applied to deployment of media comes to the surface — a predictor of the Internet.

Greil Marcus steps up to remind us, in Twentieth Century Vox, that Marshall McLuhan’s first book, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man,  was published six decades ago.  [An appeal to re-read it.]

“The computer is just another tool, another technology that has become part of the industrial frame. Inventing forms is not dependent on software.” That’s Richard Serra talking about his journey through “site-specific works in steel [taking him] out of the traditional studio.”  Serra’s world is monumental, foreboding/inviting, rustingly beautiful, grandiose. Conceptualized by him, it is fabricated by others — however, his vision conditions every step — even to the degree that for the MoMA 2007 retrospective they literally removed half the west-facing side of the building in order to deliver the works by crane into the galleries. [I was strolling along 54th Street at the time; you had to be there.]

Is an editorial statement being made by the fact that the final essay in the issue is Ghost Story, Eric C.H.DeBruyn on Kinetic Art and New Media? I referred earlier to the incursions of modern dance into “picture galleries.”  DeBruyn drills down to a deeper level. Kineticism, he writes, resides at the “very foundation of contemporary modes of experience.”

Spectacle is inherent in the arts, be they overtly “performative” or not.

Analog or digital – perhaps as a result of reading the 50th anniversary issue of ARTFORUM the best takeaway is, indeed, to forget such tired dialectical distinctions and categorizations,  abandon the tight paths of ontology — to look, listen, read, feel, enjoy, ponder, move — and, yes, theorize — with intelligence and without boundaries.

 

 

 

CRC Field Report – Promoting Interdisciplinary Teaching Ventures – 3rd Annual Teaching & Learning Showcase – Research Academy for University Learning – Montclair State University – May 2, 2012 – by Neil Baldwin

As our followers around the globe already know, The Creative Research Center is resolutely virtual. That said, we still have not quite [to our satisfaction] met the challenge of serving as the rapporteur for this generous, iconoclastic conference, unable to clone ourselves so that we could be in more than one session at a time.  What follows is an anecdotal account of one transcendent day in the life, with a link to all the concurrent sessions beyond those we were able to visit, as a tribute to the pioneering pedagogues who presented last month at University Hall.

A quick note on the concept of interdisciplinarity and its supposed expansion in the past few years. The term has certainly become more widely-known and used – but is the practice really as pervasive in higher education? The mind, in and of itself, is already an interdisciplinary cognitive landscape; perhaps academia needs to catch up with its own human nature.

Cigdem Talgar, Acting Director of RAUL, set the tone in her Welcoming Remarks when she spoke of “best practices,” another key term worth re-evaluating, because as interdisciplinarity becomes integrated into our work of teaching, albeit incrementally, the wider the reach will be of best practices when they morph from codified lists to internalized modes of behavior conditioned by every unique classroom situation.

In her session on A Collaborative Approach to Online Course Design, Kristin Curry alluded humbly to the “adjustment issues” experienced as she put together her first course for the launch of MSU’s nascent online program in Arts Management. It is one thing to know your subject, as all  scholarly and professional content-providers want to do; it is another to cross the digital Rubicon and become comfortable with the newest methods of delivery.

Kirk McDermid spoke animatedly of his new tactic Using Semantic MediaWiki to Power Constructive Learning and Collaboration Among Students.  So doing, he has tapped into the paradigm-shift away from the distanced lecturer engaged in one-way delegation of information to masses of students, and toward assembling course content along with these students, hoping to empower them, through the Facebook-fuelled propensity to “like” , to learn more effectively, enthusiastically and permanently.

In How I Picture It: Teaching Mythology with Visual Aids, Joanna Madloch jumped in with bravado, invoking the dictum of Roland Barthes that “myth is a type of speech,” followed by John Berger’s noted “reading images” and ”theatricalization of reality,” topped off by Jean Baudrillard’s subversive “simulacrum.”  Her dense semiology was refreshing, penetrating and inspiring, especially to those of us who love theory but shy away from imposing it upon undergraduates. Au contraire!

Down the hall, Ting Ho and Christine Magee spoke of Adjusting to Teaching Online as requiring clear “rules of engagement” established through presenting real-life curricular analogies to our students. How many times has the classroom resounded with pleas to make topics more “relatable.”  In past generations, we ourselves as students often spoke of being “relevant.”  If we cannot figure out ways to harness technology to our advantage — and stop the tail from wagging the dog — we shall never make progress as teachers.

Innovative Experiential Education and Community Engagement was the focus for Lenore Molee’s presentation. What could be more quintessentially interdisciplinary from an environmental standpoint than taking students out of their comfort zones and into the institutions of our society that need them most — in this case, public schools? Montclair State is already an acknowledged leader in this area; every time this University reaches beyond ivy-covered walls it is a plus-sign toward a socially-integrated society.     

David Lee Keiser ruminated eloquently in advocating for Mindful Teaching for Excellence and [what he called "the sweet taste of"] Equanimity. His two collaborators in this enterprise were The Self and Silence; his muted hiatus from the hurlyburly of the conference day was a treasure.  The Tree of Contemplative Practices, its roots and branches extending into realms of the spirit, stood as the perfect symbol for the ideals of education — and a reminder of the imperative need to stop, breathe, and ponder why we do what we do in the classroom, and how we can do it better. 

Introducing the day’s Keynote Speaker — Rhonda Roland Shearer, founder [with her late husband, Stephen Jay Gould] and director of the Art Science Research Laboratory in NYC — Provost Willard Gingerich praised the core mission of the MSU Research Academy, referencing its ”deep DNA of instruction and learning.”  This apt metaphor brought to mind the spiral spatial structure of the molecule and an idealized three-dimensional image of interdisciplinarity combining elemental substances and extended through space in multiple directions with  variety and persistence.   

