The Multi-Valenced Ann Arbor

I really had no other reason to be at this concert besides who I was sitting next to. He asked and I said yes. Luckily.

I glimpsed (more like studied; the room was silent and there was little else to do besides read since my voice tends to fill most spaces even at their largest) at the program and read, “Schumann: Dichterliebe.” Or I at least read Schumann and had a flashback to curly hair, beautiful professor, Deleuze event, and something about “the Refrain.” Lately, I’ve often forgot how amazing it is to be at the University of Michigan, not because it is amazing

(the Central Student Government silences and oppresses the very students it claims to represent)

but rather because there are a lot of opportunities for class and life and interests to have a real conversation. Namely, there are chances to take what I study and apply it to situations OR I can see what I study “in the real world,” which, as an English and Philosophy student, is sometimes difficult. Tucked behind/beside/near the Aut Bar (some could say a gay bar, family restaurant, or gay studies lab), the Kerrytown Concert Hall is one of the cutest venues I’ve been in and I absolutely love the cozy atmosphere. There is a facade of escape at such concerts, and for me the escape is heightened when the music performed isn’t from this century–it is my form of time travel.

(Since, as I’ve said, campus life is beyond unbearable, and this is coming from a person with almost all agent social identities, i.e., I identify as a white, cis-man, middle class, temporarily able-bodied person . . . . And to see not only the student government act atrociously but also other students stand behind such actions makes me (on the tame side of my emotions) want to never look at this campus again. And then when you pile on my queerness, I’m ready to evacuate immediately and call this campus, more or less, a war zone where a majority of my friends and my community remain unsafe on a daily basis. I would like to travel by any means necessary: time, space.)

As the Schumann started, I realized that I had analyzed (or been in the presence of an analysis of) this very piece’s first movement. For a Deleuze Interest Group event. How did a friend taking me to a concert send me spiralling into the philosophico-musical feels? I don’t know, but it happened.

The song melted away, much like when I oil pull in the morning–it starts of granular? or at least in some conglomeration of solid until it melts into a liquid and congeals in some sort of liquid mass of “detoxification and whitening”–and only solidified, perhaps, when I left the venue, walked away, into my night (a drag show). Chords unfinished continued to haunt me as a queen flashed the audience and I was left agasp not at perfectly sculpted breasts but at Schumann, lurking just behind me, never to be fully seen or taken in.

After a few more songs that helped to fill out the theme of “A Lovers’ Discourse” started, happened, and ended, the pianist/composer/friend-of-my-friend-on-the-left-of-me’s compositions began.

The first. Three Frank O’Hara poems. The second. One Sylvia Plath poem.

Now it is dangerous, as someone who “studies literature,” to attend such events. I have been trained to be a snob, although the training has been undertaken, more often than not, by myself. SO. I obviously have a lot of feels about these two songs.

I think what matters most to me, and to this blog, is not how I felt about the composition itself (which I loved by itself, however, I disliked the tenor singing the lyrics of the poetry since I felt there was a HUGE disconnect between form and content, which could be the point even though I doubt) but how I felt inside of someone’s interpretation of the poetry. Live music is not just something I listen to, but I become the music. It fills my nostrils, it enters my body, and fills, yes, “my soul.”

(My soul aches. I am aching because the Ann Arbor campus, a place I was taught and eventually learned to love in some real way, is parasitic to its most important inhabitants. It is a sad thing for an institution to remain passive when individual, one-off microaggressions happen. It is an unspeakable offense for an institution committed to “social justice and diversity” to enact the very crimes it condemns. The rampant racism, transphobia, ableism, homophobia, sexism is abhorrent. I can only hope the University and its various governing bodies take responses like this one to heart and take responsibility, acknowledge their accountability, and do things (not just say things) to rectify what they’ve done.)

And I hated the interpretation. Though it was refreshing to be in a conversation about poetry without using any words. It was like listening to the most beautiful one-sided debate, and I was the other team refusing to speak.

What is beautiful about this campus may be purely aesthetic. I can study, I can read, I can feel, and then I can go and see things enacted, performed, experimented with by those in or near my community.

Days like today I cling to the aesthetic, sit in my corner, and count the minutes I have left before I can take flight.

Functionality Over Taste

This weekend, I attended a conference with a group called InterVarsity, which took place in enemy territory. That’s right, I went to East Lansing, home of MSU. Besides the fact that I was unable to wear anything from the maize side of my closet and I saw a LOT of green, I noticed a few things about the hotel I stayed in.

