Welcome to arts, ink.

Welcome to arts, ink., where our student artists and writers are given a forum to illuminate the Michigan student experience through art. If you’re a U-M student interested in becoming a weekly contributor, there may be a position available to get paid for your work. We review applications and hire new bloggers twice a year, in September and January. Read more about Blogging Opportunities here!
Email us at arts@umich.edu with questions.

The Case For Packing

Three pairs of socks, two pairs of pants. Easy. The real dilemma are the scarves and tops. 

Here, my existential crisis and questioning of beliefs begin (or at least it did whilst I was packing). What do I want to look like when I travel? Do I want to plan my outfits to look cute/pretty? Do I want to stick to my usual outfits? Why aren’t all my clothes are prayer-friendly? Prayer friendly clothes are supposed to be full sleeves, no sheer clothes and are long enough to cover everything except your face, hands and depending on your personal beliefs, feet.

I interrogate myself in these moments. Firstly, who am I wearing nice clothes for? To please people or to please God? And secondly why can’t all my clothes be prayer friendly without requiring another cardigan, under sleeves or extra garments in general? I have to pack scarves on top of that too.

Mostly I am furious that I have to bring more clothes. If i were a guy, I would have not needed to bring so many clothes.

These are struggles I still have to come to terms with as a Muslim woman wearing a scarf. I remind myself that I chose to put this scarf on. And because I chose this, I have to be okay with the other things that come along with it. I still whine and whinge especially in 80 degree summers but above all, I still want to stay true to my faith.

When I find my faith wavering, I remember these verses “By the morning brightness and by the night when it grows still, your Lord has not forsaken you[Prophet], nor does He hate you, and the future will be better for you than the past; your Lord is sure to give you [so much] that you will be well pleased.” (Quran 93:1-6). 

And it brings me comfort.

Senior Year Echoes

I am rumbling down the grey corridor that suctions the plane to the Detroit airport. I say rumbling because my stomach is empty and because my carry-on suitcase is far too full. So, they fuss in harmony as I make my way to the baggage claim. It is a ritual now, a process that almost happens outside of my mind entirely. For there is no mistaking the direction I am heading. One last year. Two last semesters. And at the end of the tunnel, a graduation with silly hats and sillier robes. These thoughts, too, exist without conscious prompting. They occur to me as flitting imaginings. Simultaneously as I walk towards Ann Arbor, I am walking away.

I am sitting in the bus, snugly tucked into a seat and an audio book. The man sitting next to me is thankfully engaged in talking to another. A younger man, his son perhaps, listens while fiddling with the edge of his Michigan Engineering t-shirt. The shirt fits well, I wonder if the degree suits him too. For me, at least, it is much too late. Decisions made years ago have snowballed into inevitabilities by now. Maybe that is why I feel so snug in my seat. There are no more choices to make. Instead, I roll forward with the bus, predestined by my previous decisions to choose a certain major, to choose a certain path.

Even my bedroom, when I finally find the energy to arrange it, settles into a familiar shape. The drawer is filled with the same melange of forgotten cables, packets of tea, and Tupperware. There are some informational pamphlets that have accompanied me all the way from Freshman Orientation. I have never read them, and I never will. Still, I find a place for them in the same folder. Everything in its place, including myself. Right now, my place is here at the University of Michigan. Next year, it simply won’t be. And after four years of doing slight, though definitely improving, variations on the same theme, I am not sure how it will feel.

I remember flying into Detroit alone for the very first time as a freshman. With no parents within questioning distance, I was set adrift in the airport, attempting desperately to find the bus to Ann Arbor. Even successfully boarding the bus did not entirely overcome my anxiety. I insisted on tracking our long, winding journey on Google Maps. I watched our moving blue dot to make sure that I was in the right place. Heading into senior year, there is much less doubt. Much less eager eyed anticipation too. Many things have become expected and predictable. Certainly, I can now point to the exact date in October where the ever-accumulating pile of homework will finally topple and crush me. It is comforting and nostalgic, all at once, to recognize these routines and habits. Picked up and collected, like so many little treasures, these are the experiences that have built up, experiences that have become harmonies. Each year as we complete these rituals, they resonate a little bit differently. Together, they form some sort of pattern, some sort of song.

huh?

For hundreds of years, the definition of “art” has been questioned, debated upon, and altered. I myself, have no idea how to EVEN try and define this ambiguous term. Growing up in a traditional household, I once believed art was solely realistic paintings and drawings. I thought to be a professional artist I must achieve the skills these talented individuals have and millions will love me. Granted, this was when I was in kindergarten. Okay, maybe fifth grade (we don’t need to talk about it). Since then I have luckily expanded my definition to not only different types of visual art but also performance. I believe art consumes our world and to label it would be to limit what it can be. Instead we must explore what kinds of art can be discovered and share them. I am personally passionate about visual storytelling and I believe the most effective way to connect with an audience through story is with artistic platforms. 

