REVIEW: Aida Cuevas

Throughout the days prior to the most anticipated night of the week, I thought about how grateful I was to be able to see Aida Cuevas perform with my parents here in Michigan. On that evening, the sun had set into a dark blue sky and crowds of bundled-up people walked towards the Hill Auditorium to enter the event. My parents and I stopped at one of the glass showcases outside of the auditorium to take a picture with an event poster of Aida Cuevas; she stood proudly in a traditional mariachi suit, looking up and smiling in the light of green and red that surrounded her. Iconic, I thought to myself; I would come to know that the essence of the photo wasn’t exaggerated in any way.


Once the doors opened, my parents and I took our seats on the main floor, sitting fairly close and off to the side nearest to stage left. We had another nearby concertgoer take our picture with the stage behind us and I couldn’t help but notice that it was already glowing a dark red. Throughout my life, I have noticed that color in its waving flag, on the accessories worn by the mariachi, in the dress of a woman celebrating her quinceanera, and in the fireworks that burst over the hills of Mexico City with each end to the week. That color has an extraordinary essence that more represents the aspects of traditional Mexico that have persisted throughout several generations. In that respect, I knew that this performance would not be a mere interpretation of what was authentic but would truly be the living, breathing authentic art that upheld the traditional roots of Mexico as if they would never fade.


Finally, the lights dimmed for the performance to begin. Within a few seconds, the lights on the stage burst bright in a golden orange color and the mariachi made a robust entrance, kicking up the beat immediately and the several violinists already sounding as if there were a whole sea of them. The music felt so much like home and the Mexico that I knew, and my eyes stung. I could hear my parents cheering beside me, my dad howling like traditional mariachi players do as a way to cheer on the rest of the performers.


Soon after, Senora Cuevas made her entrance, showered with applause and cheers as she moved towards center stage in her big, illuminescent magenta dress. She performed each song with raw emotion, dramatizing each word and showing pure passion with each hand motion that emphasized the grand sounds of the band. Near the middle of the performance, she changed into a mariachi traje, which everyone adored as much as the dress. Her deep voice cut through the air with each ballad and I consistently felt comforted by its richness. She presented herself as a such a powerful woman figure, demanding true love and sharing the pride of being Mexicana in her songs. She returned for an encore and finished the performance with “Mexico Lindo y Querido”, a timeless classic that resonates pride and love for belonging to Mexico. As a final remark, she exclaimed, “Estoy muy orgullosa ser mexicana!” and in that moment, I was reminded of the beautiful sensation that comes with being authentic to yourself and being proud of where you come from.


REVIEW: The Draft

I was first introduced to The Draft exhibition by African-Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud just around a year ago.  I was far from the familiar, quaint Ann Arbor, in the bustling international hub entirely different country to be precise!  While that statement exaggerates what was essentially a weekend jaunt to Toronto, there is no exaggeration when describing how impressive this series of work was when I first saw it.  Thankfully our campus was bestowed the privilege earlier this fall to host Mohamoud’s amazing series of work, and I was eager to compare my experience viewing it in a local setting to how it was displayed at the prestigious AGO in Toronto.

When I first arrived, although the gallery door was firmly locked, I was officially within the 10am-5pm time period that the gallery should be open to the public.  Thankfully after quickly asking the front office about gallery they were more than willing to unlock it for me, so don’t be discouraged if you find yourself in a similar position.

The pieces were spread out between two rooms, with the first room being a dedicated space to show the exhibit, complete with both  various sculptures and photographs. The second being a conference room with three of the large scale photographs hanging on the wall. The space in the first room was very well utilized, with a low sculpture placed in the middle activating and working in harmony with the pieces around the room. On the other hand, while the large-scale photography works certainly elevated the conference room they were hanging in, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed at how these meaningful photographs felt relegated to the same level as the generic abstract paintings used to spice up mid-tier hotels.


While I wouldn’t have guessed many of Mohamoud’s intentions with each piece without reading the description, her passion for basketball shines through in the way she handles this series.  As for what I did glean from the description posted outside, the series meant to explore themes of “gender, race, empowerment and disillusionment” within the world of basketball. The white, deflated basketballs in the main sculpture are meant to represent the 30 NBA draft picks every year and the rusted chain hoop is meant to “suggest the weird allure and enmeshment of the past.”  The photos of men in basketball jerseys and large ballroom-esque hoop skirts is a representation of Mohamoud’s complex feelings growing up as a girl immersed and in love with what was considered a “men’s sport,” and I also argue could be a statement on perceived masculinity in today’s sports world as well.

When the work was displayed in the AGO in Toronto, Mohamoud had the original models from the photographs in the series wear the same outfits and perform in the space.  While I was not able to attend the performance itself, I did get a chance to see the dress in person, which we were not able to display here at UM. I found this to be truly unfortunate as the dress was, by far my favorite part of her work.  It’s sheer size and volume are unable to be captured by the cropped photographs shown in the exhibit. Below is an image of the models wearing the dresses so viewers can get an idea of what they were like. While I would have loved to see one of the dresses on display in conjunction with the other pieces, I know that there were probably a long list of complications that kept from UM being able to do so, and the gallery space itself would have nearly been dominated by the dress’s physical size and presence even if it was somehow able to be displayed.