Committed to the creation of an intellectual environment advocating interdisciplinary study encompassing research, collections and publishing, Ms. Shearer explainted that ASRL provides a unique setting wherein art historians, scientists, artists, designers, and programmers work side by side, encouraged to contribute ideas, participate in a dynamic environment, and challenge the “outdated but still prominent structures of practices” in the arts, sciences, and humanities. The ambitious goal of ASRL is to promote and facilitate fast, thorough, and efficient global exchange of knowledge in fields ranging from art and science and journalism ethics to the cyberBOOK+ system, all aiming to build a network of people sharing knowledge and research methodologies for mutual understanding of cultures and histories.

Ms. Shearer’s leading assertion was well-received by the conference audience: By virtue of its infinitely-permeable structure, she insisted, the internet gives greater facility to doing interdisciplinarity. Such techno-intellectual free-association, when working properly, feeds upon itself, giving rise, [again, hopefully], to a healthy dissipation of distinctions.  To some in Academe, this accelerated process will appear as a threat; to others, it is an invitation to cast more widely: “Disciplines are conventions,” Ms. Shearer said, and so it naturally follows that late-adapters will resist peremptory invasions of their boundaries.

“Disciplines are mental constructions that become difficult to change,” Ms. Shearer continued; and then, in another unerring metaphor of the day,  she reminded us that “a square bowl creates square water… thus, we need to think about ways to disaggregate and reformulate our vested areas of interest — to defeat categories. ”    Ms. Shearer’s own imaginative artwork and the brave trajectory of her multifaceted research over several decades demonstrate her commitment of thought and feeling to these encouragements. 

[The question leapt to mind: Do we at MSU have the courage of our convictions; and, if so, what intellectual and pragmatic actions will be necessary to help further institutionalize interdisciplinarity?]

Milton Fuentes, in his afternoon session, provided one viable answer: Motivational Interviewing to Improve Academic Performance. Our inherently conservative — or, let’s say, intellectually hesitant – first-generation college students here at MSU often need to be jump-started into inquisitiveness, and then require continued guidance to stick to their forward motion.  Inspiring motivation can lead to a commitment to  change in a young life heretofore victimized by educational stasis.  Motivation demands other-directedness and collaboration on the part of the teacher, i.e., “You and I can do this together,” s/he says to the student.

Bryan Murdock and Christine Lemesianou — seasoned veterans of service-learning – invited their audience to Envision the Possibilities [through] Innovations in Service-Learning and Community Engagement, sounding a theme that had resonated throughout the day. Their campaign in close collaboration with Soyoung Lee and Deborah Ragin and the students and staff of the Rosa Parks School in Orange NJ was an inspirational tribute to the effectiveness of learning outside  conventional parameters. This reminder that the world is the best classroom of all was underscored by Elizabeth McPherson’s session on Embodying Folk Dances from Around the World, where everyone was on their feet and thoroughly enjoying themselves.   

What was my so-called takeaway from this densely-packed day of exploration into Digital Learning, Pedagogies of Engagement, Creativity, Promoting Teaching & Learning, Active Learning In & Out of the Classroom, and Contemplative Pedagogy?

As I write these words, I am more resolved that representative enactments of interdisciplinarity require the kinds of collaboration that I witnessed throughout the conference.  However, we must keep in mind that the May 2nd RAUL symposium was a series of demonstrations by colleagues who were already like-minded; hence the term “Showcase.”

Let’s take the clarity of the conference content as a mandate to transcend preaching to the choir — and go out and find the unconverted.  

 

 

 

 

Danthropology: A New Interdisciplinary After-School Project in Structured Play – by Kelly Vaghenas

          

[Editor's Note: We are very pleased to devote this month's 'iteration' of the CRC Director's essay space to Kelly Vaghenas, MSU sophomore double-major in BFA dance and BA anthropology.  Ms. Vaghenas is also a member of the Danceaturgy Seminar.  This essay was awarded the undergraduate first place University-wide award in the Sixth Annual MSU Student Research Symposium, "Promoting Collaboration Across Disciplines," April 22, 2012.]

                  Danthropology.  Grammatically speaking, it is a portmanteau, or blend or combination, of the words dance and anthropology.  Personally speaking, it is my academic passion.  I often get puzzled expressions from people who learn I am double majoring in BFA Dance and BA Anthropology, and the question, “How are those two related?”  I assert that they are inextricably linked.  In her essay, “Dance in Anthropological Perspective,” Adrienne Kaeppler defines dance as “a cultural form that results from creative processes which manipulate human bodies in time and space.  The cultural form produced, though transient, has structured content…[It] is a visual manifestation of social relations.”1  And just like kinship, or religion, dance can be analyzed through systematic observations and analyses.   One can understand the structures of society in a culture through dance.  In her “Address on Career of Dance Anthropologist,” Judith Hanna said, “Dance, conventionally conceived, is a visually perceived ephemeral plastic art in motion.  But…dance translates selected stimuli from the intrapsychic and social environments into meaningful expressions.”2

I extract this kind of meaning and value from the expressional dancing of the children at Mercy Center, an urban community center located in a predominantly Hispanic area of the South Bronx.  Every Friday, I commute there to teach dance classes for two hours to children ages four to fourteen, through the House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company.  I became a member, or “teaching artist,” in September of 2010, during my freshman year here at MSU.  The kids are divided into three age groups, and each group has a fun 40-minute dance class.  All House of the Roses volunteers meet inManhattan for two to four hours one Sunday per month to collaborate, and Rebecca, Debra, and I – the MercyCenter volunteers – e-mail one another to organize each week’s lesson plan.

