REVIEW: How to Build a Disaster Proof House

Tracey Snelling’s ‘How to Build a Disaster Proof House’ is on exhibition in Institute for the Humanities’ Gallery and Osterman Common Room. The exhibition itself is not huge – one can definitely squish it into their lunch or dinner time as an after-lunch/dinner art experience. I recommend doing so – this is an interesting exhibition where everyone will find different things to focus on and to muse that will definitely be worth your time.

The exhibition is mainly comprised of different styles of rooms, some small and some real-life sizes. There is no common theme shared in their aesthetics, and each and every one of them is decorated with vibrantly colored objects and cut-outs from prints. They seem to represent different lifestyles, or even, different scenes from life. However, they have kitsch, even a bit eerie, or extraordinary atmosphere. They do not fall into what we would mentally categorize as ‘normal life’. The feeling of wild, chaotic energy seems to derive firstly from the background, as the artist had placed huge posters or drapes of natural sceneries on the walls of the space, forming a background that adds energy to the exhibition. As can be seen from some pictures, these sceneries are not the ones that calm your mind. The colors in it are exaggerated and overly vibrant, adding to the active, uneasy vibe of the exhibition. Also, the use of diverse materials and colors for objects that demands attention all at once also adds to the vast input of information from the exhibition. Additionally, the placement of the artworks that place life-size rooms and miniature-size rooms together also creates unbalance in the scope of the attention: while the viewer is focusing on the smaller size works, their attention is overwhelmed by the relatively huge, life-size objects while the small ones nag and demands attention while they are taking in the life-size ones, creating the uneasy tension between the two sizes. Lastly, the artist had interestingly integrated video into her work-lots of videos are played simultaneously from the windows of small houses, adding chaotic audio on top of all the rich visual information that the viewer is already processing. All this adds up to create an audiovisual influx of information and this is where the exhibition consisted of static rooms filled with un-moving objects shifting into the concept of moving and alertness in disastrous situations. When in a situation of a disaster, people are more alert toward inputs from the world to detect danger and this overwhelms them. The exhibition creates a similar experience for us while reminding us that disaster is different from mundane life but perhaps not so far apart – this is expressed by how the artist chose the area that we are familiar with, personal rooms, but filled it with items and contexts that are not common.

There were also a few rooms where I could detect the trial to bring in social messages and status quo, like in the picture above. However, that was not emphasized much, and like it was addressed above, I think the author did a creative take on explaining disaster without using direct reference from society.

REVIEW: How to Build a Disaster Proof House

How to Build a Disaster Proof Home is the latest installation at the Institute for the Humanities on campus. Artist Tracey Snelling transforms the space into an explosion of color, sound, and texture as various home interiors occupy the room. Working both on a life-scale and a miniature scale, Snelling presents an exploration of what home really means and how one mentally and physically finds refuge in the contemporary world.

I’d like to examine this exhibit in a bit of a fractured way, pinpointing and elaborating upon various aspects as these come together to create the complete multisensory experience of Snelling’s work. Firstly–the aural. Before you even enter the space, you can hear a variety of monologues, sound effects, and music. This is because almost every section, or constructed home, has accompanying audio materials. Whether that’s a series of films being played all at once, or Duran Duran filling up a corner of the space, there’s a sense of the place being alive. The weaving together of sounds (the less delicate may call it a cacophony) create an entirely new sonic experience, one where the simulation of human presence is achieved. This simulation has both the comfort of a TV left on in the living room and eeriness of interacting with Siri or other faux-human presences. 

The same kind of aural complexity exists in the textures of the space. You find the tactile, familiar comfort of a worn rug juxtaposed with the tackiness, insincerity, and flatness of an idealized sunset-rainbow-beach wallpaper. There’s a dedication to different temporalities here, as a portrait in 70’s fashion hangs above a cherry red plush carpet circa the year 2000. The melange of these tributes to homes of past decades is fun and very carefully coordinated to maintain coherency, but there’s also a deeper, more touching and humanistic idea at the core of how we maintain familiarity and keep the things that we treasure most close to us (even if that’s the flimsy metaphor of hope behind a rainbow).


Finally, the color is alluring. Bright tones, eye-catching patterns, and iridescent touches are not only attractive, but add a very specific voice to the message of this exhibition. Ultimately, How to Build a Disaster Proof House is a sensory delight that makes you appreciate wherever you call home.

REVIEW: Quilts in the DUDE

The Duderstadt Gallery located between the Duderstadt Library and Pierpont Commons has always caught my attention. With the school of art and design being one building and the school of music theater and dance being up a hill from the main part of North, it is an island of art in a sea of engineering. The Duderstadt Gallery has open doors that invite anyone walking past to wander in. Currently, the doors look more inviting than usual with quilts hanging inside ready to invite students into their warm embrace. 

From March 6th to 15th, the Duderstadt Center Gallery is filled with lovely hand stitched quilts made by the Faculty Women’s Club in the “Stitched Together” FWC Centennial Quilting Exhibition. It is slightly ironic that such traditionally feminine art is displayed at the heart of North Campus, where the majority of students are engineering students and engineering classes sometimes have more Stevens in a class than women. However, it is a wonderful display of handmade quilts that reminds anyone who walks through of a missed loved one who has wrapped them in a tight hug. 


I do not know the specifics of the Faculty Women’s Club. However, one quilt speaks of the closeness of the group. Angie Nagle Miller’s Birthday Signatures features squares made from the group for her 50th birthday. She then completed a quilt for her 70th birthday which is now on display. This quilt not only highlights how close and supportive the group is of each other, but of the longevity of the group. 