The Gallery is often rotating new and exciting exhibits, available right on campus free to students and the general public alike. The exhibit is the first door to your left upon entering the South Thayer building, and the building itself is directly across the street from the MLB and North Quad. Be sure to check out the upcoming exhibition as well, as the gallery is constantly rotating shows. I highly recommend taking the five to ten minutes that it takes to hop into the gallery any any day you need a quick artistic pick-me-up or shot of inspiration while walking around campus. 

REVIEW: East in Motion

THIS IS A CALL TO PAY ATTENTION!! This art exhibit is hanging in the hallway on the first floor of the Michigan League, so you don’t even have to change any part of your normal day to see this amazing exhibit. Just the next time you walk through the Michigan League, pause for a few minutes and enjoy the gallery around you.  WARNING: this exhibit will only be in the League until November 30th, so make sure you walk through the League this month. Maybe plan to host you next club meeting in a League room, this way you can share this exhibit with your friends.

This gallery is photos of dance. The artist Yi-Chun Wu travels around the US taking photos of dance shows. I had the chance to speak with her and she mentioned that New York is one of her favorite places to take photographs because there are so many shows because dancers congregate in New York and there are performances everyday.  I realized that I have spent a lot of time in New York (these past two summers in fact) but have never seen a dance performance while I was there. Thankfully I will be going back and seeing a dance show is on my bucket list. The photos Yi-Chun took are very intimate and can be a close up of the dancer. This can be hard to believe, but she actually takes many of these photos from only a few feet away from the dancer. I’ve only seen dance performances from far out in the audience and seeing these photographs offers a closer perspective that shows the facial expression, intricate clothing, and muscle tension of the dancers.

I asked Yi-Chun why she is captivated by taking photographs of dance and she mentioned it is because she enjoys capturing the in-between moments of motion. Dance is often continuous and fast-paced, capturing specific moments of a dance is a different way of viewing dance than we are used it. It focuses on the relationship of the dancers face and expression and how their body is shaped at a specific moment in time. It also shows the importance of lighting and shadow in dance.


I posted photos of my favorite pieces. Because of the glare from the lights in the League and the quality of my phone camera (it is not an iPhone), my photographs aren’t the most clear, but these photos will give you an idea of what to look for in the League. If you would like, please comment which photographs were your favorite!


Welcome to [art]seen!

Our [art]seen bloggers are University of Michigan students who review arts events on and near campus, sharing their thoughts and experiences on live music, film screenings, dance performances, theatre productions and art exhibitions.
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REVIEW: Luzinterruptus “Literature vs. Traffic”

Attending Luzinterruptus: Literature vs. Traffic was a different experience than I had originally thought. After volunteering on the project and researching a bit about the organization itself, I was really excited. For the first time in my life, I was going to get to be a part of an urban intervention. I was going to make social change. While that of course was ultimately true, I didn’t feel as fulfilled as I expected.

My friends and I arrived at Liberty Street ten minutes before 8pm. Unbeknownst to us, at 8pm Luzinterruptus permitted people to start taking books for themselves. Obviously I support this idea because I advocate for free reading and what it represents for society. What I didn’t expect was that I never even got to see the installation in all its glory because bodies were blocking the lights. People swarmed over the installation, stepping over books they did not want. We even climbed up the State Theater to try and see a glimpse of the promised spectacle from a higher window and all we saw were people.

This was all well and good, as Luzinterruptus was trying to promote their message. Free thought, the written word, and the importance of literature were all shining through in the book frenzy. While I was upset I never got to see an illuminated Liberty Street, I understand why that ended up being a good thing for the project.

Be that as it may, I can’t give you a full review of Literature vs. Traffic. What I can do is tell you about my volunteering experience. I was skeptical about giving up 6 hours of my Saturday – a game day, no less – to spend time in a room with people I had never met before. It was a cold and rainy day, so getting to Ruthven also was not fun. But when I arrived, the staff was welcoming and very apparently excited to have us there. The free t-shirts were also a bonus, but that’s beside the point.

My friend and I sat next to a very enjoyable couple. They were both alumni and still lived in the Ann Arbor area. The man – Joe, I think his name was – had a gorgeous leather-bound book saved off to the side because he was wrestling with the idea of gifting it to his nephew. His wife, Lisa, was discussing cookbooks with my friend, who had hoarded seven of them by the time our shift was over. Our goal was to put 20,000 lights into the pages of 10,000 books, which we accomplished in two days as opposed to the expected five.

Overall, Lisa and Ben were what made my experience memorable. I was happy with myself for choosing to volunteer my time for Luzinterruptus, a group whose goals I fully support. While I didn’t get to see the installation itself, I’m really glad I was able to contribute.

PREVIEW: Luzinterruptus “Literature vs. Traffic”

Tomorrow from 5-11pm you can walk down a Liberty Street paved with illuminated books. As a part of Luzinterruptus’s Literature vs. Traffic installment, 10,000 discarded books have been recycled for the best possible purpose: to remind us of the importance of free thought, the written word, and our own community. As a grass-roots project, the participation of volunteers (myself included!) was essential. People from countless different backgrounds met at Ruthven to flatten the books, tape 20,000 tiny lights inside their pages, and move them to their exhibit site. Ann Arbor joined Toronto, New York, and Melbourne in featuring this specific project, but Luzinterruptus is an urban intervention guerrilla group all the way from Madrid, and they have created similar projects around the world.

Join us tomorrow night to see the Literature vs. Traffic installation in person. Pick up a free book. Enjoy Ann Arbor’s culture, memories, and people.