Anthropologists gain their essential “insider perspectives” by living with populations for extended periods of time.  I see my dance students once per week; as such, I observe only a fraction of their lives.  Still, there is regularity in our Friday afternoon meetings.  This is important because the children atMercyCenter are economically underprivileged; in their world, there is much uncertainty and instability.  Friday afternoon House of the Roses classes are a guaranteed occurrence, a promise; they yield familiarity and comfort.

Cultural anthropology is a social science that explores human lifeways using a holistic perspective.  According to Jon Van Willigen, “Applied anthropology is a complex of related, research-based instrumental activities done by anthropologists, which produce change or stability in specific cultural systems through provision of data, initiation of direct action, and/or the formulation of policy.”3 I see my actions as a House of the Roses teaching artist as instrumental in providing the children at MercyCenter with an outlet for creative self-expression and empowerment.  The positive change produced is directly observable in the kids’ improved attitudes and increased participation in class, week to week.  In the teaching moments, I observe increasingly improved conditions in the children – and afterward, as any applied anthropologist does after conducting fieldwork, I reflect upon my actions and the responses they generated to assign meaning to my cause.

The dancing we conduct is deemed “structured play.”   And as we all know, playtime is an essential component of childhood.  We lead fun and enjoyable sessions in the classes but use pedagogical tactics to keep the activity controlled.  The class sequence specific to House of the Roses can be revised, as need be; the classic order is:Welcome Circle, Warm-up, Game, Choreography,Success Circle.

To start the Welcome Circle, kids and volunteers sit Indian-style in a circle.  A circle is an unending line.  Each person in the Welcome Circle is point along that line, so we are all connected to one another, unified.  This is the time for each person to introduce him or herself, and a call-and-response format is followed.  To the rhythm of a patting and clapping pattern we make with our hands, each person says, “My name is [blank].”  In return, the rest of the group says in unison, “His/Her name is [blank].”  The echoing of every name affirms each person’s identity and acknowledges his or her presence in the group.  Kids realize that they are not alone, that the classroom system is not “every man for himself.”  They are surrounded by supportive teachers and peers, and respect for one another is cultivated.

Warm-up is the time when the children come through as our “informants.”  House of the Roses class warm-up is more interactive than the standard dance class warm-up.  When leading it, I always pose a question to students and use responses to create movement.  For example, I recently addressed one student by asking, “What did you have for lunch today?”  The answer was “Pizza, from the cafeteria,” so I announced that we should all make personal pizzas.  I talked the kids through the pantomime of tossing the pizza dough, ladling the sauce, sprinkling the cheese, etc.  Another question was, “What do you love most about springtime?”  After the kids responded, my generated choreography included moving as if to trace the colors of the rainbow (ROY G BIV) and shooting hoops at the community basketball court across the street from Mercy Center.  Sometimes, I present a “special challenge” or occasionally an “extra special challenge” for the kids to conquer during warm-up.  From balancing on one foot, for example, I might challenge them to relevé, or lift the heel of the standing foot off the floor.  Such a challenge becomes more than a dance step; the accomplishment of the goal is not regarded by the kids as a gain in dance technique but rather as overcoming an obstacle.

My fellow volunteer, Rebecca, suggested that we play Spanish music during warm-up one class.  We had the kids do basic Latin ballroom dance steps of salsa, meringue, bachata, and more.  Not surprisingly, they knew more that we did, and they thrilled to correct our steps and style.  The students showed love of their Hispanic culture by displaying knowledge and enjoyment of the dancing fastened  to their ethnic background and prevalent in their community.

House of the Roses teaching artists receive binders with information to help us lead successful classes.  Included in each binder is a packet with brief descriptions of various games to play after the warm-up.  Most of them induce movement exploration by creating a scenario that allows the students to explore a given concept, with guided instructions.  For example, the “Elevator Game” is one of the kids’ favorites.  To play it, students must make a box formation, as if to fit inside the confines of an elevator, request to be sent to a certain level, and jump to get there.  Jumping five times, for example, takes dancers to the fifth level.  Because imagination is a key concept in House of the Roses pedagogy, what awaits on each floor is never an office setting but something outrageous.  Our imagination may bring us to the jungle, to outer space, and under the sea.  The children are let out at the destination level and dance around the room in a manner that suits the new environment.   We encouraged our students to “swim” when they were under the sea.  Students danced the dive, the breaststroke, the backstroke, and more.  Some pretended they were sea creatures, and this fostered interactions between all participants, as dancers pretending to be fish had to swim away from the lurking sharks!  This game gives the kids a chance to invent choreography entirely of their own, to claim a voice and speak through dance.

The next part of class is Choreography.  Students self-choreograph alone or in groups when volunteers give them situations from which they create short dances drawing upon their life experiences.  Sometimes we present students with a short, foundational combination and then invite them to manipulate it.  To prompt them, we might ask, “How can this move be more exciting?” or “Do you think this would look neater if it traveled across the floor?”  To help the kids remember movements, we ask the students to give them names.  In a recent class, one student suggested that a movement involving flipping her hands be called “salt and pepper shakers!”  When students label their movements, they are better able to understand and embody them, so that they become less abstract and more personally meaningful.   The choreography section sparks the kids’ constructive creativity; they build upon the combination in personal ways.  The final product is the original movement phrase polished and embellished by the crucial input of the children.  It is a representation of joint effort and teamwork between teachers and students.

As we practice the final movement phrase, I often compliment specific students who take directions and important considerations to heart and apply them.  If the choreography calls for marching with high knees, I single out the student who has the highest knees and ask him or her to demonstrate for the rest of the class.   In a community where gangs are prevalent and acting in groups might mean acceptance and protection, individual action is ambitious and daring and deserves verbal recognition.

