REVIEW: Traces

**featured image a screenshot from the final frame of “Gone” on Virtual Mutations, Camila Magrane

9:00am • Monday, January 30, 2023 • Institute for the Humanities Gallery

Traces captured many emotions and impressions in the small space of the Institute for the Humanities Gallery, and in the even smaller spaces of single Polaroid photos. The exhibition, created by Camila Magrane, involves a series of Polaroids and larger collages which visitors view through the lens of an augmented reality application called Virtual Mutations. It took a little while for the app to download, but the effect was impressive once I held my phone up to Magrane’s works. In some, platforms telescoped out of the scenes while footprints wove their way in and out of the frame; in another, crows appeared to flock out of the frame and surround the viewer. Overall, I was able to use the technology fairly seamlessly to access the whole experience–in some cases the image on my phone fell out of line with the actual frame, or I needed to move around in order to get the animations to begin, but once I began it was easy to navigate the exhibit.

“Gone”, Camila Magrane

One of the themes Magrane promised to explore in the works featured in Traces was the connection between the past and present, and my favorite example of this theme was in “Gone,” one of her larger collage pieces. Once accessed through Virtual Mutations, the viewer moves slowly through the window in the center, through which appears another window in another wall, creating an Escher-esque illusion. Literally tying together the different versions of the scene is a white rope, appearing in different arrangements with the other furniture and the fish that make up the scene. Eventually the window gives way to a shore, with the white rope leading out unendingly into the ocean. I felt that I was tracing the path of whoever had disappeared into the waves, watching the remnants of their life subsumed by successive tides.

“Tension”, Camila Magrane

The Polaroids in the exhibit added a different facet to the overall mood of the gallery. Each Polaroid, or small arrangement of Polaroids, was titled with an emotional or psychic state, like “Angst,” “Rapture,” “Tension,” or “Anticipation.” To me, these titles also served the theme of Magrane’s work by alluding to a Before and After, or the tension of the in-between. Viewed through Virtual Mutations, the animated Polaroids featured the repetitive movement of human forms–I felt like they activated my mirror neurons, nudging me towards a phantom experience of the emotions they portrayed.

Overall, Traces created a powerful and surreal space that nudged me to think more deeply about the relationship of technology with art. The convergence of antique technologies like Polaroid film and cutting-edge ones like virtual reality lent a sense of timelessness to Magrane’s work. I highly recommend the exhibit to anyone passing by the Institute for the Humanities Gallery as a bite-sized look into the future of interactive art.

PREVIEW: Cultural Exchange Rate

What: an interactive project by Tania El Khoury exploring family, migration, and invisible borders

When: Friday, January 27 – Sunday, January 29

Where: The Stamps Gallery

Tickets: tickets for this event are no longer available

In Cultural Exchange Rate, audiences enter a space full of boxes holding one family’s secrets, dating back generations. The exhibition, created by Tania El Khoury, interprets her family’s history of border crossings between Lebanon and Syria. In each box, guests can discover artifacts of the family’s past which reveal the borders, seen and unseen, which have shaped their lives. I’m looking forward to visiting El Khoury’s exhibition and seeing how migration, an intrinsic element of the human experience throughout history, is interpreted through art. While the experience of sifting through the details of a family’s life is one I anticipate to feel deeply intimate, I also imagine it brings light to the way that certain hardships and difficult migrations can lead to the corrosion of personal privacy. I am also curious to see how my interaction with the exhibit is influenced by the other audience members in the space, and what conversations might be sparked.

 

**featured image from UMS.org

PREVIEW: Traces

What: a series of collages and Polaroids accompanied by animations seen through the augmented reality application Virtual Mutations, exploring the relationship between past and present

When: January 11-February 10, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Where: Institute for the Humanities Gallery

Tickets: free and open to the public!

My mind is already bending after watching the trailer for this exhibition, linked below. Traces is a multimedia experience created by Camila Magrane, an artist trained in video game development who has experience working in photography, collage, animation and virtual and augmented reality. This particular exhibition draws from several of those disciplines, with collages and Polaroids in the physical world setting the stage for animations and clips in the virtual world, as experienced by the viewer from their device through the app Virtual Mutations. Each work is interactive, with elements in each piece only discoverable through the lens of augmented reality. The Institute for the Humanities Gallery webpage describes Magrane’s work as an exploration of the connection between past and present. I look forward to experiencing her art for myself so I can share more with you about how this is achieved. Stay tuned!

 

**featured image is a still from the trailer, 0:28

Review: Upcycled Spring Flowers

As Earth day 2022 rolls in, with it comes the reminder that the Earth is in trouble. 

 

For my first two years at the University of Michigan, I’ve spent my time as a Program in the Environment major learning all about the overconsumption, the CO2 emissions, and the environmental harm that will lead to humanity’s strife and destruction. Since then, I have switched into Stamps School of Art and Design and have been looking for ways to incorporate sustainability into my art. 

