A red carpet stretches across the room. Wooden sticks, maybe five feet long, are placed in groups of six on top of it. As we walk the expanse of the room, we contemplate the meaning of these rather enlarged sticks, watching as they alternate in fullness and parts. Most people would roll their eyes at this concept of art, others, like us, are in awe that we are a part of it. Dia:Beacon is a museum of art that houses works from the 1960s to present.
I worked in a research lab at a university in my hometown this past summer and, for the first time in my life, experienced what it’s like to have a long commute — an hour and a half each way standing in a hot, humid, insanely crowded subway car. Most of my fellow commuters spent these long and miserable daily trips on their phones, either scrolling through Weibo (think Twitter) feeds, watching viral videos, playing online games, binging the newest hit TV series or reading trending articles on Wechat (a Chinese amalgamation of Facebook and Instagram). Hundreds of commuters with headphones on staring down at their smartphone screens was quite a sight be behold but also incredibly frustrating, especially when I had to transfer lines at one of the busiest stations downtown, and had to follow a massive crowd of people up flights of stairs to another platform, a process slowed down significantly by those who were too absorbed in their phones to even walk properly. Despite my frustration, and because social learning is a natural thing that we all do, a few days into this commuter life, I also started killing time by spending it solely on my phone, going through my Weibo feed more times than necessary, replying to comments, reading Wechat articles that I normally wouldn’t care for and, when all that was still not enough, busted out my VPN to go through Instagram and Twitter. Yet, as you may have guessed by now, aggressively working my way through every social media platform every morning and evening did not make me feel “more connected” to friends and family, all the articles I read did not make me significantly more knowledgeable in certain areas or enlighten me on social or political issues, nor did the viral funny videos make me happier.
Before entering the space, it is as if the exhibit still has yet to be curated. A space that is normally bursting with artwork appears startlingly bare to the passing gaze from the exhibit’s periphery. Yet examination is almost always a generative process of exposure and uncovering — in terms of both the viewer as well as the viewed. The exhibit in question, Estudios de Tensión, meaning “studies of tension,” is a study of the relational and symbolic interactions that shape and constitute the world. A product of the artist Nicolás Robbio, the works can be found in the John Hartell Gallery in Sibley Hall until April 19.
During my sophomore year, former Arts & Entertainment Editor Sean Doolittle ’16 wrote a polemic titled “I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore.” Doolittle put Cornell students on blast for failing to value the arts. “We don’t make time for art anymore,” Doolittle wrote, “There’s no urgency for beauty.”
I disagreed with Doolittle’s column. Ways to appreciate arts and culture were everywhere on campus. Every weekend, students presented a cappella concerts, dance performances, live theater and more. Even if you wanted to stay in after a long week, who’s to say that watching Netflix doesn’t count as engaging with art?
Cornell students and Ithaca residents gathered to enhance Wikipedia entries on topics related to art, feminism and women in general in an “Edit-a-thon” hosted in Olin Library and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.
Sitting in Ithaca Bakery getting ready to listen to By the Way, I Forgive You, I thought back to the first time I heard Brandi Carlile during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Her song “The Story” was a major part of the musical episode in season seven and it’s been a constant in my Spotify throwback mixes since. I already associated her music with the faux cloudy Seattle of Grey’s, so I was ready to delve into the new album with my latte in hand. “The Story” showcases what folk singers and specifically Carlile do best: wrap a heartbreaking story in anthemic music. In her opening line (“All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am), Carlile makes something personal feel utterly universal.
A few weeks ago, former Arts editor Troy Sherman ‘18 and I decided to ruin our February break. Instead of going on a trip with friends, catching up on sleep and work or just spending time thinking and relaxing, we chose to spend a good portion of the break in close quarters, reading pages and pages of near-nonsense. When others asked us what we planned to do over break, we’d respond, with a mix of self-conscious amusement and embarrassment, “We’re going to read Finnegans Wake aloud.”
Why? I’m not entirely sure, looking back, how the seed of this idea was first planted. I’m an avid fan of the Irish writer James Joyce, and I think at some point last semester I realized that if I didn’t read Finnegans Wake — his final and by far most difficult work — now, while I’m in college and have friends like Troy that will do ridiculous, simultaneously self-flagellating and self-indulgent things like this with me, then I might never read it.