The class concludes with the Success Circle.  In coordination with the Welcome Circle, it is convened when everyone once more sits together, Indian-style.  It is a safe space for sharing ideas.  We ask the students what they thought was successful about the day’s class and, by a show of hands, to articulate those thoughts to the group.  Especially with the youngest children, a common answer at Mercy Center is, “Everything.”  To refine their thoughts, we try to receive more detail-oriented answers by also posing the questions, “What was your favorite part of class?” and “What were you most proud of today?”  Kids note the good in themselves and in those around them and assume their roles as our anthropological “informants” once again.  Exchanges in the Success Circle provide feedback which volunteers can utilize in planning future classes, trying to incorporate more of what the kids like or want into the lesson plans.

House of the Roses presents a culminating end-of-the-school-year performance at the Miller Theatre of Columbia University every May.  Each of the five partner outreach facilities has its own time to show its dance onstage, and then everyone packs the stage to dance the finale.  The material performed at the show is choreographed with the input of the children and practiced starting in January during the Choreography section of each class.  The performance is a big deal for the kids, and they are recognized for their creativity and talent.  They feel proud to showcase all that they have worked for to a “real” audience.

In conclusion, I have realized that as a volunteer teaching artist, I am also serving as an applied anthropologist – an agent of change, because the classes coordinated by the House of the Roses Volunteer Dance Company empower students and give them healthy and creative ways to express themselves physically.  I conduct inductive research by qualitative analysis, i.e., I reflect upon my weekly observations and interpret them to better understand my students and to determine the best courses of action for the future regarding dance “structured play” pedagogy.

Dorothy Sluss, professor of early childhood education at EastTennesseeStateUniversity, said, “We don’t value play in our society.  It has become a four-letter word.”4  I personally believe that play cannot be understated or undermined for young people, most especially in impoverished urban areas like the South Bronx.  For underprivileged children like those at Mercy Center, artistic after-school programs and recreation are invaluable and essential.  The dance classes contribute a necessary balance between discipline and freedom, unity and autonomy.  My students experience creative journeys throughout the year and as a final celebration and validation, travel from the streets to the stage, showing us that inner peace can be found – even in the inner city.

End Notes

1                 Kaeppler, Adrienne, “Dance in Anthropological Perspective” Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 7: 31-49, 1978.

2                 Hanna, Judith L., “Address on Career of Dance Anthropologist” Congress on Research in Dance Vol. 5, No. 1: 35, 1973.

                   3                 Van Willigen, John, Applied Anthropology: An Introduction, (Westport,CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 10.

                   4                  Cole, Wendy and Walter Kirn, “What Ever Happened to Play?” Personal Growth and Behavior (McGraw-Hill,2002), 78.

 

In Celebration of National Poetry Month – April 2012 – Nineteen Poems by Student Authors – Guest-edited by Susan B.A. Somers-Willett

[Guest-editor's note:  I am proud to feature at the Montclair State University Creative Research Center / Virtual Student Center nineteen poems written by present and former students at Montclair State University, all of whom have passed through the ranks of our creative writing concentration or newly-established creative writing minor. Their voices represent the range and depth of poetry being practiced today, ranging from quietly interior to in-your-face, from metered sonnets to free narrative poems, from comedic verse to poems documenting the Occupy Wall Street movement. For many of these students, writing these lines marks the beginning of their entry into the world of poetry, and their practice is proof that poetry can be both timeless and timely, but never expired. In its contemporary reception, poetry can be the child that outlives us. To use the words of one of the poets featured here, Glenn A. Patterson, who writes of a fruit fly’s fatal encounter with a library book: “How tragically perfect, to die in an instant, crushed upon the face of a poem.” - Susan B.A. Somers-Willett - April 2012]

* * * *

Drew Ciccolo

New York  1888

You are coffee, potatoes, and pickles.

You are fifteen dollars a month to sleep in a horse stable.

You are a group of children gathered around a horse, starved, that dropped dead in the street.

You are a colony of blind beggars selling pencils on a street corner.

You are an Arab selling dirt gathered in the Battery as a direct importation fromJerusalem.

You are a Chinaman, wifeless, inviting little girls into his laundry.

You are an Italian contracting out your rag-picking, then praying under a picture of the Madonna santissima for the strength to stab the thief sharing your room with a jack-knife.

You are steamy sunshine falling down through laundry lines onto men perched on the railings of Bandit’s Roost.

You are ten hour days in a steaming laundry and two hours at night school five nights a week in a crowded class of fifty, with a teacher so busy with her class that she has no time to notice you.

You are rats, typhus, small pox, and cholera.

You are police hunting river thieves in a wooden row boat.

You are mustached toughs smirking in bowler hats with half-closed eyes.

You are prayer-time in the nursery.

You are a Jew, with your pants hanging low, peddling suspenders in the Pig-market.

You are a police club, made of Black locust, dangling in the cold October wind.

You are a half-naked German woman, whose husband has vanished, bent over a sewing machine at a tenement window.

You are clouds, balled up in fists, churning above tenements.

You are a schizophrenic woman wandering the courtyard on Blackwell’sIslandunder a dark blue sky, dazed and sick, wishing she had a knife.

You’re cross-eyed, catching fireflies in the park.

 

* * * *

 

Drew Ciccolo

Through the Golden Door

 “I  lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus (engraved on the Statue of Liberty)

A man throws his son’s colorful hat in

to the sea where it floats with the others,

while downtown, girls empty the ash-cans,

looking for coal to bring to their mothers.

 

Ladies uptown curl into crocheted sheets,

dreaming of hills, rivers and train rides west,

while a growler gang corrals a lost sheep

to take to the slaughterhouse with the rest.

 

Steel ruckus from an elevated train

causes a suicide’s soul to ascend.

