REVIEW: Into the Labyrinth: A History of Physics From Galileo to Dark Matter

8:00pm • Friday, January 27, 2023 • Keene Theater

Into the Labyrinth was a mind-boggling musical experience, most of which shot straight over my head and toward the stars. The concert was a dynamic fusion of the history of physics, Argentinian folk music, jazz, experimental decaphonic guitar, sung poetry, and spoken word. The evening was structured chronologically, beginning with Galileo’s ponderings about the knowability of the universe, moving onward to Newton’s Laws of Motion, to Clausius’s definitions of thermodynamics, to the work Maxwell, Curie, Einstein, and other physicians who I didn’t learn about in 10th grade, to the physicians who pioneered the theory of quantum mechanics and electrodynamics. This brief history of physics was conveyed not only through direct quotations, but also through poetry and excerpts from Elfriede Jelinik’s play Kein Licht (“No Light”).

At the beginning of the program during a Q&A, Alberto Rojo, the work’s primary composer, explained how carefully he had chosen different styles of Argentinian folk music to represent the different eras of our understanding of physics. Again, most of this went over my head, because I have zero background knowledge on either subject. Instead, I related closely with Michael Gould, the work’s arranger, who in joking reference to the complexity of the piece said something like, “You just have to let it wash over you,” which I did.

My favorite movement was the last, which Rojo describes as “an open-ended appeal to continue the search for understanding.” The movement featured a “decaphonic” guitar that Rojo constructed as a way to explore different ways to divide up the musical scale. Typical Western music uses a seven-step scale, the one you’re familiar with if you’ve ever heard “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. Rojo’s guitar took one interval of sound (the distance between Do and Do, if this makes any sense to you) and divided it into 10 equal parts, resulting in a sound that he described as “the music of a culture that doesn’t exist.” I loved how the idea of “discovering” an unfamiliar scale connected with the theme of scientific exploration and the unknown.

My overall impression of the concert was that of a wild experimental musical. I wish I could watch it a few more times over, to really dig into the details of the quotations and the music. I feel privileged to have been at its world premiere, and I hope Into the Labyrinth will see a successful future in front of further audiences.

REVIEW: The Hurting Kind By Ada Limón

 

Poetry is for people who see the human in the inhuman. Poets can look at a wheelbarrow and see a meaning beyond hauling dirt and bricks. They see the memories, the origin of such an object, and something deeper that I can’t name. The Hurting Kind by Ada Limon is a prime example of this phenomenon.

As peak reading season approaches with rainy, cool days and changing leaves, I headed to the Ann Arbor District Library. Poetry drew me towards it because I knew the books tended to be short and sweet and mid semester I needed the satisfaction of completing something. The title, The Hurting Kind, seemed like the perfect mix of melancholy and deep that fits poetry so well and the author has gathered some acclaim at least from the short blurb that I read. 

However, I must admit I’ve never read a poetry book before. I found myself speeding through the book at my normal speed. It seemed wrong. After years of spending an entire class period on a poem and sometimes two classes, I felt like I shouldn’t just be flipping through the pages to reach the end. The more I read, the more I realized that the gift of a poetry book is that you’re able to pick the poems that resonate with you. You don’t have to tread the ones with top shelf names. 

The book is sectioned into the seasons with Spring as the start and Winter as the end. Each one has a subtle different feeling even if the season isn’t explicitly mentioned in the poem. My favorite poems come from spring. One of which is the Good Story. In the Good Story, Limon notices how she loved to hear the bad stories about the rough times her grandfather went through. However, once the days became bad, even the stories of overcoming were no comfort. She craved the stories about human kindness. She mentions one about her grandfather. After a breakup, her grandfather gave her a small pizza and watched her eat it in small pieces until she stopped crying. In the end, she decides that “maybe she was just hungry.”

The hope and familial connection drew me to feel something with this poem which may show my lack of poetry experience. Later in the book, Ada mentions the cliche of grandparent poems. Yet, she calls out her grandmother right after in the namesake poem the Hurting Kind. I think this shows a true sense of voice and the fearlessness to say something that may have been said before but that should continue to be said. Overall, I would recommend the Hurting Kind because it would not be the kind of book to hurt to read.

REVIEW: Pressed Against My Own Glass

 

Entering the exhibit felt like walking into a home. In the doorway, I paused and thought, should I take my shoes off? 