Pointed out to me by my (new) friend Mary, art student extraordinaire, the conference center and hotel was beautiful. From the way the sinks were designed, to the calming waterfall welcoming guests into what will hopefully be a home away from home, the layout was appealing, stylish, and modern. I noticed small touches, such as the way the comfortable chairs were placed near large windows, were the sunlight could filter in and provide a pleasant atmosphere when having a chat with friends. I enjoyed the placement of a revolving door, optional next to the regular door yet still an instillation that made the institution feel like a hotel. Yes, as Mary said, the architecture was great.

So that makes it artful, right?

When going to wash my hands, I had no idea where to place the complimentary bar of soap. When I found it could be tucked between the faucet handle and the raised edge of the sink, I felt proud…until it slipped of back into the sink.

Put on, slip off.

Put on, slip off.

The fountain, while gorgeous, spanned two stories. The water fell from the main lobby into the garage floor, into a pool with…what kind of sculpture? Really, what is that supposed to be? Did they actually pay money for that?

And why in the world would I want to look at a bale of hay right before I’m supposed to slip into pleasant dreams filled with friendship, laughter and rainbows? Hay is not particularly calming to me. In fact, I really don’t like hay (too many encounters on Rodeo Day. This is what I get for growing up in Texas).

All of these things culminated into a single question that both my friend Mary and another friend of mine Dean posed: Does art HAVE to have a reason?

In this case, I would solidly argue with yes, since a hotel is primarily functional rather than artful. I’m not sure if I necessarily agree all the time, but every time I’ve encountered art, either in audio or visual form, it’s made a clear statement. Deep? Maybe not. But a clear idea, theme, statement, whatever you have it? Yeah.

So I’m not sure what statement the bale of hay was trying to make. But hopefully, it was making a statement, and I just happened to miss it.

Art in Non-Art Settings

As I sat waiting to begin a study for one of my courses, I began to look all around me. I had never been in this area of the building before, and I was taken aback by how full of art the walls were. It wasn’t a building dedicated to any artistic profession, but it captured this aura of serenity and culture through its snapshot images placed vertically along the wall. I’ve always been fascinated by how businesses choose to decorate their offices, eating areas, and hallways. Is the art supposed to match the theme of the business? Who chooses what art should go up? Will the artist get their deserved recognition if their pieces are well-received by the customers?

Wynwood Kitchen and Bar

Sometimes what makes a cafe or a restaurant so yummy is the atmosphere that is created by the decor. While we wait for our food, we are drawn to the setting around us, and it becomes our entertainment during our time of hunger. I find it very beneficial for an artist to display their work within restaurant settings because for many people, the desire to eat out is not solely based on the food, but also on the intrigue that the setting brings. An artist’s piece may be so eye-catching and original, like the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar backdrop above, that many people may inquire about who did this piece, and how they can contact them for more work.


New York College of Health Professions

I often see art within an educational or professional setting, and to be honest, I’m usually not impressed. I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m in a dentist’s office or waiting to take an exam, but I rarely connect with the pieces because my thoughts are elsewhere. Some educational institutions may realize this and opt for the still life of a bowl of fruit or flowers, opposed to something more stimulating.

Chicago Dental and Dentist Services

With this in mind, I wonder what the relationship with art that colleges and businesses truly have. Is it for the love of the field or is it more about filling space with simplistic pieces?

The Art of Art

The Art of Art

I have to find the time. When do I not have class? When am I not working? When do I not have any exams, essays, study groups, major events, panel discussions, semester project meetings, homework assignments, Pilates sessions, ballet classes, Italian lessons, bar nights, errands, parties, things to do, places to be, and people to meet? When will I be alone so that no eavesdropper can hear me speaking to my canvas and watch as it learns to speak to me? When will I be strong enough to lift a paintbrush and when will I be weak enough?

I have to find the thing. What will compel me to pick up a pencil, paintbrush, knife, marker, chalk, charcoal, pastels, spraypaint? What shall it be, the ephemeral gossamer that lands on my canvas, plucked from time and shaped and sculpted and suspended forevermore in mine own image? A glass of water, a bowl of fruit, a leaf, a vase, a ball? A kiss, a nightmare, a dream, a promise, a heartbreak?

I have to find the soul. What do I feel? What do I want to feel? Do I want the earnestness that permeates my very being to bleed onto the canvas, weigh it down with my Brobdingnagian sorrow? Or shall I buoy it instead and teach it how to fly? Will I set fire to it with rage or with equanimity? What shall I douse it with? Tenderness? Shall I caress it after?

I have to find the will. Do I have the motivation, inspiration, perspiration, dedication to make something? What do I make? How do I do it? Can I do it?

What is ‘it’?