Tramps drink stale beer, brewed to kill at long range,

from tomato cans at dives in the Bend.

Clouds plump with rain sit in the sky and grin;

the first drops fall on a ship pulling in. 

 

Drew Ciccolo (CHSS English, 2012) starts work on an MFA in fiction next fall, though he’s not sure where yet.  His favorite poets include E.E. Cummings, Antonin Artaud, and Charles Bukowski.

 

* * * *

 

Anthony Cirilo

Police Report

He had me when I was ambling off the N train,

Not long off when his hands tugged me to the ground

Like news of my father’s death – prying on the service ramp

A NIKE duffel and the coat off my back.

All this hell in the tunnel’s twilight gas glow

Couldn’t see his black face, but his hands, Jesus,

They could tear God from a man’s faith.

Here, see the bruise he left on my right arm

Where his fingers pinched me to a wet wall

And wordless, worked me over with the other,

The yellow stink of the wind and the pissed streets

That’d stained his Carhartt turned my stomach.

He’d spent enough and shook me free of the remaining sleeve

With a punch to the gut, tore off toward the surface,

The coat trailing him into obscurity.

He took what he could, a phone, my wallet, my name;

But now every naked street is an alley

the names of the saints and avenues

refuse me; strange faces stare back from the coinage.

Bread sinks in my stomach like stones.

And no one stopped: two fairies in the underground

Grown men in the throes, Who would drive an axe

Through this modern love?

 

* * * * 

 

Anthony Cirilo

Sari

Morning’s light

 Gold bangles of hammered light

Shingles of sun

Jasper dawned off the low clouded rim

 

Wherein as fletched guitars, feather downed strings

Gulls spread their godless cries

 

In the rippling tide.

 

Let life free from its cages again

 

Parole raw orange

Red’s flustered wings,

   That have waited in an ice of years

 

I’ll watch the pitted gap where the sun should be

Wait and wait for your dyed fingers to lift the latch

 

For the arc of rubbed brass

For encircled violet

   To try their terrible span overhead

 

To blind me in clear day. 

 

Anthony Cirilo (CHSS English, 2010) is an Adjunct Professor of English at Essex County College and an adult ESL instructor at Global Academy of America. He is currently at work on his first collection of poems and his writing influences include Agha Shahid Ali, Carolyn Forché, and Arthur Rimbaud. 

 

* * * *

 

Steven Criscuolo

Ya’aburnee

 For Joey, Now Joseph

 I was empty when my brother told me

all those big ideas he had

about the little things he noticed -

starting with Lincoln, sitting

without a chair on the back

of his birth-year penny.

I sometimes still imagine him,

tucked away at our different schools,

hiding from the blacktop hopscotch

and double-dutch queens,

hoping to be a ghost,

who could escape the burnt-grass-field

until the backyard battles

were whistled in.

I’ve learned how thoughts

work against you when

you don’t know

what you think you do.

How wrong I was,

to think that he was lonely

because he was alone -

then he told me sometimes together

is tough. 

During the nights I can’t sleep,

I think about the people

who really get me.  I hear them rattle

like pennies in my head

as I count them downwards,

until I reach him

hiding in that jungle gym tunnel

with his eyes circling

the coral screws that hold

those slivers of plastic

together, while his ideas

leak through the crevice-joints

like bathwater.

When the day rises, I wonder where

his thoughts will go

when we grow up tomorrow

after tomorrow until we discover

the day where he cannot

speak, or I cannot listen.

 

* * * *

 

Steven Criscuolo

Toska

 During lunch, I thought about

asking you if you wanted to go for a walk

so we could split a coca cola

and talk about the nice parts of our day.

 

Since I’ve been thinking too much

about Frank’s blood on theFire Island dune buggy

 

and even more about Jeff Buckley in his day-clothes,

washing up in that slack water channel

after the Wolf River stole his last chorus.

 

I’ve been waiting so long

for someone to tell me that this has all been wrong

 

because I have sudden moments

where I remember being 13 and looking up that webpage

on how to shave since my dad was long gone by then -

 

and in that searing sensation, I still feel

the first time I cut myself shaving

as loud as the sound that accompanies

the look of lightning down my face. 

 

Steven Criscuolo is a senior English and Secondary Education double-major. He is a future English educator and a member of ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and the NJCTE (The New Jersey Council of Teachers of English). His studies and writing influences include young adult literature and contemporary poets such as Matthew Dickman and Matthew Zapruder. 

[Note: These two poems are part of a larger series of poems about the displacement of language, focusing on words that have either gone extinct or do not have an English equivalent.  Ya’aburnee is an Arabic word literally meaning ‘you bury me’. This is the hope that a loved one will outlive you as to spare yourself the pain of living without that person. Toska is a Russian word describing a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.]

 

* * * *

 

Katie Demeski

Paprika 

In the Florida house laundry room,

Oma used to dry her own peppers:

they hung against the sterile white cabinets

from kitchen twine, dark and wrinkled

like a blood stain on an old undershirt.

 

She ground them to a fine powder

that sloppily hennaed her hands

as she funneled it into jars.

 

The flecks were stirred into the evening’s

chicken consomme with angel hair

spinning into shadowy sweet red pepper swirls

before dissolving to pin-dots in our bowls.

 

* * * *

 

Katie Demeski

Late August 

is basil fresh-torn from its stems,

bare feet sliding through dew,

rusted wrought-iron one foot high

around vegetable patches,

evening sun cresting over the top of the hill,

and Dad’s garden clogs soled with mud

on the brick back porch steps. 

 

Katie Demeski is a senior English major and the president of the Earth Spirituality Union at MSU. Her influences include Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, and her family.

