Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Visual Art




Out of all the possible photographs I could’ve chosen at the ICP–ones depicting violence, or the harsh lifestyle during apartheid, this one stuck out for me. It’s captioned Campaign leaders discuss the court case with their lawyers; from left: Dr. James Moroka, Nelson Mandela, Yusuf Dadoo, August 25, 1952. Gelatin silver hand print. Courtesy of the artist.

In the photograph, there are three men, all circled around the newspaper. They’re all wearing suits. The man on the left and the one in the middle are black, and the man on the right is white. The man on the left is wearing the only striped suit. The man in the middle has a cigarette in his mouth, partially smoked. The man in the middle is also the one holding the newspaper, and they’re all looking at it with a half smile. The newspaper and the men are lit up, while the background is dark. There is a man standing in the background between the heads of Dr. Moraka and Nelson Mandela, but it seems insignificant to the photo.

The position of the men is shoulder to shoulder, and they are even encircling the newspaper slightly. Clearly, whatever picture or article that they’re looking at is the topic of their conversation.

Once the identities of the men are known, it puts the photograph in perspective. Even their suits tell that they are doing something more important than having a day of fun. No longer could they just be some casual people enjoying a good laugh over some trivial news, they are now the Defiance Campaign leaders. Now, we would think that the reason for their smiles is some good news about their war on apartheid.

I chose this photo because it seems peaceful. Not only is it an example of blacks and whites getting along, with a common goal, in a time of war, it’s also just pleasant to look like. Their minds are busy and distracted, as if for a second, the purpose of their meeting doesn’t matter anymore. Only each other’s company seems important at the moment, signified by the lighting of only their three bodies. Most importantly, they’re smiling. It’s nice to see smiles amidst all of the unpleasant photos of apartheid. Of course, I have to make a disclaimer that what they’re talking about, smiling at, and feeling could have been completely different from the way I described, but that’s how I interpreted the photo when I saw it.


December 20, 2012   No Comments

Stand-up Comedy and Hitchcock- comments

I stayed for three of the performances (the host and the first two comedians). Out of those three, I thought the host was the best. I found it interesting how most of their jokes were quite vulgar. I believe a good comedian should be able to make people laugh without talking about such topics. It’s almost as if talking about vulgar topics is the easy way out for a comedian. Perhaps making ordinary topics funny is harder. I’ve heard that the performances later on were much better, so I wish I stayed a bit longer.

Coming into BAM, I had higher expectations for the stand-up comedy than for the Hitchcock film. However, I was surprised at how good the Hitchcock film was; I ended up enjoying the movie much more than the comedy. My low expectations for the film were caused by my lack of knowledge of the film. I actually thought it was a going to be a documentary, so I wasn’t really excited about it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the movie turned out to be more of a drama than a documentary. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this movie as much if we didn’t have a lesson on Hitchcock in class. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to people who don’t know about Alfred Hitchcock because they wouldn’t be able to catch various references about his life and movies. However, anyone who knows the slightest about Hitchcock should watch the film because I thought it was really entertaining and informative for something that’s supposed to be like a biography (which tend to be boring normally).

December 15, 2012   No Comments

Met Museum

Muhammad and I went to the Met Museum today! After waiting ten minutes in line to get a shiny metal badge we were finally able to see art. We went to the ancient Egypt exhibition first.

What surprised me was that although the sculptures and paintings on the wall were more than three thousand years old, they colors were still there. Also the sculptures were  really well crafted considering the time period. Also, there were many intriate designs on everything. The tombs, wall, sculptures, etc.

Next, we saw the panoramic of the palace and the garden of Versailles. It was amazing. I felt like I was actually there! Although the painting was two dimensional, it had a 3D effect that amazed me.

We visited the weapons and armors section after. Every armor and weapon had amazing designs on them. It was if the armor and weapons were not crafted for fighting, but rather for beauty. I can imagine the armored warriors fighting, and suddenly stop to gaze at each other’s armor in awe. I was also very impressed by the smoothness and roundness of the helmets. Since the technology in the past was very poor, I wonder how do they make it so smooth and round. The metals used were perfect, there were so cracks, bumps, etc on it.

I was really impressed by this rock used in catapults because this rock may look simple but probably took a long time to make. Rocks are not circular, so the craftsman probably spent a lot of time making this rock circular. Also, he/she has to do this for every single rock!