I walked in to look at the first painting, and backed up a little seeing how big it was. Am I allowed to stand on this carpet? I wondered. Knowing the reappropriated furniture had originally come from the artist’s own home, and being used to the etiquette of museums, Pressed Against My Own Glass was refreshing in its way of inviting you in to interact with the art. 

The first painting stares at you with a piercing gaze that scrutinizes you and feels alive. Looking into your soul without so much as a raised eyebrow or any tell of effort being put into making up their expression, makes the gaze all the more powerful and unnerving. So much that I forgot to photograph her. The subject is in an intimate space in the portrait, wearing just a shirt and no pants, sitting in an unmade bed. But I’m the one who feels stripped bare.

This theme of intimacy continued to bear itself through the rest of the room. There are diary entries on the wall on the same side as the door. Right away, you step into exclusive, individual territory. Anyone could have seen the murals, whether they wanted to or not, but those who have come to the exhibit have come by choice. Tatyana rewards and welcomes that. This sets the tone for the rest of the exhibit. 

To put your journal pages, scanned, then blown up on a wall is incredibly brave, I thought.

There were entries about accomplishments, revelations, longings, growing. I shared sentiments with all of them, but the final one I read in the bottom right corner is a moment I feel most women are familiar with. The chastising, the incredulity at our own selves, our own hearts. I’ve had the same feelings over feeling so much about a silly little man, so much that I write about them, and now it’s tucked in the pages here for anyone to read, forever. 

The cracked lampshade, the laminate album of rusted ink photographs; I was really coming into a home. How she could lay down something so personal in a public space, give it up for an exhibition, baffled me. I would want to keep those artifacts close, not letting them leave my bedroom bookshelf. Not even laying the photo album open on a table, only taking it out to indulge myself once a year or so. Tatyana’s courage to lay down so much of herself for others to view inspired me immensely to take more risks in my own art.

 

Something that especially delighted me was the writing. Since I was expecting pure visual art, I loved the poetry and journal entries and letters. Tatyana collages together a photo, mirror, sketch, earrings, and poetry on the second wall. I love the expression of the girl in the photograph because in its position of covering the poem’s body, her face says, I know you want to read this poem, but hahaha you can’t!

Following right after was the mirror where I fixed my headband. It surprised me to see myself while forgetting my existence, after a few minutes of just perusing through Tatyana’s world.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get more personal, I was brought to tears by Tatyana’s letter to her lifelong (lives long) friend who had passed away. It was while I was reading the letter that I ignored a call from my sister (probably exactly what Tatyana would have discouraged) because I was halfway through and wanted to see it to the end without interruption.

On the fourth wall, was a video projected over a large body of text. The audio included mellow and haunting hummings, the repeated chant of “I made / met peace up in my home,” and a woman in tears singing, “when I think of home, I think of a place where love overflows…”

The clips were calm moving stills. They displayed the motions within a home, like rolling over in bed, humming amidst housework. There were also home videos, facetime clips, a mother getting interviewed with a baby in her lap.

Beneath the projection, the piece reads, “despite the brutal reality of racial apartheid, of domination, one’s homeplace was the one site where one could freely confront the issue of humanization, where one could resist. Black women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty, hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public space of the world.” Put in context with the mural project, this exhibit demonstrated exactly that. The murals – all black and white, words bolded and illustrations blown up – were plastered high on buildings, yet, one could pass them without a glance. They resided in the outside world, where the weather’s starting to get colder, people are starting to rush, no time to take their time. The exhibit on the other hand, was lively with personality, colorful, secluded. A distinct sense of home: the oil paintings, personal artifacts, private words and stories. This is how it looks to see the full picture (even if we only uncover a small sense of a part of that person), while I understood the murals as how minorities are often perceived from the outside, paid attention to by onlookers: unsmiling, blunt, general statements, all grouped together. This makes spaces outside of the domestic household hard to feel truly like that of home, a sense of ease and comfort, “a small bit of earth where one rests.” Tatyana addresses this later in the passage: “An effective means of white subjugation of black people globally has been the perpetual construction of economic and social structures that deprive many folks of the means to make a homeplace.” The art was deeply personal and held many sentiments of loneliness, loss, and anguish, and yet, it definitely felt like a place of stillness, of silence, where one could “return for renewal and self-recovery, where we can heal our wounds and become whole.”