 

* * * *

 

Josh English

because of the rain and some lines by verlaine

because of the water that drips off the petal
because of the horse eating the rose of sharon
because of the grackles in the chinaberry tree
because of the rooster
because of all the roosters
because of the ghosts, the jesters, the single blade of grass up close
because of the dusky river’s ballad
because of the white sheet and the trail of lime
because of the cow with the mournful tongue
because of the nose that turned into a heart
because of the still heart in the breast of the girl with darting eyes
because of the two drill-bit holes in the dead mother’s face
because of the duality of the moon king
because the celestial kingdom is underwater
because love is a pimp in a fire station
because love is an invisible larva eating a rose
because love is a mother sawing at her child’s neck
because of every catastrophic personality
because of the beet-red sand bed veiled in the bones of horses
because of the zombie-self that startles awake with rotten eyes
because of the child who taped a knife to a chair and charged
because of the diamond-cut cane that beat blood from his black head
because he could only scream as loud as an ocean
because he spent thirty years atop a pillar praying
because the baptism demanded blood before it demanded water
because of the woman waiting inside the wallpaper
because of the savagery of pink
because of the rain i sit squinting out a grey window
because of the rain

 

* * * *

 

Josh English

The Poem Defines Itself  

just as sunset defines itself.

just as ice growing on a river defines itself.

Ultimately, we’re lucky.

  Every seed does not grow.

    Every bugle does not forward blow

some notes sour and wither.

       I love and leave you behind, soured and withered notes.

 

just as heat from fire defines itself.

just as the lingering cool of twilight defines itself.

Ultimately, we’re lustful.

  Every breath aches.

    Every finger straightened

points towards a want.

       I love that drops of water in proximity always run towards each other.

 

just as a breeze on a window defines itself.

just as the color of night defines itself.

Ultimately, we’re alone.

  Every darkness is a blanket.

    Every bright light brings cold

by forcing dreams into hiding.

        I love the severed limbs of Osiris.

 

just as a new moon defines itself.

just as the depth of a raindrop’s dive defines itself.

Ultimately, we’re echoes.

  Everyone imagines

    every boundary’s solid

(as if a wall isn’t mostly air.)

       I love that men once sought to sail to the edge of the earth.

 

just as a well tuned gusle defines itself.

 just as the weight of a flying kite defines itself.

Ultimately, we’re rippling.

  Every impossible happens;

    every statistician knows

it only requires forever.

       I love this promise made by new grass.                                                                                      

 

Josh English is a graduating senior in English, and a New Jersey native who will begin an MFA program to study poetry this fall. His work has been previously published in The Stillwater Review and he has self-released three albums of original contemporary folk music.

 

* * * *

 

Melissa Gregoli

Jane Doe

 Carcasses littered across Route 15

like an unburied graveyard.

A new body lies in the emergency lane.

She was probably

 

stunned.  Startled.  Stopped.

Caught in a blinding light

by the vibration of black tread,

by the hum of a bigger beast.

 

Fallen to black beaks that

wrestle scraps of pink skin from her body.

She spoils in the sun.

Melts like plastic into the concrete.

With intestines sprawled out

 

Where white maggots muster.

She lies against the street,

next to her shadow that lingers.

 

It’s a road hazard,

all of her bones that become brittle

could puncture tires.

 

Someone will come

to pick up her body and

toss it in the back of a truck

with more roadkill, or

the rains will wash away

the remains, a little at a time.

 

Mornings will pass and

eventually, it will be as if

she was never here.

 

She was not Joan of Arc,

not Neda Soltan,

not Saint Cecilia ,

but was a daughter,

and possibly a mother.

 

* * * * 

 

Melissa Gregoli

Thanks for Breaking Up with that Whore 2.5 Years Ago 

When you called me that morning at 2 am, spilling out drunken fears of being alone,

when you met me at New York Penn Station that cold morning to walk to a convention full of 

comic books, video games, and superhero impersonators,

when you complimented me on my black Batman gloves with yellow beaded grips,

when you bonded with my dad over a love for both Star Wars and Star Trek,

 

that time when you attempted to see if your fingers fit between mine,

when you nervously kissed me while trying to say goodnight,

when we were in Boston at the same time,

when you ran through the rain with me after dancing all night to guilty pleasures

            of Destiny’s Child and Hanson,

 

when you built me a tent with bright orange bed sheets because I’d never been camping,

when you refused to leave my side as I got to know your toilet more intimately,

            after we figured out that I’m allergic to whiskey,

when you changed my clothes that same night after I passed out,

when you first told me you love me the next morning,

 

when you make me Taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a bagel for dinner,

when you don’t make fun of my love for fruity beers,

when you gently kiss my forehead while you think I’m sleeping,

when we wear similar plaid shirts and black jeans without intentionally trying to match,

when we compare thoughts on our favorite episodes of Battlestar Galactica,

 

when you drive 104 miles every other weekend to see me,

when we watch the sun set and the moon rise,

when you talk on the phone with me until I fall asleep,

and when I am willing to be on a 5-hour trip, on 3 different trains towards Philadelphia,

 

that is why I said yes.

 

Melissa Gregoli is a senior English major with a concentration in creative writing, but she really feels that her major is poetry, trying to take every poetry course available at MSU. Her influences include Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton, Pablo Neruda, and Darth Vader.

 

* * * *

 

Heather Lockhart

The Deposition of Ouranos 

Freud would have had the time of his life if he could have felt

the weight of the sickle and seen the blood rain across Earth.

 

The ruminations circle his couch in the form of questions:

What does it mean to reject one’s children in such a way?

 

Is that what it takes to spark a murderous rage? Does

something as beautiful as Love emerge from all ill deeds?

 

Is the flesh of children as tender as that of veal?

—here he pauses to clip a cigar and look out across London.

