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September 02, 2014 - Image 36

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Fall 2014 - 4D

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

COMMUNITY & CULTURE
Students look to'Take Back The RC'

Controversy over
protest-graffiti in
East Quad
By ALEX BERNARD
DailyArts Writer
MARCH 23, 2014 - Late Sun-
day night, a group of students
painted a mural in the basement
of East Quad. They did so without
permission or approval, but with
a very specific vision in mind. In
big bold letters, they wrote "the
WORK OF ART IS A SCREAM
OF FREEDOM - Christo."
Two days later, East Quad
maintenance staff painted over
the mural. That same day, the
Facebook page"Take Back the
RC" was launched.
The page's title references
the 2012-2013 renovations to
East Quad, which have given
the dorms an almost "hotel-like"
atmosphere (blank white walls,
cushy chairs, a law firm-esque
dining hall, etc.). Presently, there
is a zero-tolerance policy for wall
murals at East Quad - but that

may be changing fairly soon.
RC students are pushing for
a return to the old EQ commu-
nity, which was characterized
by underground music venues,
paint-covered walls and a gener-
ally grungy ambiance. Without
a suitable creation space though,
many students believe a suitable
RC is not possible. The Residen-
tial College is in East Quad, but as
of right now, the two might not be
interchangeable.
Sincetheremovalofthe Christo
quote, other murals have sprung
up throughout EQ, presumably in
the middle of the night. Pictures
of the paintings were posted to
the "Take Back the RC" Facebook
page, which has accrued 350+
likes and spurred an email from
Professor Angela Dillard, Director
of the Residential College.
I had a chance to sit down with
the founders of the page and later,
the muralists themselves. (Both
the page founders and the mural-
ists wish to remain anonymous
while the project continues.)
"We wanted to create some-
thing that had the chance to stay
up forever ... The purpose wasn't

just to send a message, it was to
make something that had the
potential to stay there as a piece
of art."
The founders of the "Take Back
the RC" Facebook page explained
that the page wasn't created to
inspire or incite the painting of
murals, but rather to document
them.
"We as a page are not encour-
aging students to do anything. We
really want to avoid encouraging
people to vandalize things," one
said.
The founders said that the
page is about "promoting an envi-
ronment where RC students have
the ability to express themselves
creatively and freely."
According to them, this feeling
has not existed at all in the new
building.
"The housing administration
sees (the new East Quad) as their
shining new object, whereas RC
students see this as more of a
blank canvas."
They mentioned instances of
"completely harmless, complete-
ly removable, completely non-
permanent art that have gone

up around the building." These
pieces were promptly removed,
usually on the same day.
On March 19, just one day after
the launch of "Take Back the
RC," Residential College direc-
tor Angela Dillard sent out an
email to the entire Residential
College (students, staff and fac-
ulty), addressing the murals and
the movement. Notably, Profes-
sor Dillard opened with the line,
"Every work of Art is a scream for
Freedom," which was the quote
included in the first mural.
Dillard addressed the desire
for murals by referencing an
older "Guide to the RC" from the
1970s/'80s. The Guide detailed
the old process for creating
murals in East Quad. The proce-
dure included approval from both
residents and the Housing Coor-
dinator, restrictions on painting
spaces and the requirement that
"only paint can be used." Suffice
to say, this was not a zero toler-
ance policy.
Along with the optimistic
message, Professor Dillard also
addressed the use of murals as a
message.

"We ought to be respectful of
our colleagues in Housing who
are charged with the mainte-
nance of our shared spaces, and
we need to be respectful of each
other ... Further acts, I'm afraid,
will start to look more like van-
dalism and I'm worried about
that dynamic that often seems to
take things too far."
The page founders said that
the '70s and '80s policy outlined
in the email "sounds reasonable,"
saying they'd agree to this pro-
posal if it were proposed during
negotiations.
The students, however,
remarked, that the process
wouldn't be as easy as Dillard
implied in the email.
"She came off asa little bit too
optimistic that we would be able
to easily reach a compromise. I'm
not sure any negotiations that
might occur would be that easy."
They said that the email's
positive tone may simply be an
appeasement method to prevent
other students from painting
future murals. Nevertheless, the
students remained cautiously
optimistic: "If we facilitate an

