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January 21, 2010 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-21

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* The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 3B

Creativity, on our terms

The University enjoys
bragging about its many
levels of diversity, and
contained within the scope of
this increasingly ambiguous con-
cept is the vari-
ety of courses
the University
has to offer. To '-
make sure that
its many diverse
students all get
diverse educa-
tions full of JAMIE
diversity, the BLOCK
University, like - -
many others across the nation,
has a set of distribution require-
ments. And among the categories
that can fill these distribution
requirements is a little gem called
"creative expression."
Now, I love the idea of creative
expression, which might be why
* I've met the requirement several
times over. The fact that I was
once a creative writing major cer-
tainly contributed to this redun-
dancy. But the first class I took
that met this requirement was an
RC drama class. It was small, but
I really enjoyed the class and the
group of students in it. That is,
once that one annoying guy left.
And this is really the story of
that one annoying guy, and the
annoying guys in arts classes
everywhere. This snarky little
devil clearly had no appreciation
for or interest in drama. When
we went around in a circle the
first day, introducing ourselves
and explaining why we were tak-
ing the class, he openly admit-
ted that he just needed creative
expression credits. He spoke
arrogantly, as though creativity
was beneath him and that anyone
who willingly took a drama class
was a wannabe with misguided
priorities. One more class session
and he was gone.

hole wl
the dis
is a mis
more tl
and the
in som
ruin th
It's like
All c
this ne
it by vi
of ther
one fal
ence le
really 1
your of
son snc
for a ch
and go
ingly b
back ro
dent ta
class (o

people like Captain Ass- ments. So you'd think this would
ho have convinced me that lead to some form of self-selec-
ng creative expression in tion in arts classes. But some stu-
tribution requirements dents will suffer great boredom
stake. The arts, perhaps for what they think will be an
han any other field, rely on easy A in an arts class. And they
sent and appreciation. The often don't give a damn whether
must enjoy creating the art, they ruin it for the rest of us.
e art must be appreciated So, in an odd twist of fate, it
e way by its audience. It seems the arts classes could be
only takes one downer to improved on campus by eliminat-
e experience for everyone. ing the added incentive to take
e when you see a movie you the courses. But there remains
enjoy with someone who another loose end - the Uni-
t like it at all. Your movie- versity's original reason for this
negative energy inevitably requirement. Does the detrimen-
you down. tal effect that one unenthused
lasses are susceptible to student imposes on an ensemble
gative energy, but arts counterbalance the potential
are particularly prone to gains of exposing art to people
rtue of the fact that many who may have otherwise not
most accessible arts classes bothered to get involved? Surely
ensemble work. If some- there must be at least a few
Is asleep in your big sci- instances where the guy who
cture, or even your small only took an arts class for the
a discussion, it doesn't creative expression credits ended
up really loving it.
The utilitarian in me wishes
Do ' *ona there were real data out there
a on this subject, but sadly there
.oir just to be aren't statistics on the enjoyment
experienced by students who
tain Asshole. took arts classes for distribution,
nor will there ever be. So for now,
I vote that creative expression
be stricken from the distribution
have much of an effect on requirements. The arts should be
wn work (unless that per- their own incentive. I personally
ores loudly, I guess). But think that all students should at
soir class, the jazz hands least try an artistic class in their
spel step aren't likely to academic careers, but I don't
anyone if there's a distract- think they should have to finish it
ored student texting in the if they don't enjoy it. So to those
:w of the group. of you reading this who haven't
, perhaps luckily, it's not yet considered it, try a choir or
y required that each stu- drama class if you have some free
ke a creative expression space in your schedule. But do it
sutside of the Residential for yourself, not for the University.

'Fondly Do We Hope... Fervently Do We Pray' juxtaposes Lincoln with other figures of his day, some real, some fictional.
Looking at Lincoln
throug dance theater

College, that is). For most stu-
dents, it is but one of a slew of
options that can fulfill the second
half of the distribution require-

Block is trying to fulfil his whiny
column requirements. To tell him he's
done, e-mail jamblock@umich.edu.