 

This past Wednesday, I attended a reuse craft session with the Planet Blue Student Leaders who were in partnership with Scrap Creative Reuse Center. Twenty other people and myself found ourselves in the Graham Sustainability Institute before the brunt of finals to make zipper flowers out of discarded zippers. It brought an hour of peace, fun, and a little bit of stress as I struggled to thread a needle. 

 

The process of the zipper flower making was simple and most people ended up with cool and sophisticated results. Though, my fumbling fingers did struggle a little with this new process of making. The first step of making the flowers was to split the zipper in half. From there you fold one of the sides into a ribbon in the same style as the breast cancer awareness ribbon. Then you sew where the zipper overlaps into a small felt piece and you continue to make these petal shapes from the remaining length of the zipper. You then incorporate the other half of the zipper into the work by following the same steps as the first zipper. This will result in a flower with a messy center. To cover the middle, you can roll some of the excess zipper into the center to create a rose like appearance. You can then hot glue the felt background of the flower to a button to create your own wearable zipper flower button.

While I made my flower, I admired the texture and contrast that the zipper had. The gold metal of the zipper created a harsh but shiny texture, which would be an interesting addition to a mixed medium 2-dimensional artwork or even a sculpture. Creating these flowers opened my eyes to the possibilities of new material to add into my art practice. 

 

I am glad that I attended this event because it was a reminder that as a creative person, I should continue to look to reuse more items in my practice. It also taught me about Scrap in Ann Arbor which collects donated craft materials in order for them to have a second life. Therefore putting less strain on the environment and letting you craft for cheaper.

PREVIEW: FestiFools

The Festive, Foolish puppet festival is coming back to Ann Arbor after a two-year quarantine!

It’ll be on Sunday, April 3rd, from 4 pm to 5 pm on State Street – South University Avenue to William Street (Please refer to the map for more information!). This event is led by Mark Tucker, the founder of the FestiFools, and the puppets are created by students at the University of Michigan Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, a Michigan Learning Community focused on enhancing creativity by practicing arts and creative writing. I personally had the privilege of taking a peek at the puppets from prior events at Alice Lloyd Hall, and they are fantastic! I can’t wait to see them come to life on the streets. It’s not only the puppets – Street performers including students from the University of Michigan and outside U of M will join to add more fun! Please see this link for more info, this link for the official recap for Festifools 2019, and come out to play this Sunday!

REVIEW: Holi Festival

Today, colorful puffs of clouds arose over Palmer Field.

Hosted by the Student life Multi-ethnic student affairs at the University of Michigan, students celebrated the annual Holi Festival on the afternoon of March 20th. The event went like this: first, students were checked in and were given color powders in Zipper bags. There were orange, yellow, lavender, blue, red, green-all very vibrant colors. The powder was very soft to the touch and felt good-safe to throw at people without worrying that they will get hurt. People were standing as a big group and jumping and singing along to the music. In this big jumble of people, friends courageously showered each other with colored powders while the more polite people would say, “May I?”, wait for the nod or laugh of approval, and gently rub colored powder as they say, “Happy Holi!”. Everyone’s face, hair, clothes, shoes, all parts of their body was covered with the vibrant colors of powders. I was surprised to see that lots of people were actually wearing white, not the most popular color choice when it comes to going to a place you know that your clothes will be stained, but the shirts did look amazing with paints on them. It was a really pretty color combination, fit for the event’s meaning – a celebration of spring: the season of joy and hope. The energy of youth was blazing as people jumped up and down to music, fit for the name of the festival. Click here for more information about the festival

The weather was nice and the puff of colors was pretty, but that was not the only thing that made the scene welcoming and memorable. Everyone was making sure that the other person was not being hurt by their touch and throw of powder, and this could be sensed so easily. It was a colorful, vibrant, and fun event-even shampooing three times afterward until the foam was not green anymore was good fun!

Lastly, some tips for future participants in Holi Festival:

  1. Make sure that you are wearing the clothes can be ruined – if you don’t want more colors on the clothes you are wearing, heavy cycle + warm water combination did the trick for me.
  2. Go empty-handed – I left my bag and jacket about 30 feet away from the festival field but still got some powder on it. I think it might be from the wind or people picking up their things afterward. If you want to make sure that your belongings stay color-free, it’s best not to bring them.
  3. Glass wearers – consider wearing contacts for the event. I did not know this and went with glasses, and people had a bit of difficulty rubbing colored powder on my face. I thus tucked away my glasses in my pocket, which mysteriously vanished by the time that the event was ended. Oh well, it was fun so it’s all good, but it doesn’t that you will also need to offer a glass for the colorful celebration!
  4. Don’t be shy to throw colors at strangers! They will often very likely smile and exclaim ‘happy Holi!’ and shower you with color powders!