Fresh Paint – Aaron Fung


It is interesting to think about the other things artists are known for besides their art. Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, is also an architect and activist. He has been famous for speaking out against China’s repressive regime. Ai Weiwei started a critical blog in 2006 that was shut down in 2009 by Chinese authorities. He was in conflict with the Chinese government many times, including being beaten by the police in 2009 and being imprisoned for 81 days in 2011. He has characterized his meddling with the Chinese government as a kind of performance art.

Ai Weiwei was in Beijing before he went to New York in 1981 and lived in East Village. There were protests of housing rights, which added to his political awareness. He attended the Parsons School of design, where he took thousands of photographs. The pictures show him to be an ambitious person who was aiming for something. He returned to China in 1993 and also took a lot of pictures of the neighborhood in Beijing that called itself the East Village. At that time, he mainly used his camera as his artistic tool.

Ai Weiwei’s activism can be seen through his art, which are in a gallery that was recently opened. The exhibition is in Hirshhorn Museum, located in Washington, and it is called “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” The Hirshhorn show classifies Mr. Ai as “one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists”. He makes great art and makes great use of it as a public intellectual and social conscience. Of the many pictures he took in New York, about 100 of them are in the exhibition, which show his friends, demonstrations, and random incidents on the street.

The exhibit in Hirshhorn museum shows how irrational life is under totalitarianism through sculptures and pieces from the last decade. They follow the tradition of the Duchamp ready-made, where objects are modified that then become art.
Many works have a background that need to be read or known beforehand in order to understand the origin behind the work. For example, “Kippe” is a large block made of scraps of lustrous wood that are actually from dismantled Qing dynasty temples. Another piece is a large snake coiled on the ceiling made up of backpacks that represent the thousands of children that died during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai Weiwei wanted an investigation about that because it caused poorly built schools to collapse while surrounding buildings survived.

There is always a history to an art, which adds value to it and can enhance the meaning. Is art more meaningful or ‘better’ if it contains a historical or controversial event? Do you prefer if an art piece didn’t have a specific origin or history to link the meaning to? Do you prefer paintings or sculptures? I have no preference between the two. I find Ai Weiwei’s art to be very significant to current events in China, which adds to its value. An artist’s history should never be ignored when analyzing art, since it influences his or her art, with respect to the type, content, and meaning.

The Hirshhorn show will travel to the Brooklyn Museum in April 2014, which I would be willing to check out, after I looked at some of the pictures. Maybe other people will find it interesting too.

“This Machine Kills Secrets”

This Machine Kills Secrets,” a novel by Andy Greenberg, gives an account of historical events that led to the creation of WikiLeaks. The novel discusses concepts, such as privacy and civil liberties, which were the reason the site was started in the first place. The novel also goes into the advanced technology, which makes WikiLeaks possible.

One of these technologies is a program called Tor, which allows leakers to the site to remain anonymous. Tor, and other similar encryption technologies, is only in use today thanks to people battling the government for the right to use them. The fight made in order to use these technologies took place in the 1990’s in what were called the crypto wars. The crypto wars weren’t really wars in the usual sense of the word, and were really more debates and discussions than anything else. These debates happened on online forums where Julian Assange was both a reader as well as a contributor.

Although encryption technologies have made it possible for leakers to remain anonymous, sites like WikiLeaks still face many problems. In order for people to be willing to leak, the site must appear trustworthy to would be leakers. If potential leakers don’t know who is behind the site, they won’t leak information in case the government runs it. This creates a problem because once the site is no longer anonymous it faces issues like spies joining the staff and threats to its online presence.

The ability for leakers to remain anonymous is also being threatened in ways that encryption can’t prevent. Companies who face leaks are, in some cases, able to learn the identity of the leaker by seeing who accesses the information on their network. There is also a new mandate that all employees in federal intelligence agencies who take lie detector tests are to be questioned about leaking.

Personally, I can’t decide whether or not WikiLeaks is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it creates a lot of danger by allowing the whole world access to sensitive information. Some of the information on the site could very well cause a rise in tensions between countries, which, at the best may cause problems with international relations and at worst, the outbreak of wars. The site also has the potential to cause problems with military activity and may place soldiers in even more danger than they originally faced. On the other hand, WikiLeaks really does do a lot of good. Governments will, hopefully, respond to the knowledge that secrets are no longer all that safe by increasing their transparency. The threat of sensitive information becoming public also encourages governments to stop activities and such that their people would disapprove. The site also helps expose corruption, and therefore limit corruption.

What is your opinion on the site, WikiLeaks? Do you think that it is harmful? Do you think that WikiLeaks is more beneficial than anything else? Do you think that people have a right to know their government’s secrets?