I had a great time in the Met and I took a lot of pictures. I noticed that many people just stroll through the museum like a walk in the park. If they took their time to scrutinize each art, they would know why is it called art. Furthermore, the lighting in the museum plays a major role in presenting the art. If there was only one shade of light throughout the museum, the exhibitions will not look as great. However, with a bright light shining on the art and a dim light as a background, it really augments the viewers’ interest.

December 9, 2012   No Comments

Tatzu Nishi: Columbus’ Living Room

I, too, had the great pleasure of going up inside Tatzu Nishi’s installment in Columbus Circle, Columbus’ Living Room. The artist, Tatzu Nishi, worked with the Public Art Fund to build scaffolding around the 7 story high statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle. The idea behind it was creating a situation or scenario in which you would stand in C’s living room, experiencing a closeness to a statue you would never otherwise experience. Although we were close enough to reach out and touch it, the guards wouldn’t let us. The view, however, was unbelievable. You enter through the door and see that every little detail has been attended to. The TV is playing CNN, couches surround coffee tables full of art books and history novels, and lamps fill the corners with light. Hardwood floors are below you and windows looking out onto central park surround you.

The creativity of this art installation and the experience going up to it was remarkable. How often do you get the opportunity to stand so close to a legendary statue? A great idea and a great experience. Remarkable and breathtaking.

They do need to get up there and clean up the bird crap, though. Next time.


December 8, 2012   No Comments

Luz @ La Mama & The International Center for Photography

The International Center for Photography, a mecca of photographic documentation located a few blocks from Times Square, was the first cultural experience of our Macaulay evening. When you enter this unassuming building, you’re immediately overwhelmed by the photographs. Covering every wall, there was a sensory incapacitation of images ranging from innocent images of children standing in deserted fields, to dead bodies laying in the streets. It was unbelievably difficult to look at some, while others were rather simple, and other still lighthearted. There was an interesting video exhibit as well, which appeared to have been significantly less frequented. A video made up up animated pencil sketches showed the death, danger, and hope of the Apartheid, and detailed periods of history in which these moments were especially relevant.

The most moving photograph for me was one by a member of the Bang Bang Club, Ken Oosterbroek. This was a group of four friends, photographers, and journalists who were on the front lines during the apartheid. Ken and Kevin have both since passed away; Kevin committed suicide due to the mental toll of one of his photos, and Ken was shot during the war, believed to be by peacekeepers. This image is of what looks like a large mob of people marching towards something, and children holding hands, running in front of them. The image is moving and powerful; with the juxtaposition of those running peacefully away from the angry mob, we see a true contrast between apartheid violence and apartheid peaceful inhabitants. A very moving exhibit, photo, and visit.

Also this evening we went to see a play at La MaMa experimental theatre, down in the east village. This play was interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, the characters all played other characters. They interchanged between a lawyer in a suit and a street inhabitant wearing dirty clothes, a judge and a victim. This performance was mainly about the legal proceedings involving citizenship, as well as a really moving discussion of sexual assault. The talk back with the author at the end was enlightening, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to attend. The sets were beautifully crafted, and the ingeniousness of the symbols, including the 2-person-operated bird, took it to a new level.

Great evening altogether.

December 8, 2012   No Comments

ThisICP Museum

Hello, all!

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the ICP museum. I have taken many history classes and as a pianist, I have been exposed to many art classes as well in the last few years. However, I have never had a more fulfilling experience in either subject than I did at the ICP museum. I thought it did a wonderful job at creating a story out of the photographs that were there. History can often be presented in very dry ways, I have come to learn over the years. However, the way the museum was structured was very interesting. There were lines of photographs hung on the wall, and we followed the photographs in a very specific way to create a story. I found this very interesting; I have visited several museums in my life, but this was the first time I was told upon entering that there is a specific way to go in order to attain a full understanding of the content in the building. I was told to follow a specific path and pay careful attention to each photograph on that path, in that order. I can honestly say this made my job as an observer both easier and harder at the same time: it became easier because there was no ambiguity. I usually feel very lost at museums, unsure of where to go and what to look at. I would usually just walk around to random works of art, stare for several seconds, and move on without another thought. However, my job was made much harder because now there was more pressure to pay attention to the story that was being told. I had to take good care to observe and analyze all the details presented in each photograph, on the first floor and downstairs in the basement. There was not a single photograph that seemed out of place. Everything there tied in with everything around it and the experience gave me a very real idea of the time periods represented, from the 1960s all the way up until the present.

