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September 20, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-09-20
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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0S

Weekend Essay:
Campus
Sex and
by Antonio Roque the cover
books, a f
thin line+
I learned the truth about the thfirst I
Fleming Building in my very first A moi
class at the University of
Michigan, when the professor
'told a joke that seemed to have no
punchline. Later that day I went Sevent
to his office to ask about it, but with t
he began telling me his life story long b
instead. Trapped, I had no choice the thi
but to listen.
He had not received enough
love as a child and his resulting
bitterness had given him the testified
motivation necessary for success impossibi
in graduate school. This was in building
the late Sixties, and he had been inside. T
witness to the construction of the explored
Fleming building. The Fleming passages
building has intrigued him almost building;
to the point of obsession, as has arrested,
the current movement to undergro
incorporate as school mascot a approach
short and muscular been barn
anthropomorphic wolverine-like What
creature called "Willy." Willy is want wit
cute, almost sexy, and every It was wh
football Saturday at the games presiden
where healthy young men throw really the
themselves at each other with a Sixties, b
force reminiscent of suicidal Vietnam
trench-warfare charges, Willy is Love, ani
enough to keep them all going. Willy W(
My professor continued: as the frustrate
Fleming building was being anger ag
built, students began to notice an M-14
things about it - that it had no by then a
windows on the ground floor, and found. O
that its upper-floor windows game, th
were unusually designed, making students
it hard to tell which window fit They we
with which office. It was upcomin
doubtlessly an artistic decision, and shou
though. There were odd peop
announcements that the window student
patterns had been inspired by a Fleming
respected Dutch artist. And with it. T
Robben Fleming, after whom the within m
building was named, was a kind pellets in
and decent man. He was, after all, covered
frequently seen at the football enough.'
games. rememb
And that autumn there were read abo
several instances of the mustard-
quarterback throwing 70-plus soldiers
yard touchdowns. Seventy yards. and nose
Could not normal students throw doused i
with that force? Grenades, water, sp
perhaps? Would the long bottle- protect ti
shaped Molotov cocktails fit crowd ch
through the thin slit-shaped team's f
reinforced windows? Wasn't that when th
all that was missing from the kicked a
trench warfare aspect of football: satisfyin
intense bombings, hundreds of the. first
people storming fortresses under the Wol

Legends, Part..1:

the Fleming

Building

of rocks, lit rags and
force held back only by a
of security sealing off
floor from the rest?
untain-climbing expert

stood proud on the field the
movement to incorporate him as
mascot began to grow.
My professor stopped, then,
and said that it was all like a joke,

y yards. Could not normal students throw
hat force? Grenades, perhaps? Would the
ottle-shaped Molotov cocktails fit through
In slit-shaped reinforced windows?

discovered that he was a graduate
student, not a professor.
Everything he had told me had
been false. Everything I thought I
knew was wrong. Tense and
disillusioned, I committed a
crime, one which carries a $50
fine and contributes a large
amount of smoke to the
atmosphere. Staring at a wall
map of a blue Michigan on a
maize background I saw
something new; it had always
been a glove before, but now as I
stared it shifted, distorted, twisted
and aged, becoming less of a glove
and more of a penis, one that had
been bruised and battered by

modern times but still stood
strong against all opposition and
here was the terrible realization:
now, when asked where I studied,
I had to say Ann Arbor, and
when asked where that was, I had
no choice but to say, "Oh, just
above the scrotum."
Things were never quite the
same again.

that it would be
Le to scale the Fleming
without assistance from
here was one person who
the steam-tunnel
around the Fleming
just before being
she found that all
und passages
ing the building had
ed off.
did all those students
h the Fleming building?
here the Regents and the
t met, but what was
ere? This was the late
etween the Spring of
and the Summer of
d far before the age of
olverine. Later, a
d man would express his
ainst the building with
semi-automatic rifle, but
solution had been
ne night, before a major
ere was a large group of
on South University.
re tense about the
g game, milling about
ting. There were many
le there, and a graduate
began shouting about the
building, as if obsessed
'he police arrived and
inutes fired tear gas
ato the crowd. People
their eyes but it was not
The graduate student
ered an account he had
ut the World Wartl
gassing of Ypres, when
had covered their mouths
s with handkerchiefs
n liquid - anything -
it, urine. But this did not
he eyes. Dispersing, the
hose to curse the other
ans and the next day
e Michigan football team
ss it felt so intensely
g. It is said that that was
true appearance of Willy
verine, and that as he

but instead of having a punchline
it just had an explanation.
Confused, I left his office and
dropped the class; days later I

Antonio Roque is a Daily Arts staff
writer. His essays are an occasional
feature in Weekend.

roger's thesaurus

by benjamin holcomb

--l

THE FIRS1
E.
NI / -

D PAY OFSCdOQL. I
NO,MOM. i
NWANT TO WAU'rO
5CiOQL ALONE THIS
NENR. 1TM OLD ENOUGH.
I

IES , PgoM1SE
1' . LDoop Qov H
caoss ~
ANDP AVO
I yes, 1'M A
600 boy
L o IO
%i; Too