PREVIEW: RE:CLAIM : IMMERSION

 

Come visit the Washtenaw County Courthouse tonight (9/15) from 5:30 to 8:00 pm to experience the opening night of RE:CLAIM. RE:CLAIM is a project seeking to honor the complexity and diversity of the community impact of the criminal legal system as it affects youth, adults, and families.

Tonight will be filled with song, dance, poetry, and visual arts. It will surely be an experience to remember with over 30 dancers, poets, and musicians performing. The night will also include poems featuring artworks from the Embracing our Difference Exhibition that took over Gallup Park, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and River Side Park.

REVIEW: Jan 28 Webster Reading Series

I’m a rather boring person, so for me, Friday nights usually mean climbing in bed by eight, and sitting there for four hours reading, playing a game, or just scrolling through my phone. However, I mixed it up this Friday and went to UMMA after leaving my work.

Yes — a museum is very exciting.

The Webster Reading Series, which features the poetry and fiction works of the second-year Masters of Fine Arts students, was held in UMMA’s Stern Auditorium. And thus, my weekend was spiced up with a poetry and fiction reading.

Jokes aside, the reading was a pretty chill way to bookend my week. As my intended major is Creative Writing and Literature, I thought that I may learn something from the event’s authors. It was also a good opportunity to see more of UMMA since I usually don’t have a reason to go there. The University has multiple landmarks free to its students that I have yet to fully explore.

 At the session, Eva Warrick read her fiction works, and Abigail McFee read her poetry after being generously introduced by their cohorts. Their works, despite their apparent simplicity, were gripping once spoken aloud. It’s always interesting to actually hear stories be translated from the authors’ own voice. Simply reading works is a different experience altogether.

It was also nice to be reminded that “real” stories aren’t only what I was shown throughout my past years of schooling — lengthy, antique tales, with symbolism that made me feel stupid. They can also be modern and direct. Eva and Abigail presented humor and heart to the audience with their cadent storytelling. I thoroughly enjoyed their artistic narrations.

The Webster Reading Series has three more events on February 11th, March 11th, and March 18th which you all should definitely check out if you’re interested. And if you can’t make it in person it is also possible to witness it through a provided Zoom link.

REVIEW: ¡ACTIVISTA! An International Women’s Day Concert

In honor of International Women’s Day, I attended the live stream of HotHouse’s “¡ACTIVISTA! An International Women’s Day Celebration.” A virtual concert comprised of musical performances, spoken word and poetry, and a bit of Q&A with some of the artists, ¡ACTIVISTA! was a wonderful arts experience. Live streams are one way to mindfully engage with the arts during the pandemic, and this one was a masterfully curated experience, hosted by Chicago-based organization HotHouse and publisher Haymarket Books.

Natu Camara

The artists featured in the performance came from all around the globe, and covered a wide range of topics from refugee rights to environmental justice to anti-colonialism. I truly enjoyed the blending of music and poetry performances during this event. Culture and vision wove through each piece of the performance, beginning with Farah Siraj’s haunting song honoring refugee women, written in Arabic, and ending with Kyung-Hwa Yu, a South Korean artist reviving the Korean stringed instrument cheolhyeongeum in contemporary music.

Angel Bat Dawid

A truly intercultural collection of pieces, there were a variety of languages represented in the art. There were poems in Spanish and Zapotec, songs in Sousous and Arabic. A painful song written about child marriage performed by the lovely Natu Camara and her band from Guinea. COLLECTIVA, a group of women who formed recently online during the pandemic to share their passion for music virtually and across oceans. One of my favorite moments from the concert was a thoroughly enchanting improvised bass clarinet solo by Angel Bat Dawid. Lyla June of the First Nations, with the gripping words, “they say that history is written by the victors, but how can there be a victor when the war isn’t over?”

Janel Pineda

It was a beautiful experience to watch these powerful women and their art shared together in a common space, in celebration and solidarity. I am reminded through these pieces that art can be expressive and lovely while also being a firm call for change. While extremely personal and masterful, these pieces also contain the seed of movement. They contain past, present, and future.

Available online to watch at: https://youtu.be/d4Cn6eCvSX8. Consider a donation, if you are able, so that HotHouse can continue to provide virtual concerts free of charge to viewers all over the world.