The photographs at the museum were unlike anything I have seen before. Through techniques such as perspective and lighting, I could feel myself being put into the pictures themselves. They conveyed a wide range of emotions from picture to picture that helped me understand the time period and the discriminatory practices that were around for many years.

The photograph I chose to focus on was called “Sleeping quarters at miners’ hostel” by Leon Levsen, taken in 1946. Here is a brief description of the painting.

There is a small room that looks sort of like a jail cell or dungeon. Light is entering the room from windows that are high above on one of the walls. There are two lines of beds. In each, there is a row of bunk beds. Six men are visible in the picture. Five are sitting and one is standing up. Two of them are seated at a table located at the center of the room. There is a pail on the table, so perhaps they have just finished eating a meal. The man on the left appears to be staring off into the distance towards his right. The man on the right is knitting a white article of clothing. There are two men sitting opposite each other on opposite bottom bunks near the photographer on either side. They are both merely grasping one hand in the other. There is one mean standing at the back of the room, underneath the windows. He is wearing a beret and is staring straight ahead. The last man is in the bottom bunk on the back left corner of the room. He seems to be examining a bottle. He is the only man in the picture who is barefoot. The other men have on black shoes. The man who is knitting appears to be wearing deteriorating work boots. He also has on a beret. The man next to him is wearing untied high boots. The man on the bunk near the photographer on the left is wearing deteriorating dress shoes. All of the men appear to be wearing a towel or bedsheet-like article of clothing, except for the man wearing dress shoes. The room does not appear to be very clean, The floor has many stains of different colors and sizes. The sheets on each beds are thrown about without organization. All of the men have very stern expressions, though the man examining the bottle seems to be the least stoic. He seems extremely interested in the bottle. There are no decorations in the room. It appears to be all gray and white, at least what can be made out of it in the black and white photograph. The tiles on the walls are cemented and look like bricks.

This photograph moved me because it has a very ominous feeling to it. All of the details add some sense of darkness to it, from the stern expression on each man’s face to the disorganized room to the bed-sheet like clothing to the bottle, which may indicate that some of these men like to drown their sorrow through drinking.

All in all, I had a very enjoyable time at this exhibit and look forward to visiting it again sometime in the near future.

December 6, 2012   1 Comment

The Tempest

When we went to the opera, what struck me first was how fancy everything is. I was surprised I’ve never been to Lincoln Center, even though I’ve been living in New York almost my whole life. The place really displays grandeur, having the opera buildings overlooking the patio, with a fountain in the center. Inside the building, people were dressed very formally. We headed up the stairs, passing through an indoor balcony (which reminded me of the staircase scene in “Titanic”) to our seats.

staircase in “Titanic”

I laughed at how the chandelier in the auditorium rose to signify that it’s time to be quiet. I’m sure people who consistently go to the opera are familiar with it, although it was new for me.

Usually I find it difficult to follow the plot lines of plays, but this one was different for me. I understood everything that was going on, and sincerely enjoyed the show despite my expectations. The only disappointing thing was that there was very little actual melody to the singing during the opera. The dialogue was always sung, but the only time there was a melodious tune was in one of the final scenes, where Prospero forgives Ferdinand.

One interesting thing I noticed is how subtle the transitions between some scenes were. At the end of one of the scenes, the crew of the boat left the stage very slowly. They left so slowly that one wouldn’t even notice how they disappeared, unless he paid attention to them.

The music went along with the plot well. I remember how sharp bursts were played by violins whenever there was an argument, and calming chords were played during the romantic scenes. Once again, there were rarely any tunes played. Mostly, there were chords being played in order to emphasize the characters’ points.

It’s difficult to rate this opera, since I don’t have much experience with them, and can’t compare it to anything. But this was an interesting introduction to this genre of art. It must be difficult to synchronize all the talents that had to be used in this opera. That includes the musicians, actors/singers (especially Ariel), the gymnasts, the people who do lighting, the playwright, William Shakespeare, the costume designers, and the multitude of others whose hard work went into this production. A work of entertainment presented as successfully as this one must always be commended.