Don’t get me wrong: I love art. But I don’t want to seek out art somedays. Currently it’s rainy and drab and nasty outside.

I prefer to become art.
Now this isn’t some pseudo (or real) hipster montage of postmodern thought about how all of us are performing our identities and subjectivity at all times, even though we are (ba-zing!), but rather “becoming-art” is a lifestyle choice that I’m very conscious about. I’m very aware about how my body can be positioned as, wear, or become art itself.
For example, at no time do I walk around without performing. I am either:
1) Singing/”Rapping”/Humming/Whistling to music. Which isn’t, hopefully, me as a white man taking up more space than I need to, but me as a bored white queer man who is sick of listening to the buzz and hum of cars and cookie cutter robot-peers. I’d rather be listening to Azealia Banks. Music and sound and noise is beautiful and, especially, when I’m mid-travel I need a little extra inspiration to get where I’m heading (and to forget about the looming drones).
2) Wearing ridiculous clothing. I am a huge fan of monochromatic aesthetics and gray as a way of being; however, there comes a point when the seasons shift, or die, and the sun seems to fade away into a palate of only white/gray/black. THIS MAKES ME SAD. So I cope by wearing neon prints with other stripes with other fabrics with leather with hats and scarves and giant earrings, and rainbow umbrellas. Becoming the overwhelming stimulus I try to avoid or cling to is comforting. When I know that it is myself that is obnoxious–I can handle that. The trees no longer lay claim to being that beautiful shade of emerald, the sky can’t brag that its really that sky-blue, fire can’t embody all that is red, but I can: all in one outfit.
3) Reciting quotes from my favorite books. At no point are there not lines from books circulating in the vast cavernous hole that is my mind. Because I read for the majority of the time that I’m awake, I find it nice to recite lines and share literature with the world! From Toni Morrison to Jesus to James Joyce to bell hooks to Vladimir Nabokov to you name it (or rather I’m a snob so I’ll stick to the people that I know). People always get confused when I tell them that I study English and Philosophy, so it’s nice when I can actually share how cool these areas are. How beautiful they are. How “AHHHHH” they are.
Now I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to be art all the time but I find it’s the way I cope best with being in Ann Arbor. It gets boring looking at the same white, hetero, temporarily able-bodied men in their polos, boat shoes, and pastel shorts–so I say, “liven it up!”

While it can be overwhelming being the art for the designated spaces I’m in, it is more comfortable to seek solace in groups.
Have nail painting parties–there is nothing more I enjoy than having sparkly middle fingers.

Have team shopping events or days where you swap clothing with your friends.

Have days where you and others can annoyingly match in terrifying ways.
Although I’m a broken record and constantly talking about how I’m art itself (. . .) I find it important to reemphasize that I’m glaringly semi-offensive to everyone’s eyes. The sensory overload that is myself is so important to who I am these days. I actively want to be a bit too much because being just enough is so banal.
As I come into senior year I realize more and more about how much I don’t care about most things in my day to day life. I care when and where and how I need and want to care. But other than that . . . I’m a canvas full of life ready to explode.

Le Dénouement

This was my first semester at U of M, and I got the amazing opportunity to write for Arts Ink. Going back to my first post I talked of my inexperience in the artistic world (basically I was a wannabe who adored the arts, yet I didn’t know the right way to convey how I felt). I think I’ve grown a little from my experience writing, and I am grateful for that little leap of knowledge that I’ve gained. My idea of art wasn’t fully molded when I started out, but I have begun to understand its mission of enacting thought and change, something that I truly appreciate.

I learned of influential artists that I wouldn’t have otherwise researched if it wasn’t for Arts Ink.

From Left: Nikkey Finney, Christophe Jacrot Photography, Validation/Short Film by Kurt Kuenne

I developed concepts that I wouldn’t have otherwise contemplated on a regular day.

Fashion’s Evolution/ Now & Then/WTF happened

Some weeks I was completely sucked dry of where I could take the readers of Arts Ink that Sunday. I asked myself what would you like read about? What would I feel passionate writing about? And some weeks I felt like a complete flop inspiration-wise, and others I was overcome with intrigue at what I came up with in discussion of the artistic world. It was never easy, not one week of writing; however, it’s a learning experience on both sides.

To end this semester with a challenge (let’s shake it up a bit), I challenge you readers out there to do something positive for the enduring arts movement every single day this summer. Take a class, support a band, create a collection of poems, develop a completely biased and opinionated blog about your thoughts of the intricacy of abandoned buildings, and rant about it to your uncle Larry at the next family function. I’ll do the same, and we’ll reconvene in the fall. Good luck!