O.K. SHE'S
NOTLOOWrIO
You cW LT

I'M NoT SCARED
YA $16 DUMMY.
tMEYE.
ER . TRy MY
NEW VilWAL
RUAUTY HELMET

the healing power of music."
Patients' loved ones appreciate
the concerts too, Smith said. "I've
had a man come up to me and
say, 'My wife has been in surgery
for the last five hours. I'm really
happy I've had something to take
my mind off of it.'" Even the
performers feel it. "I've had
groups say, we'd love to come
back, we love performing for this
community, we'll come back for
free."
Why this response? "People's
sensitivities are at a very high
level because of the stress
involved," said Smith. "There are
basically only three things that
can happen to you in a hospital.
"One, you get better and go
home," he said, as he counted on
his fingers. 'Two, you stabilize
with some condition you have to
learn to live with. Three, you die.
However seldom that last one
happens, it's always on people's
minds. The arts help them
wrestle with it, come to terms
with it, resolve it in a special way
that only the arts can do."
Furthermore, the aesthetic
experience helps with an
important part of the healing that
must take place. Smith believes
strongly in the psychosomatic
connection. Medicine is. filled
with analyses of physiological and
biomechanical processes, but,
Smith said, "How you think about
and respond to that doesn't
always get a lot of attention. What
you feel about your illness affects
your immunocompetence."
No matter how valuable the
program may be to the patients, it
would not be possible without
outside financial support.
Fortunately, only five percent of
Smith's budget was in the form of
a grant from the Michigan
Council for the Arts, frozen last
January as part of state-level cuts.
Other than that, the program is
heavily supported by the
FRIENDS of the University of
Michigan Hospitals through sales
from the gift shops. Other sources
include donations from several of
the hospital's own internal
departments as well as
commissions from art sold at the
galleries.
The arts world must
increasingly rely on these private
sources for financial support. With
the paucity of government money
for the arts, complaints about
funding fly thick and fast these
days. Smith, however, is nearly as
critical of the artists as of the
politicians who are so quick to cut
spending. He does not oppose
government subsidies altogether,
but he does have a specific idea
about a more equitable way to
spread the cost around. In his
plan, every community would
maintain a local arts council. The
money raised in the community
would be doubled by a matching
grant from the Michigan Council
for the Arts, up to a maximum not
exceeding the population of that

community. In other words, state--
funding would correspond with
the level of local interest in a
given community as measured by
financial support. As Smith wrote
to Governor Engler, "This
proposal places the power of
aesthetic determination where it
belongs - with the people."
This point is clearly a sore one
with Smith. "We've lost sight of.
what the arts can do," he
declared. "The arts community
hasn't done a good enough job of
making the rest of the community
understand its significance." If
this had been done, Smith
contends, there would not be so
many funding problems. "It's
become a commodity," he said.
"Just look at the newspaper. It's
always the Arts and
Entertainment section. The
performing arts are always mixed
in with the movie reviews." The

'two subjects can't always be so
easily lumped together,
particularly when it comes to
financial considerations.
There wouldn't be so many

'We need to do a better job of making connections betwes
life. I believe we'd be a much healthier people'

don't know much about art,
but...' Well that's what the arts
community has done wrong!"
insisted Smith, stabbing a finger
in the air for emphasis. "People

analogy,
creative
experier
can crea
expressi

difficulties with money if we
could come up with specifics of
why the arts are important, said
Smith. "We have to explain the
real role of art in our lives." The
hospital is one place to examine
this question. But there are many
other ways for art to play a
significant role in our lives.
"Often you'll hear people say,'I

talk a lot about art in education.
But art is education, not just an
addendum."
Drawing on his background in
theater, Smith pointed out that in
order to learn about lighting
design, one must learn about
physics too. It is necessary to
know how electricity works, what
kind of power is required for
different lighting
schemes, and how
to mix colors. And
that's only the ,
beginning. "We
need to do a better
job of making
connections
between art and
everyday life. I
believe we'd be a
much healthier
people," he said.
Smith believes
that the arts have a
very important
function in society.
Choosing his words
carefully, he said,
"The arts provide
individuals an
opportunity to
express the
meaning of their
lives: their joys and
frustrations. To
show their
understanding of
the world."
A true work of
art cannot exist in a

commun
experien
common
your owi
than it re
abstract,
importar
limitedjp
test for v
Art tl
language
power, it
Most of 1
or anothi
speechle
photogra
of self in
We get g
during th
moment
the spine
Smiti
will still
Art progi
"I don't
"The rea
artists to
and that
give up s
because
specialis
compreh
moment.
can't go
the arts i
change."
Smith
encourag
has been
time an i
Institute
discuss it
goal wou
those all-
between
life. In th
rightly sh
in what h
Gifts of I
wonderf\
commun
of the kir
enrichme
the arts e
A sampler
Footloose,
music (Sel
demonstra
whose wor
hospital (
Danforth
Albright ((
staffed ent
more infor

S c1BE?&UNK. aab
,f

05 3S

1

\

vacuum, but
functions within a
human community.
"There's a human
urge to share our
condition, I think.
If (a work of art) is
just for yourself,
then what's it for?"
When challenged
on this, he restated
it more strongly. "If
it's not accessible to
the bulk of the
people, it's not art."
"When I said
that (the function of
art) was to
communicate the
meaning of your
life, I meant in
terms of
relationships. Art
HEATHER LOWMAN'WNeknd gets created when
Classical mime artist Michael Lee has performed several times at the hospital. In we share it." He
whiteface and simple costume, accompanied only by a portable tape deck, he evokes selected a
everything from love to flying a kite. provocative

September 20, 1991

WEEKEND Page 8

Page 5

WEEKEND

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