 

Splayed upon the sofa, all muscle and malice: this is what he sees

when he imagines the Titan pulled through his own element.

 

And wily Kronos would say, “My mother, she begged, and I love her—

So I told her, ‘yes, I will do as you wish, and in such a clever way.’”

 

Smoke swirls on one side of the window; fog on the other.

The good doctor takes a mental note: phalluses everywhere

 

 * * *

 

Heather Lockhart

Disarticulated 

for Montclair 

It’s the pieces left behind that matter:

the veins that now belong to him,

the brain cells she’s claimed, the ambition

that roams the halls like a scruffy old cat.

It’s the index finger I slammed in the door,

the red sandals I forgot under the desk, the

glimmer from my eye that bled away so easily.

It’s the tether I wrapped around my spine

and knotted to his office doorknob.

It’s the him, the him, the her, and the her.

It’s the everyone, the faces I know and don’t,

the voices lodged in my bursting skull,

the laughter rattling against my rib cage.

It’s the hollow sensation of attachment,

the desire to linger and the inability

to do so, the urging for me to get the hell out.

It’s the life I can’t imagine, but they all can;

the assurance that I will “be okay,” and

the doubt that counters every compliment.

It’s the pile of pencils I’ve lost, the notes scribbled,

papers printed, comments yelled, ink drained.

It’s every thought, every anxiety, everything

born in and taken from these stifling rooms.

 

* * * *  

 

Heather Lockhart is a graduating senior English major, president of MSU’s Mythology Society, and a greeter at the Center for Writing Excellence. She is looking forward to graduating in May and plans to pursue an MFA in creative writing.

 

* * * *

 

Glenn A. Paterson

Connective Tissue  

Someone whistles

in the parking garage

and the echo

settles in the

spaces

between rows

of parked cars.

            … 

In one moment

she is

the world drowning

in rain.

In the next,

she is nothing more

than the candle

I am falling asleep by.

            … 

The words in my head

quiver with the sighs

of disappearing sparrows.

            … 

To be lonely today

is to be the sandwater

in the footprints

of what it was to be lonely

a hundred years ago.

… 

I dream of being as delicate

as the woman eating pearls

of white rice with chopsticks,

but my fork is heavy in my fist,

and I detest rice.

… 

First I was a globe,

inspiring conversation

and the weight of open palms.

 Today in the sunbeams

that melted over my hair,

I plowed twenty-four acres of restlessness

with the crescent moons of my fingernails. 

 

[“Connective Tissue” was originally published in the April 2010 issue of  Fogged Clarity.]

 

 * * * *

 

Glenn A. Paterson

Denouement 

I pulled a book from the high shelf today, listless and desperate for relief. I let the pages slip past the skin of my thumb like a flutter of wings until they stopped at one with the word Origin printed at the top just beneath a name I’d never heard before. Halfway down the page a spot of black caught my eye. As I brought the book closer to my face, I realized that this was not an indiscriminate blot of ink as I’d thought, but a small fruit fly, flattened against the ivory pages. I imagined his attempt to disguise  himself as the dot atop an “i” as the oblivious reader (probably myself) quickly closed the book. His iridescent wings embraced the “l” and “o” beneath him, a skyward parenthesis. I envied him, then. How tragically perfect, to die in an instant, crushed upon the face of a poem.

 

Glenn Ashley Paterson (CHSS English, 2010) has had work appear in The Normal Review, as well as Fogged Clarity and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She draws inspiration from combining the written word with other art forms, such as photography, painting, and drawing, resulting in the largely visual nature of her poetry.

 

* * * *

 

Greg Riggio

Men 

I’ll never have Bob Dylan’s beard.

My hair started graying before I could taste what Dylan Thomas loved

as much as poetry. In four years I’ll be as old as Keats was when he died.

Eliot wrote Prufrock when he was only twenty-two,

and before long I’ll be approaching my Jesus Year.

Jeanne Calment, a French woman, lived to be one hundred-and-twenty-one,

while my father’s heart exploded at the age of forty-nine.

Death is breathing down my neck, and it’s the cold suspicion of a snowstorm;

it is sweet honey in frosted air, but sends a blade through my glass jaw.

Great men grow beards to wrap around their necks like scarves

to fight off this unforgiving breath, but all I have is a depression and

a manuscript of poems that will never send

Walt Whitman’s ghost to my bedside at night like the

Ghost of Christmas Future to whisper in my ear, “COME, and take my hand

and forget your reservations and feet. For you do not need them where we are,”

I would step from bed, leaving my legs behind, and of course take his hand,

fingers entwined, as we glide through haunted halls of great men—

past a gilded mosaic of the Buddha, past Martin Luther King

sipping tea beside a sculpted marble copy of himself,

past Plato thumb wrestling with Godard, and

Thoreau snacking on ginger snaps in a tea garden.

Somewhere in the museum, we will find Shakespeare

playing Chinese Checkers with Hemingway.

Allen Ginsberg will be looking on, waiting to play the winner, and

he’ll spot Walt and come over to say hello. When we’re introduced

I will stroke his beard as he kisses my forehead and calls me a sweet boy.

When we part, he tells I will see him again soon.

He will ask what gallery I will see next and I will joke,

“Whichever Whitman’s beard points to.” He’ll laugh before gathering

a stern look on his face because he knows which way his beard will be pointing.

And I’ll ask Allen, “When will he be here with you?” and he tells me, “Soon.”

And his heart will break when he sees me walk away towards the portrait of

my father’s goateed face, because we both know that I will not kiss his cheek

before his body burns into gas and his blood evaporates into incense.

I won’t have it in me.

