PREVIEW: TEDx U of M 2017

In less than a week, the organizers of TEDxUofM will open the doors to: TEDxUofM 2017: Dreamers and Disruptors.

Although tickets are sold out, you will be able to watch a livestream here

Also, you can still arrive early for live music, interactive activities, coffee from RoosRoast, and pastries from Avalon Bakery all in the lobby area of the Power Center

This year has another incredible list of speakers, as well as performances by Groove and Midwest Territory Band

Where: The Power Center

Time: 6:00 PM

REVIEW: Hijabi Monologues

Twenty minutes before the event started, the 4th floor Rackham Auditorium was already packed. Students, friends, family, and curious people filled the seats, the stairs, the walls, and the walkways. Organizers had to repeatedly clear the overflowing doorways, and we we were repeatedly warned that if any more audience members came, it would be a fire hazard and Rackham would have to shut the event down. Both sophomore event organizers, Alyiah and Fatima, introduced Halfway Hijabi as an event for Muslim women who wore hijabs (headscarves) to “reclaim our voices and our space rather than having others speak on our behalf.”

To create a safe space, photographs and video recording by audience members was not allowed. All that really mattered, however, were the words that flowed out of these powerful, well-spoken women.

The first of many female performers read an essay speaking of themes that would become a common thread throughout the night. Anger and humiliation at being forcibly strip searched at an airport because she had a metal leg brace. Comments like “you look like you came out of Iraq” and “This is America sweetheart–you can take that [the hijab] off now.” She ended with the words “I do not allow the hijab to limit me, so why do you?”

Another performer talked of women reclaiming the American flag from a symbol of oppression to a symbol of pride by wearing the design on headscarves.

Most of the performers were students, and they pointed out how often they walk into a room and find that they are the only hijabi, and having to represent the entire Muslim population.

Although many of the performances were raw and heartbreaking, a few of the women lightened the mood. One international student from Malaysia read a short speech regarding her reasons for wearing her hijab, and comparing what it was like to wear one in Malaysia versus the US. She concluded that “I was told that God wants me to wear hijab and actually I’m okay with that” and then hilariously quoted Miley Cyrus when she said “only God can judge us.”

The one musical piece of the night was naturally one of the saddest songs ever created: a rendition of Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. It was not only beautifully sung, but also refreshing to hear it sung in this context.

My only regret about the event is that it wasn’t in Rackham’s larger auditorium. The Hijabi Monologues is the kind of event that should be shown to as many students as possible, because much of the hate and rudeness that these women experienced comes from ignorance.


PREVIEW: Hijabi Monologues

By now many of you have heard of or even experienced the surge in hate crimes against Muslims–especially Muslim women that wear headscarves (Hijabs).

This event will begin with a teach-in, followed by student monologues about their experiences wearing hijabs.

Here you will learn about the history of the hijab, poems, stories, and who knows what else!

Even better, the event will have a FREE DESSERT BAR

Date: February 3rd

Time: 7 – 9 PM

Place: Amphitheater Auditorium, Rackham

Here is the link to the Facebook event


Review: University Symphony Orchestra Concert

It was a wonderful concert. It goes without saying that the University Symphony Orchestra performed beautifully last night, and I loved both sets of music. They began with Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony, and the first thing I noticed was that when they began playing, the bows of the violin section all moved in unison. I don’t think I’ve often seen movements so crisp, which is a symbol of the orchestra’s caliber. I heard the same thing when in the same movement there occurred a series of grace notes, which due to their rapidity can be easy to miss or blur. Instead, the unity I heard was stellar. I’ve heard much of Mozart’s work, but “Jupiter” was something entirely different. In most of his other work I find a certain delicacy in his melodies, even in his more intense pieces. While that’s still true here, the balance in “Jupiter” is definitely tipped towards grandeur and not daintiness.

