Since Trump was elected, I am bothered every day by a certain set of questions and anxieties. Whenever I go on a news site or look at a paper, our current president apparently fits the bill of tyranny wearing a fresh set of big boy underpants. He has begun an enormous upheaval of all values we carried closely to our hearts. Truth, facts, common decency—these diamond American ideals have gone out the window. Meanwhile, the media stands by professionally wide-mouthed.
“‘Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision.’” Although this observation comes from a fictional character in Don Delillo’s novel White Noise on how people react to a famous tourist attraction, it also supports my recent — and admittedly strange — obsession with how life may be a series of illusions created by society that hinders our ability to see things for what they really are.
When I first caught sight of the Biosphère in Montreal, Quebec, I remember telling my parents that I had to see it up close. I was struck by the design of the exterior of the sphere, a fantastic webbing of steel and acrylic cells. It was a structure that I could see looming over Parc Jean-Drapeau from my spot in downtown Montreal, a lace orb that stood out among the dense trees of the island and contrasted with the uniformity of the city’s buildings. Upon arriving on the island, I realized that the Biosphère holds an interactive environment museum that showcases exhibitions on major environmental issues as well as activities that allow the public to learn about water, climate change, air and sustainable development. I paid a fee I thought to be too expensive for the “knowledge” I would gain from the museum.
History continuously shows that Western influences have played a dominant role in the shaping of many regions of the world. From hemisphere to hemisphere, nation to nation, Western forces have consistently proved their acquisitive nature in conquests of land, people, and resources. Japanese art and culture are no exception to this rule. Walking down the steps leading to American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art, I was met with a silence only broken by the occasional footsteps of security guards lightly pacing the interconnected rooms of the museum halls. The exhibit’s pieces, displayed in a comfortably small space, radiated an air of tranquility and sophistication.
Watching Eva Hesse, I felt almost certain that I had seen artist Eva Hesse’s work somewhere. The latex and fiberglass sculptures, the thrown-about ropes and the arrangement of her shapes seemed to me incredibly modern, given that Hesse had worked primarily during the sixties. Perhaps it’s just that by now, Hesse is well-known in context of the modern art movement, with several posthumous exhibitions. For example, following her death in 1970, Hesse’s work was displayed in a grand exhibition at the famous Guggenheim Museum — weird, absurd sculptures that had never been quite been seen before Hesse were gathered together and in the exhibit, five years’ worth of her work completely filled the floors of the Guggenheim, a remarkable feat given the size of the museum and Hesse’s deteriorating health prior to her death as her friends note in the new 2016 art documentary Eva Hesse. Eva Hesse does more than simply recounting the life of an artist, or discussing an art movement — it explores and examines the complex interconnections between Hesse’s art and her life, detailing the development and fluidity of her times.
I’ve been telling people for a while now that I fear I may be outgrowing my column, and that fear was almost confirmed in the early stages of writing this one. As I rummaged through the dozens of pages in my “Sun Columns” document, I found that many of the ideas/thoughts there failed to strike me with any kind of zest or zeal for transmitting them to print. It’s as if the would-be incisive ingredients of my metaphorical ink had been reduced to a sparse collection of watered down pencil shavings and stale, rehashed themes. I realized that — in spite of all the demons I’ve exorcised using the style on which I have relied for over two years — the time had come for me to slough off some of my inhibitions and mold the medium into what I needed it to be… or else I would soon become unfulfilled. And so, Editor willing, I will commence with doing just that.
I guess I’m still feeling the grip of summer on my mind — I find myself taking spontaneous visits to exhibits, laying on the grass to bask in the sun and procrastinating until stupidly late times. And with the new school year reliably starting off in a daze, I (unsurprisingly) forgot to re-read the description of Homo Ludens: The Architecture of Play online before heading over. When I made my way to the Bibliowicz Family Gallery where the exhibit is located, I was surprised to find the brightly-lit space full of the classic children’s playthings: wooden building blocks, miniature buildings and Legos. Of course, it makes perfect sense — the title Homo Ludens, Latin for “playing man,” is indicative. Jenga, Legos, a wooden block set for a Prairie House and alphabet blocks are arranged in a colorful menagerie that invokes déjà vu of one of those classic childhoods filled with dollhouses and toy trains.
I think it was Scott McCloud who once compared superhero comics to cake: a delicious treat, but perhaps not the basis of a healthy, balanced diet. In a medium artificially saturated with capes and tights, it can be easy to forget how sweet these stories can be — many of the finest, most bombastically enjoyable comics ever made have been in this very genre, along with some of the dreariest garbage imaginable. It certainly does not help that the vast majority of books published by Marvel and DC, the so-called “big two” who have made superstuff their bread and butter, are bland-to-unreadable exercises in corporate IP. But there’s more to life than continuity. Here are a few super-powered, super-artistic titles you can simply enjoy.
Today I am a senior — a second semester senior, no less — and my December graduation date looms ahead, a deadline I cannot outrun and a harbinger of not only a beginning but an end. Here I stand, suspended in stasis in Frost’s yellow wood, with two roads ahead of me and one clearly less traveled. I want to write but the world says no, write only schedules and school-assigned essays. We are living with noun-and-verb proverbs and my allusive adjectives confound the computer. Across the world there is an illiterate girl with fingers that quiver, how can I write when she sews day and night?
Well, here we are. It’s been quite the ride, hasn’t it? To be quite honest, I don’t even know what to say. I’ve read countless farewell columns in my four years of reading, writing for and editing the Arts section of The Sun. Everything worth saying has been said, and more eloquently, by a talented stable of friends and writers that I should have gotten to know better.