Bill T. Jones brings
his unconventional
creativity to the
Power Center
Daily Arts Writer
When the name Abraham Lin-
coln is mentioned, several things
immediately come to mind. We
think of the tall, black stove-
pipe hat adding
another seven "Fondly Do
inches to his
already elevated We Hope...
frame. We think Fervently Do
"Honest Abe,"
the nickname We Pray"
Lincoln earned Friday and
as a result of his Saturday
sincere and scru- at 8p.m.
pulous nature.
We think of the Power Center
guy with the Tickets from $18
scraggly beard,
the eloquent
rhetorician, the Great Emancipa-
tor, the courageous man who led
us through the Civil War - per-
haps the most pivotal event in
United States history.
Bill T. Jones tells us to stop
thinking and start imagining.
The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane
Dance Company will be present-
ing its acclaimed work, "Fondly
Do We Hope... Fervently Do We
Pray," during the University of
Michigan's 24th Annual MLK
Symposium tomorrow. Directed
by acclaimed choreographer and
2007 Tony Award-winner Bile T.
Jones, the engaging dance theater
performance centers on our 16th
"Fondly Do We Hope... Fervent-
ly Do We Pray" transports us to a
moment in time when there was
much unrest and uncertainty in
the United States. Through the use
of dance, text, recitations, projec-
tions and music ranging from folk
to gospel, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie
Zane Dance Company aims to cre-
ate a multimedia performance that
captures the turmoil and emotion
of Lincoln's era.
In particular, dance is uti-
lized frequently and effectively
throughout the piece, transform-
ing the performance into much
more than a typical musical the-
ater routine.
Professor Robin Wilson, an
Associate Professor of Dance in
the School of Music, Theatre &

Dance, explained why dance may
be especially effective in this per-
formance, while giving a dance
primer to students who are not
familiar with the art form.
"I try to use poetry as a refer-
ence or analogy for people try-
ing to understand modern dance.
When you hear poetry, reading
it doesn't really do it. You have to
hear it. And it's not linear. It trig-
gers images ... for an overall feel
that affects you," Wilson said.
"And I think modern dance cho-
reography, and dance choreogra-
phy in general, tends to do that.
It's usually not a narrative as in a
play or musical theater, where you
would have a dance number that
kind of carries the story along just
like a song would.
"It really is this idea of put-
ting the moving body in relation
to other bodies and maybe film
to evoke an image and provoke
thought," he added.
Wilson also applauds Bill T.
Jones for taking a distinctive
approach to choreographing the
dance numbers in "Fondly Do We
Hope... Fervently Do We Pray."
"(Jones) has a process where
he collaborates heavily with his
dancers," Wilson said. "Rather
than saying 'Okay, these are the
steps; I've made them up before;
I want you to learn the steps,
and then I want you to execute
the steps the way I want it; and
here's the music; and here's the
costumes,' it's much more collab-
orative, where he walks in and he
asks questions. And then out of
those answers, movement ques-
tions are presented. And when
those movement questions are
posed, the dancers then create
movement answers. Out of those
movement answers, he then, with
that material, creates a piece."
Starting with the title, Jones
aims to portray Lincoln in a man-
ner that extends beyond the his-
torical figure, and focuses instead
on the man behind the history.
"Lincoln is a story we tell
each other. A generation or two
ago, schoolchildren would have
learned the Gettysburg Address,
the second inaugural of which the
'Fondly' reference comes," Jones
explains in a video on his dance
company's website.
"I was gently mocking what
was true about Lincoln being a
series of lines, a series of speech-
es, a series of biographical points.
I was using 'Fondly' in a warm
but somewhat ironic way to talk
about Lincoln being reduced to a

few simple tropes," Jones says in
the video.
The title may hold ulterior
meanings as well. University
Musical Society Student Advisory
Committee member Sayan Blsat-
tachary offers a different take on
the title.
"It says 'Fondly Do We Hope...
Fervently Do We Pray.' Those
three dots - what are those three
dots? It doesn't say 'Fondly Do
We Hope, Fervently Do We Pray.'
Could have, but it doesn't," said
Bhattacharyya. "What do those
three dots suggest? Something
that is undecided, that is maybe
even a little hesitant. Someone
is saying 'Fondly We Hope,' and
maybe he's not quite sure that
hope will be realized.
"That word 'hope' is immense-
ly suggestive. There is a moment
of hesitation, pause, uncertainty,
and above all, doubt within that
hope that has been generated
fondly. Fondly here doesn't mean
the English word 'fond,' like 'I am
fond of that person.' Fondly here
is an Old English word that means
'naively,' 'innocently,' " said Bhat-
Wilson hopes the audience
will come away with not only an
appreciation of dance but also a
better understanding of one of
the greatest men to ever claim the
"Here is this man who sym-
bolized a lot of hope for people
(and) was controversial," Wilson
said. "What lessons can we learn
from this very, very thoughtful
man who was thrust into his-
tory? What were the questions he
asked and how would we respond
to those same questions? How do
our answers shape the way we try
to make our world a better one
and be better citizens?"
In a similar vein, the Compa-
ny's Associate Artistic Director
Janet Wong encourages students
to come to the performance to
not only learn about Lincoln but
also about themselves. And she
emphasized that any hesitant
students put off by the "dance
theater" label will find the show
more accessible than they may
"I think it's a piece that has
many levels to it. It's also a piece
that is very accessible. For exam-
ple, if you watch or look at an
abstract painting, you go 'huh?'"
Wong said. "But this is a piece that
has text, that has characters, that
has music. ... You can even hum the
See FONDLY, Page 4B

Cory Arcangel works with a variety of mediums, including cats on pianos.