After the intermission, they played Holst’s “The Planets”. It was a fantastic performance. I’ve never heard such overwhelmingly powerful music before. Nor have I seen such instrumentation (this was the first time, I think, that I recall seeing an alto flute played in concert, and that wasn’t the only unusual instrument there). This was the highlight of the programme, as the entire suite has been set to a visual accompaniment by José Francisco Salgado, a UM alum, who came onstage to introduce the piece. The visuals were a montage of photographs, renderings, and videos, set to move as one with the music. I was not quite sure what to think of the film. Sometimes it seemed like just a montage of images, which I realize is a result of our limited capability to document these planets. I thought Mars was the most polished piece, and I believe that’s because there was more of a thread to follow there. We’ve also done the most research on Mars and therefore have plenty of videos and time-lapse imagery, which Salgado was able to time wonderfully with the music. On the other hand, the other movements were mostly photographs and artists’ renderings. The “Neptune” movement contained, I thought, less footage of Neptune than it did of the stars, which, while intentional and beautiful, eclipsed Neptune.

I also had some difficulty identifying the scientific concepts that Salgado intended to convey through the film. I wish I had been able to attend the panel discussion beforehand, because I think they would have discussed the science present in the footage and given me some things to look for. However, the programme made a close substitute, because for both “Jupiter” and “The Planets” there were detailed musical descriptions of each movement. I really appreciated the historical and musical context they provided. That said, I’m glad the film was there as an accompaniment. The film added color, which was valuable because, thanks to photography and digital renderings, we’ve always seen astronomical pictures in bright colors. Furthermore, the timing was done very well, which, in a musical piece, is an essential element. This combined with the forceful nature of Holst’s music made the entire thing simply awe-inspiring.

Preview: University Symphony Orchestra Concert

The University Symphony Orchestra, UM’s most selective orchestra, is playing Holst’s “The Planets” and Mozart’s “Jupiter” tonight. I’m a fan of both Holst and Mozart, so I’m excited to go hear their work live in concert for what I think is the first time. I am also intrigued by the fact that this performance will be accompanied by a film made by José Francisco Salgado, an Emmy-nominated artist who explores the connections between art and science in his work. I have never attended a concert with a visual accompaniment before, so I can’t wait to see how the two parts complement each other. I also like the intersection of art and science myself, so I’ll be interested to see what scientific connections and principles make their way into the performance.

The concert is tonight (January 25, 2017), in Hill Auditorium at 8pm. Attendance is free. There will also be a panel discussion with Salgado at 7pm in the lower lobby.

REVIEW: Helicon’s Synesthesia

Friday night’s Synesthesia was the first Helicon event I’ve attended, so I had no idea what to expect – which is usually the most interesting way to enter into an art show. It was what I can only describe as a down-the-rabbit-hole experience; from walking in the door, past crowds of people, art was found in the corners stairwells, in the basement, in the attic. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I was standing in line for the bathroom or for an art installation. Not only did I double take at the art, but at UM faculty milling about past students: not an everyday occurrence outside of the classroom, at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. Synesthesia featured the work of dozens of students; mediums ranged from sculpture to photography, from painting to video installation.

Image from @umicharts

The space itself was immersive; as I stood looking at sculptures in a basement where exposed cement walls and open staircases were not an artistic design choice, I began to fear for the strength of the structure as I could hear every footstep and movement above me. The element and adventure of risk became a theme as I climbed past people up steep stairs not equipped for a dual-flow of traffic. As I sat on the floor of an attic, staring at an image projected onto a sheet asking myself when the show was going to begin or when the technical support was going to arrive, I realized it already the show had already begun. The fuzzy image on the screen was the art, the music in the back the focus. It was then I began to question whether or not I am equipped to “get” art. Regardless, my favorite piece of the night, a readymade (which is the embodiment of comedy gold in the art world; an artist with a sense of humor) consisting of a Virgin Mary figurine titled Abstinence. Lesson learned: you do need to be literate in the ways of painting/drawing/sculpting to be considered an artist, merely innovative.

Image from @umicharts

If Synesthesia intended to create an experience, an art piece in itself, it succeeded. At one point, while standing in a hallway waiting for a mass of people to pass by, a person crawled out from behind a black sheet, pulling themselves up from what I can only hope was a work of experiential art. Some say you can find yourself through art; if this holds true, I’ve come to find I am the equivalent of a suburban mom of the art world. I may not understand what’s going on, but I am so ready to cheer on every student out there making, creating, and putting their work and themselves out there.