Harman Writer-in-Residence Spring Course

Calling all critics and reviewers. Attached is a flyer for Baruch’s Spring 2013 Harman Reviewing & Criticism Workshop with Hilton Als, a renowned theatre critic, writer and author. Click here for details: Hilton Als Course Description. The workshop (which can be taken for honors credit) explores viewpoints of a variety of outsiders under the theme of “Bent.”  This course has an application process. If you are interested, you’ll need submit an application to register available on the Harman Writer-In-Residence Program website by Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fresh Paint – “The Art of Soccer: Sculpture in Paris Captures Notorious Incident”

Six years ago, I was left speechless after seeing one of the most prominent soccer players at that time ungraciously head-butt another player at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Zinédine Zidane, who was captain of the French national soccer team, was ejected out of what he would later reveal to be the last game of his soccer career. But before this incident, Zidane was France’s pride and joy— he was the son of Algerian immigrants who chose to play for France and would later lead a multicultural French squad to their only World Cup win in 1998. However, just one moment later, all of Zidane’s achievements seemed to be all forgotten, and instead replaced by the memory of a disgraceful act.

It almost seemed that Zidane’s head-butt was the dawn of France’s downfall. After he was ejected, France would go on to lose the game and the title to Italy in extra time. In 2010 World Cup in South Africa, France’s national team was plagued by racial tensions and conflicts between players and coaches that culminated into a player walkout. A usual World Cup favorite, France did not even make it out of the group stage at South Africa. And now, to make matters worse, a French artist has created an 18-foot sculpture of Zidane’s famous moment, displayed in the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Recently in the New York Times, Scott Sayare covered the controversy regarding the new sculpture. Standing in the middle of the Pompidou Center’s courtyard, the sculpture enlarges the two players involved, Zidane and Marco Materazzi into two massive bronze figures. Adel Abdessemed, the creator of the sculpture, named it “Coup de Tête,” a double-entendre meaning head-butt or an impulsive decision. The sculpture is almost real life—the same pained and anguish face is chiseled onto Materazzi’s face and the same stern and angry Zidane as was what happened six years ago.

The sculpture has ignited heated controversy in French politics and society. Critics have said that the sculpture has added onto the ongoing racial tensions and class structure in France. In 1998, when Zidane led the team to their first World Cup victory, the squad composed of black, white, and Arab Frenchmen. It was their success that inspired racial unity in France. However, just a year prior to the incident, racial riots in the poorer neighborhoods of France had begun. The sculptures, critics say, adds on to the racial aggravation.  Some have also claimed that the sculpture idolizes bad sportsmanship and “an ode to violence.”

In retaliation to the criticism of his art piece, Abdessemed, who holds both Algerian and French citizenship, said that his art pieces should not be looked at politically and is not a response to racial tensions. Abdessemed said that “[Zidane] expressed himself as a man,” and that is what his sculpture tries to embody.

In my opinion, I think that the sculpture should not be celebrating Zidane’s action. Although Zidane had good reason to head-butt Materazzi (Materazzi made some snide comments on Zidane’s sister), I think the sculpture embodies bad sportsmanship and should not be cherished. Adding on the racial and social problems that come along with the piece, I think it devalues the admirability of the sculpture and Zidane himself. Zidane was an exceptional player and arguably one of soccer’s greatest, and this sculpture does him not justice. However, I do think that it would be interesting to hear Zidane’s opinion on this sculpture and his reaction to it. Do you think we should be celebrating this moment in history as this piece of art? Do you think that this sends the wrong message? How do you think Zidane will react?


Please categorize your posts

Hey everybody, please remember to categorize your posts by clicking on the appropriate category (e.g. “visual diary”, “video dialogue”) at the bottom right of the page when creating the post. Our website has been reconfigured slightly so that now all posts with the same category will be collected in a page with the same name, for easy reference. Thanks!

Snapshot Day is this Thursday!

All right everyone, this Thursday, October 11 is Snapshot Day at Macaulay, which means that every student must take one photograph between 12:00am and 11:59pm on Thursday, then upload the photo to the Macaulay Honors College Gallery Snapshot 2012 folder by November 1.

In order to do this, you’ll need to register as a Gallery user by clicking on the “register” icon at the top right hand corner of the Gallery website. (Make sure to change your password when prompted). Then click on the Snapshot 2012 folder, move your cursor over the “add” icon, and select “add photos”. Please add only one photograph to the folder, and remember to give it a title and a short description (select “edit this photo” to do this). Then you’re set! Take a look at everyone else’s photos and make kind and constructive comments to your heart’s content.