From Page 1B
videos on YouTube currently have more than 88,000
hits collectively.
"Cats are a magnet, really. Everyone likes to see
cats on video. Especially on pianos," Arcangel said.
This odd "human short-circuit," according to
Arcangel, where an unsettling majority of people
enjoy cats on film (the artist even mentioned that one
of Edison's first-ever films from the late 1800s depicts
two cats boxing), allows for a considerable bridge
between so-called pop culture and art culture.
"The Internet opens up audiences for everything.
Now everything has an audience so people don't think
(the split between genres) is so black and white,"
Arcangel said.
The idea of opening up spaces - especially within
museums, where galleries are traditionally separat-
ed from one another - and provoking interactions'
between disparate areas of interest is a concept
Arcangel's works seem to invite.
"Going to (Arcangel's) gallery openings is much
different than going to other gallery openings," Proc-
tor said.
"It's double the audience - you have all the art
world people and then you have all the Internet and
computer world people."
Proctor, who since graduate school has been fol-
lowing Arcangel's work, said that it is Arcangel's
focus on different mediums, ideas and cultural spaces
as well as his desire to play between them that pushes
the limits of contemporary digital art itself.
"There are a lot of people working with technology
and working with the Internet and working with digi-
tal media and it feels to me like sometimes it doesn't
feel particularly relevant or it's part of a very, very
small conversation," Proctor said. "I've always felt
that Cory is part of that conversation and also a part
of a larger conversation about art. Especially since
within the 20th century a lot of the most interesting
work has come out of moments where visual artists
and dancers and musicians and filmmakers and all
these people were talking to each other."
"(With) these moments of real innovation and
experimentation ... (they) were able to do new things,"
he said. "And I feel like that's something that's going
on here as well."
Arcangel is on the stage of UMMA's Helmut
Stern Auditorium in collaboration with the Univer-
sity's Digital Music Ensemble. He is holding a large
Conan the Barbarian sword that's almost as tall as he
is. Holding the sword's handle in his two hands, he
runs a couple of feet to smash the blade of the sword
against a metal cage that has been strung with piano

wire and connected to a guitar amplifier.
The resultingsound is gigantic and distorted. Nois-
es fill the auditorium: The crash of metal againstmetal
and the distorted twang of piano wires emitted by the
amplifier. The sound is reminiscent of a plugged-in
guitar that has been thrown down a stairwell.
Arcangel steps back to wind up again. He hits the
cage once more with the sword, and a booming sound
rises from the speakers and the stage. The cage bends
ever so slightly and buckles under the force of the hit.
When Arcangel stops for a breath, the audience
begins to clap, assuming the finale has passed -
instead, the artist throws out a hand and explains,
quite placidly, "Oh we're not done yet. I have about 30
years of sitting in front of a computer, not letting out
any aggression."
The cage Arcangel had been destroying is an
instrument constructed by a student in the Univer-
sity's Digital Music Ensemble, a group composed of
students at the University who take a class on digital
and performance art. The Ensemble is led by Stephen
Rush, professor of dance and music technology in the
school of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Last week, Arcangel was invited to perform with
the Ensemble in an event titled "Cory Arcangel
and the Digital Musical Ensemble: Master Class in
Reverse," in which he played students' instruments
on stage with a catch: He wasn't supposed to know
how any of the instruments worked beforehand. The
result involved a great deal of improvisation, painful
noise feedback and a few broken instruments,but ulti-
mately ended in a thought-provoking performance.
"Students from a number of disciplines take the
course. ... Now there's a grad student in poetry and
a grad student from art, a bunch of people who are
doing video work and people studying sound record-
ing," Rush said.
Taking this array of students, the mediums they
work with and their perspectives on art, then bring-
ing these things together allows students to, accord-
ing to the Digital Music Ensemble website, "realize
their artistic goals by often utilizing unconventional
means." This is, in a way, what Arcangel does at the
forefront of his artistic interests.
In short, Arcangel's art is about doing the
unthinkable: mixing kittens and avant-garde music
into a palatable video, the consumerism of auto-tune
and the anti-establishment attitude of radical folk
into a song and the non-expertise of Guitar Heroes
with the virtuosic compositions of 20th-century
It is Arcangel's willingness to delve into spaces that
haven't been clearly defined that makes his artwork
not only cutting edge but also accessible, re-thinking
ideas that were once seen as contradictory or incom-
prehensible. Arcangel's work seeks to do just that
- de-art-ify art and strip down its conceptions, dis-
tilling them in ways that are far-reaching so that art
can be lived with - found in living rooms and viral
videos - rather than found untouched on the highest
shelf of a museum, just out of reach.

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