The size, themes, and colors of the quilts are as varied as a basket of fruit. Standing in front of these quilts is a lesson in color, texture, and pattern. Each of which has a unique personality and the heart of the maker sewn into it. The reason behind each of these quilts is different. For example, the Safe House Quilt was made by the group to be donated to people who come to the “Safe house”, Laura’s Quilt was made for Laura on her diagnosis of cancer, and some were made for a challenge. However all the quilts demonstrate the caring hand and passion of the maker.


There are so many beautiful quilts designed by talented artists and craftswomen on display that I have not mentioned. I would highly recommend checking out the “Stitched Together Exhibition”.

PREVIEW: Photography Exhibition: Images of Incarceration

Little spaces for viewing art are the best! Maybe being hidden, somewhat out of the way, tucked in a corner makes them a challenge to find, but stumbling upon is far better than being smacked in the face with a million advertisements.

East Quadrangle’s Residential College Art Gallery is a perfect example of this. They humbly exist in a small, glass studio, the work always visible from the outside but only really observable from within. I invite you to step inside for its upcoming exhibit “Images of Incarceration.”

Ashley Hunt and Steph Foster’s photographical artwork depicting the realities of the legal system will be on display beginning this Friday. There is no admission; just come on down during the hours of 10AM-5PM weekdays from February 21st to April 9th.

REVIEW: As Far As My Fingertips Take Me

You put on the headphones, and they themselves seem significant: the wires connect but they constrict, you have to rely on the tinny sound for information but it blocks out your surroundings. The whole experience was full of these contradictions, to the point that I had to consciously stop myself from thinking through them in order to pay attention. There’s the white wall to my side, and though I can see the borders of it from where I sit I can’t see the other side, so it’s as good as infinite. A little light is coming from where I’ve offered up my arm to the artist, Basel Zaraa, and I’m tempted to look down and through to meet his eyes but I know that something will be broken if I do.

The felt-tip marker is brushing over the flesh on the inside of my forearm and my palm, and I hate how gently he’s holding my fingers down because already I’ve associated him with a Dublin Regulation fingerprint database employee. When I realize I’ve put myself in a position I am privileged to never experience, it’s jarring and it’s a feeling that’s creeping like sweat along my forehead.

I don’t feel any one thing completely after, except for quiet. Not quieted, not disquieted, not just not speaking and not just alone. Quiet is the only adjective I can give myself. I’m sad for what I don’t know and especially for why I don’t, the stupid luck that let me be born into stability and the politics that let others live out of backpacks. Travel is so often romanticized, but there is a difference between travel by choice and by circumstance (further reading:

So in about 15 minutes I’m in and out of another world, halfway a vagabond myself. I’m back and walking home and I feel homesick but mostly physically so, my eyes kind of glassy. It’s a little disappointing that I wasn’t physically transported, though of course that would be impossible. I’m still in Ann Arbor, Michigan walking down the street, and I have no reason to fear that I won’t be here tomorrow. There is a constant stream going through my head berating me for how little I know about the world, and it feels like an abuse to wear this tattoo on my arm like a costume.

But I can use that guilt he’s given me, to take learning into my own hands and to get politically involved. Where the law does not protect the safety of people worried for their lives, there is a problem, a violation of human rights. As election season is upon us, it is a perfect time to get involved and get the right people elected. With primaries right around the corner, the time for active research is now.

You can find out more about Tania El Khoury’s work on her website:

REVIEW: CCPS Exhibition. Stasys Eidrigevičius: Collages

Before you read on, take a close look at Stasys Eidrigevičius’ pieces. Notice what you will about his placement of objects in relation to one another, the emphasis on odd shadows, all the shapes and angles involved. Regard each separately, trying not to immediately put any of the images together:

What can I say about these works? I was so befuddled by each one, torn by the wanting to fixate on the alarming details and the knowing that taking it as a conglomeration is the meaning of collage.

All I could do was be overwhelmed by slight curves in the edges of the pieces and the uncomfortably forced eye contact between figures. The expressions on characters’ faces ranged from haunting to somber to desperate to dazzled to sadistic to sly. I wasn’t sure what to make of the positions Eidrigevičius puts these persons into. It feels like each piece has an element of force that I find unsettling. Hands grip, eyes pierce, feet trample. Everything seemed too jarring to work together as cohesively as I expected it should.

Eidrigevičius further adds chaos to his work through additions made by his own hand. He deals in scribbled shading and blocky figures, asymmetrical faces and indiscernible expressions. I was so distraught by the time I’d spent ten minutes in the room with the artwork that I could hardly see straight. An unfortunately poetic, single tear rolled down my flustered cheek. Seconds after the only other people entered, I had to hightail it out of there, but not before I heard their first impressions (“Very symbolic,” says the man with an angular European accent. “Hm,” replies the woman, curtly. “I’ve been trying to figure out what the symbolism is,” he continues, illuminating nothing).

I don’t know that I could pick out any one symbol that persists throughout the pieces, or even a general grouping of motifs. Everything seems literal to a point of discomfort (mine), but I suppose there was a similar line of thinking throughout the collection. Something in each piece is being trapped, maybe not by the specific creature in the image, but by something. Entrapment could be a metaphor for something else, or it could represent nothing else but itself. Perhaps the artist is feeling constricted by the world’s narrow view of what art should be. Maybe he is reflecting on a home country whose practices of censorship are too harsh for goodness to grow.

Or maybe, as I always prefer to believe, Eidrigevičius strives only to challenge the limits of his viewers’ and his own thinking by combining unrelated objects and ideas. His mind knows few borders between things, preferring to string a doodle onto the end of everything. He sees shadows that might not be there, connections bridged between the physical and the emotional. There may or may not be anything much deeper than artwork that wishes to be fully open to interpretation.

If you’re interested in seeing Eidrigevičius’ work in the flesh, I urge you to visit Weiser Hall’s International Institute Gallery, room 547. The exhibit will be up until the end of November.