Feel free to use any type of camera whatsoever for your snapshot! It could be a film or digital camera, the camera on your phone, or even just the camera on your laptop. Good Luck!

Fresh Paint – Rhinoceros

Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” an absurdist play about the dangers of fascism and conformity that premiered in Paris in 1960, is told through the perspective of Bérenger. An unconfident, shy man, Bérenger ends up as the last human in his own skin as a plague of “rhinoceritis” slowly transforms the people of his small French village into rhinoceroses. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Fascism is about control, and “Rhinoceros” portrays this quite colorfully- and at times, “colorlessly.” The opening scene includes an array of carefully arranged gray chairs amid a dark background, symbolizing a society that is conformist from the very start. The sounds of a rhinoceros crashing through the town square cause a panic, and all the actors onstage leap into motion- an allegory for the alarm and mindlessness of a crowd. No leader steps in to subdue the panic, and the scene ends with this flurry of activity.

The second scene shows Bérenger at work in the government printing department- an homage to Orwell’s “1984.” The office workers discuss the rhino rumors, arguing about trivialities such as “whether it is an Asian or an African one, sporting a single or a double tusk.” These minutiae distract from the larger issue- exactly what fascist propaganda aims to do.

As this conversation is going on, the floor starts to slip from under their feet as the tiered set rises and tilts the actors towards the stage. This literal disorientation is a metaphor for the mental distress and anxiety caused by uncertainty, rumors, and the absurd.

The end of “Rhinoceros,” a pledge by Bérenger to retain his humanity and not join the “flock of sheep” (or, in this case, rhinoceroses) raises the question: is conformity about refusing to leave the baseline status quo that you know, or about acquiescence to the pull of the masses? The question is open-ended; it is up to you to see the play for yourself and answer it.

Fresh Paint – Jeffrey Freedman


 Ever wonder what it would be like to see Arab musicians play with Indian musicians?   How about a Kenyan musician playing with a musician from Denmark?  All of these crazy combinations are a reality thanks to the OneBeat program.

The NY Times article “A United Nations of Music” by Larry Rohter talks about the OneBeat program, sponsored by the Feds.  It brings together 32 musicians from 21 countries on 5 continents to write, produce, and record original music together before bringing it to American audiences.  The program allows for musicians from different countries to experience new forms of music they may have never heard before.  They can introduce their music to others to create new music and add the musical influences of others to their own music.

One of the major benefits of this program aside from the interchanging of different types of music is that it helps establish bonds between different cultures from around the world.   The bonds the musicians form with each other can continue even after the program ends.  The musicians can also take things they learn from other cultures and introduce it to their own cultures back home. It is basically a creative form of international diplomacy and cultural diffusion.

Seeing as how this program seems to successfully allow for cultures to share with one another, do you think similar programs could be as effective?  Could programs with international artists, students, chefs and other jobs produce similar results?  Could more programs like these have a serious impact on change for the better within the world?

Fresh Paint – Flexing by Michael Jagdharry

As we’ve progressed into the future, dance styles have become decreasingly orthodox. We’ve gone from traditional ballroom dancing, ballet, and even flamenco baile to breakdancing, robotic techno dance (here’s an example, and just completely random and unique dances such as gangnam style. But recently a new style of dance has emerged called “flexing”.

Flexing, also called Bone Breaking, is a form of dance in which flexors (those who practice flexing) perform rhythmic contortionist movement. That is, they bend and flex their bodies beyond human’s normal range of flexibility in rhythm with whatever music is playing. Typically hip-hop or rap music accompanies flexing, however the dance style did not emerge from this genre of music. Flexing originates from a Jamaican style of dance called brukup, which is characterized by popping and locking, and is accompanied by dancehall and reggae music. Brukup also incorporates flexing; here is an example:

At the Dumbo Arts Festival in Brooklyn, a flexing event was held called “Flex is Kings Live”, in which 20 dancers showed off their flexing skills. Flexors often perform shirtless for showmanship. One dancer aliased “Flizzo” removed his shirt to reveal his name, which was tattoed across his belly.  Flexors also incorporate hats in their performance to add zest and give a new flavor to old flexing routines. Some hat tricks include spinning the hat around one of the fingers, throwing the hat up into the air so that it can be caught in rhythm with an elbow or knee, and simply transferring the hat to different parts of the body in a smooth, fluid motion that is in rhythm with the music.

So what are your opinions about flexing? Or about the general evolution of dance? Will there be a limit to how strange and odd these new styles may become? Will older styles of dance such as ballroom dancing one day become extinct? Interesting things to ponder.