December 2, 2012   No Comments

Tatzu Nishi on “‘Discovering Columbus”

Hi everyone,

This weekend, I went to Tatzu Nishi’s art exhibit at Columbus Circle and it was an amazing experience. According to, Nishi decided to do his first “public project” in the United States on a historic statue of Christopher Columbus that was created in 1892. I was really astonished to see how Nishi reinvented our perception of Columbus by situating this 13-foot statue of Columbus right in the middle of a modern, NYC-inspired living room. The room is full of nice furniture and when I walked into it, it was a bit breath-taking at first because  I wasn’t quite expecting to see a colossal statue in the middle of a fictional room. Nevertheless, it was an interesting art exhibit because Nishi made me rethink my perception of Columbus as a man of the past, with no connections to the present or to the future. The exhibit humanized him for me and made me think about the things I had read about him in Michael Troulliot’s book, “Silencing the Past: Power and Production in History.” Although I lost my brochure, I do remember reading that the original statue was made in Italy to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. I always found that term “discovery” really biased because it implies that the Western perspective on history is the only view that is valid. I’m sure that the indigenous peoples would not celebrate Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas…

As Trouillot suggests, I would also agree that it was not Columbus’ discovery that changed the course of history as we know it, but it was his “accidental encounter” that did. Nishi helped me reflect on this idea a bit more and I am grateful for that.


December 2, 2012   No Comments

The ICP Exhibit


On October 4, we went to an exhibit about apartheid in South Africa.

The photo that caught my attention was Pauline Moloise, two women and Winnie Madikizela Mandela mourn at the memorial service for Benjamin Moloise , who was hanged earlier that morning, Khotoso house, Johannesburg, 1985 by Gille de Vlieg.

6 men and 4 women showed up to Benjamin Moloise’s service. The men are all in collared shirts, appropriately formal, while the women’s dress varies greatly, from the old lady in the blanket to the woman in a formal blouse and cardigan.

The younger men have their fists in the air and look defiant, while the older men seem more defeated and tired. It seems that Moloise died a political death, because other pictures had the raised fist symbol as well, and the young men are still fired up about the cause. It reminded me of the book “Loose Change,” when 2 of the characters get older and disillusioned with the revolution.

Another element of the photo that interested me was the old woman being in a blanket while the other people are in Western clothes. Is the younger generation more Westernized, or am I over-thinking it and she’s just like those little old ladies on Ocean Parkway who are always in at least 3 layers even in July?

Moloise was an important figure. According to my research, Moloise was a poet who was killed for conspiring to kill a police officer in the effort to protest apartheid. One of Moloise’s poems became a common chant at protests. The US even urged the South African government to “take another look” at their plan to execute Moloise. The execution only served to escalate resistance to apartheid.

That is the story behind this photograph.


November 21, 2012   2 Comments

The Tempest

“The Tempest” is the only opera I’ve ever been to in my life.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I had read “Maskerade” by Terry Pratchett, so I was prepared.

According to this book, a random person viewing an opera won’t know what’s going on at all without the little booklets that they pass out explaining it, so I looked up the plot online beforehand. The book was right- I would’ve never been able to follow the show without it.  I like my entertainment to be fun, and fun can only be had if at least half of your brain isn’t saying “OK…what’s going on….I don’t understand.” So I can read a book and not understand why a character did something because I know it will be explained later in the plot. Movies take this reliability to an extreme, recycling the same plots over and over again- you know what’s going to happen in a movie just by the title and poster. The opera seems to be the most brain-bruising form of entertainment by far. I wasn’t used to this, and I don’t think I like it.

“Maskerade” also pointed out that the singers in the opera have to worry about their appearance, and I noticed that everyone in “The Tempest” took good care of themselves, but maybe that’s just in acrobatic operas like this? I wouldn’t know. Either way, the Tempest involved a lot of  gymnastic skills, and I wasn’t expecting that- I guess I always pictured some fat lady singing high enough to break glass when i pictured “opera.”

The voices involved sounded good to my unsophisticated ears. The Ariel singer’s voice was annoyingly high- 2 people complained that they got headaches from her.

I liked the scenery, especially the sea and the forest. The idea of waving a sheet to portray the ocean worked out well, and the trees moved farther apart as singers walked towards them, creating and illusion of depth.

The costumes were intense. They were made so that even the people in the top row could see all the details.

I don’t know. Opera just isn’t my thing.

November 6, 2012   No Comments