Last semester, I used my column as a place to dispense art information I had found out and wanted to reach others with. In addition, I also wrote about my own class art projects and rambles about topics/questions about art that interests me. For this year, I hope to make my column connected to this theme of “What is art?”, “What can art be?”, and “What does art mean to you?” I will be interviewing a wide range of student artists and maybe professors as well. I will probably slide in a couple of posts about art seminars, galleries, and performances I attend too. I hope by doing this it will engage whoever you are that is reading this and expand your own definition of what art is/can be. I will be posting every Thursday so keep an eye out! I am excited to start this journey with you all but until next Thursday all you get are some favorite photographs I took over the summer. And yes, I believe this counts as art. 

🙂

The Mysterious Arrival of Bagely

If you’ve been an avid fan of the Alumni Association’s Welcome Wednesdays free bagels and coffee like myself, you’ve most likely come across a mascot named Bagely, the new symbol of Welcome Wednesdays after their relocation to the League and Pierpont Commons during the Center’s construction. I don’t know who decided and approved the idea of a literal person dressed in a bagel costume, but I can say that his presence is certainly alluring albeit alarming. Bagely, a flat-looking everything bagel, has signature bright blue eyes and a mouth agape, a ribbon of cream cheese lining his circular edges, and is complete with puffy white gloves. He greeted me with a friendly wave outside the League this week.

From what I can find, Bagely was first introduced this year, as an effort to publicize Welcome Wednesdays, and as a way to greet students back on campus. This video, published a mere week ago, depicts a saddened Bagely unable to find Welcome Wednesdays, assisted by Michigan staff to its various new locations. Just a day prior to the video’s release, the Alumni Association sent out an email to Michigan students signed by Bagely himself. Bagely’s popularity has skyrocketed across campus, with memes popping up every day on Michigan’s numerous student Facebook pages and pictures of fans posing with the bagel mascot spread across social media. Students are drawn to his creepy presence and seemingly impervious demeanor, including myself. Perhaps he will even reach the same meme status as our beloved orientation hero Billy Magic.

Does this video eerily imply that Bagely is a cannibal if he eats his own species? Which poor student/staff member has to dress up like Bagely? Whose idea was this? Why did the university agree to spend money on promoting a bagel mascot? Why can’t he speak? Although my questions mostly remain unanswered, it appears that Bagely won’t be leaving campus anytime soon.

The Soundtrack of My Summer

Do you ever hear a song come on the radio and suddenly you’re taken back in time to when you first heard it? You might have liked it so much that you played it on repeat for the next week, until you got sick of it and never played it again. Then you hear it on the radio and you fall in love all over again, but this time it’s even better, because you remember how great it was listening to it the first time, and it’s associated with a different time in life, where things might have been better or worse, but all you cared about was that one song. I experience this all the time, partially because I overplay things, but also because I’m constantly listening to new music. It’s a great feeling to rediscover a classic, and briefly but vividly remember an amazing moment from years ago. This effect also makes me more conscious about the music I listen to in the present, because I know that the music I listen to now will define my nostalgia in the future. Basically, an over-complicated way of saying that I like to relate certain songs or albums to certain times in my life. This last summer I struggled to find interesting or new music; not that there wasn’t a lot, just hardly anything that I wanted to put on repeat. However, two albums gradually rose to prominence and inevitably became the soundtracks of my summer: “Igor” by Tyler, the Creator and “Relaxer” by Alt-j.

“Igor” came out at the beginning of summer and I listened through it in its entirety the night it was released. It was a memorable project with an amazing atmosphere, unique aesthetic, and bass-heavy rhythms, but I didn’t see much replay value in it at first. It was like reading a book: the first time the story is great and the plot is constantly surprising, but attempting to read it again is daunting and pointless. However, faced with no alternative albums that peaked my interest, I resorted to picking out some of the catchiest, most interesting tracks and started listening to them daily (it was better than nothing, and I can’t live without music). Songs such as “EARFQUAKE”, “WHATS GOOD”, and “NEW MAGIC WAND” became favorites, mainly for their experimental vibes and driving bass lines. Overall the album isn’t bad, but the pitched vocals and gritty aesthetic get old fast, and I was more a fan of his aggressive and dark style on older albums.

The second album I overplayed was “Relaxer” by indie/alternative band alt-j. This album is true to its name, consisting of mostly rhythmic, gentle, and natural songs that feature a lot of acoustic instruments and samples. Only 8 songs long, there isn’t a lot to the album (especially since I can barely stand one of them), but the best ones truly shine, namely “3WW”, “In Cold Blood”, “Adeline”, and “Last Year”. This is an album for long car rides or adventures into the woods; it has a spirit of wandering and mystery that yields endless replay value, as both foreground and background music. It also served as a great contrast to the heavily produced and experimental Igor, meaning I could alternate the two albums and neither of them would get old. The two albums make an unlikely pair, but they complement each other in such a way that helps me appreciate the styles of each. Regardless, these songs came to define my summer: I played them on camping trips, beach trips, long drives, before work, and pretty much any other time I could play music.  Even though they aren’t my favorite albums ever, I can’t wait for that feeling, years later, when one shuffles into my playlist and I can briefly relive the summer of ’19, if only for a few minutes of nostalgia.