 

* * * *

 

Greg Riggio

Cavities 

I am unattended ivy planted by my mother’s hands

in the shadow of my father’s home, beneath the kitchen window,

creeping up the brick, surrounding the windows, and rotting the wood

like the sea eroding the coasts of Normandy where my grandfather landed

after Francewas won to repair damaged tanks stuck on

the cobblestone alleyways teeming with townspeople repairing the cavities

in their country. In the crowd of dust he could sit on his helmet

while he lit a cigarette without worrying that a Wehrmacht sharpshooter

was setting his aim, ready to blow his skull out with a Karabiner rifle.

He was not one of the G.I.s slumped like a potato sack in the gutters,

a dog tag torn off, and their forehead a sunken hole. He went home

with a story of the war he didn’t see, and with no

Purple Heart or folded flag to pass down, with no empty helmet

sent to a waiting son inBrooklyn, my father became an accountant,

and bought a house for him to fight with my mother in every night.

They would go to bed angry and yet they still slept in the same bed,

but so far apart that the edges of the mattress became

worn down and sunken under the swollen leather of their bodies.

I used to fill the seams between the younger mass in the middle of the night

when I dreamt about dying. The space was just a crack then,

formed from tiny tremors, not yet the crevasse it is now,

a no-man’s land, occupied by not even the dog. 

 

Greg Riggio a senior English Education major earning minors in Creative Writing and Philosophy. He is influenced by Transcendentalism, Beat lit, and the realism of everyday life.

 

* * * *

 

Amanda Zuniga

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET 

We walked hand-in-hand and swerved through the crowd. At times I felt our hands tugging away

from one another but we both instinctively held even tighter. It was a nice day, the perfect

day to be outside. We had nowhere else to be with only 5 dollars in our pockets.

We had been spending every day and night here and would joke at night at

how we were nomads. We were drifters like Kerouac in The

Dharma Bums. We weren’t here because we had to, we

were here because we wanted to be. Finally, our

generation began to cry the sorrows we

believed in. Our generation seemed

to be less lazy and finally

inspired to act upon

the failures of

our country.

 

I met a woman

who hasn’t visited a

doctor in 4 years. She was a

recent college grad and still looking

for work. She looked sick: pale and moist

with dark smudges under her eyes. When her father

lost his job and her mother had to be put on disability for an

accident that happened on the job, the insurance she once took for

granted, was no longer available. Her teeth were a dark yellow. The kind

attached to college lettering. I felt so awful and sick. Not because of her

appearance but because of the “best country in the world” can’t even throw her a bone

and offer some health care. I wondered if I could pack all my things and head to Canada with her.

 

“We will have capitalism but also have socialism.” “A system that rewards hard work and

ambition but cares for its weakest child.” “And being called a “FEMINAZI” will be

considered “treasonous.” “We will simply combine capitalism and socialism

and call it “peopleism.” “…Or that God damn Ayn Rand book – That’s no

joke brother.” Wearing a Guy Fawkes mask does not make you an

anarchist. The reality is in front of you: It’s the pepper spray

blinding you, it’s the baton bruises on your arms, it’s

the rubber bullet welts,

It’s your first arrest.

 

I remember the

first day I walked

around the park. It was a

Saturday sometime in September. I

distinctly remember how nice it was that day.

I didn’t need a sweatshirt but I needed a long sleeve

shirt. My eyes welled up to the brim when I saw the first little boy

with his hand written and drawn sign. “I want to see my Mommy happy

again!” He incorporated some blurry drawings to the above phrase. After seeing all

types of people there, it really hit me that this doesn’t just affect my peers or adults in

general, it affects the children who have to witness their parents having a break down when they

need to eat dinner. Or when it’s time to pay rent. It’s the time when kids will start to

realize that their clothes are being purchased at a Goodwill shop and Salvation

army instead of the mall. Or when they start to notice the dirty looks they

receive from strangers at the grocery store when Mom and Dad pay

with their EBT cards for groceries.

 

“When the rain and snow start they’ll be gone.” “Totally. They won’t be so united once December

and January roll around.” “Were they still there when that freak snow storm happened in

October?” “I dunno but probably not.” “Yeah, they’re a bunch of pussies.” “Yeah.”

“Those people who are on government help-stealing our hard earned

money!” “Yes! What lazy bums! Why don’t they just go get a job?”

“If I can get a job after majoring in business at Yale, then

anyone can.” “ObviouslyAmerica is just full of

good-for-nothing immigrants.” “They

should all just continue being janitors

and landscapers.”

 

Then I realized,

we weren’t there for

my ulterior motives. We were

there to participate. We were there to

show our support and also our anger. So my

zine had to be put aside for the time being. Feminism

was not this fight. Not today. I was there for my mother who

survives off of her measly Disability check each month. I was there

for my father, originally from Chile but a citizen for 30 + years who is

forced to work in a factory. I was there for the taxes my family and all the families

across America has to pay. But most importantly, I was there for myself. After 4 years, the

realization that I will not have a job once I graduate is almost too much to stomach.

 

I went to bed that night and I stared at the ceiling for a while. I laid next to my lover, who has now

spent many days at OCCUPY when he is not at his graduate classes at CUNY. I wondered

what my life would look like in 8 months. I’d be graduating and hopefully been

accepted into some English program at some graduate school. I felt selfish

as we laid in his semi-comfortable bed while people were at

Zuccotti Park. I laid in his arms and drifted off to sleep, the

final thoughts of the couple who had been staying at

Occupy because they had no one where else

to be: the recent college grad with

daffodil-stained teeth, and of

the child with his sign.

 

Amanda Zuniga is a senior English major with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies. When she is not focusing on writing or feminist theory, she is the editor and creator for the zine “Suggestion,” an anti-rape and anti-sexual violence publication which promotes a safe space for victims and supporters.