open conversation ... hopefully
something will be reached that's
going to allow creation to occur
in the way that it did in old East
Quad."
Looking toward the future,
a petition has been released on
the Facebook page detailing the
movement and the its goals. As
signatures are accumulated, the
founders are also in the process of
organizing a group to meet with
Dillard and University Housing
officials.
Likewise, the muralists said
that, while they have ideas, no
murals are planned for the near
future. The artists warned that
more murals would "damage the
trust" between Housing and stu-
dents.
"I don't think anything that
went up unofficially right now
would benefit the cause in any
other way." said one of the artists.
And yet, they too, remained
optimistic about the future of the
RC.
As the founders said, hopefully
in the future "Take Back the RC"
will be changed to "RC Murals."
We'll see.

4
4

FESTIVAL REPORT
Electric Forest: Decadent, but not depraved

I

I

Festivalgoers showing some community pride
Going beyond in hell what was happening on the
track. We had come there to watch
the music at the real beasts perform."
- Hunter S. Thompson, "The
annual festival in Kentucky Derby is Decadent and
Depraved."
Rothbury, MI Please forgive this predict-
able Hunter S. Thompson refer-
By GIANCARLO BUONOMO ence for a "Look Ma, I covered
ManagingArts Editor a music festival!" article. I only
include it to admit at the start
JULY 2, 2014 - "Unlike most that I was wrong. I figured I
of the others. we didn't give a hoot would go to Electric Forest as

a reporter. While my co-edi-
tor Adam covered the music, I
would observe the festivalgoers,
"the real beasts," and report on
their depraved excesses. There
would be me, with my media
bracelet and plaid shirt, furious-
ly jotting down notes, and then
there would be everyone else -
the legions of electro-junkies in
funny hats who eat tabs of acid
like Listerine Strips. I imagined
calling this article "Electric For-

est is Decadent and Depraved."
Most of my preconceptions
were based on rumors about
Electric Forest; that it was much
more than a music festival, that
it had the best people-watching
ever, that it was trippier than
an MGMT video. These rumors
were believable, considering
that Electric Forest takes place
in rural Rothbury, Michigan,
specializes in the relatively
niche genres of jam bands and
electronic music and that the
"forest" is an actual forest, so
decked out with lights, lasers
and shrines that it recalls some-
thing from Alice in Wonderland.
In truth, none of the rumors
turned out to be false. But now
that I've returned from Roth-
bury, and gone over the pages of
notes and hours of recordings I
accumulated during my time at
the festival, I cannot write this
report with my original focus.
Not because I feel the need to
write about the music, even
though it was amazing. Rather,
because I discovered that Elec-
tric Forest is less about the peo-
ple who choose to come than it
is about what this peculiar event
allows those people, including
me, to become.
Electric Forest is not so much
a music festival as it is a four
day act of collective weirdness,
heavily facilitated by the festi-
val organizers and sustained by
a pervasive spirit of community
and non-judgement. I began to
get an idea of this right when
we arrived at the camp grounds.
The actual festival area, the stag-
es and vendors, is located on the
Double JJ Resort, a sort of Wild-
West re-enactment spot heav-

ily repurposed for one weekend
every year. The attendees camp
out in a complex of fields adjacent
to the resort. These fields form a
small city during the weekend,
complete with named streets
and neighborhoods. From my
berth at the corner of "Airstrip"
and "Maple", I gazed out upon
the expanse. Thousands of
parked cars in neat rows, most
with colorful tents next to them,
filled the once-empty space like
a psychedelic Hooverville. These
people were clearly pros - many
tents were adorned with banners
and flagpoles featuring the logos
of the classics: The Grateful
Dead, Bob Marley, Sublime, all
fragrant with years of accumu-
lated incense and ganja.
But it was inside the actu-
al festival, a good ten minute
walk from our campsite, that I
finally encountered the masses
of people. I'd never seen such a
dazzling array of outfits. Some
attendees were dressed in stan-
dard music-festival attire: girls
in Daisy Dukes and flower head-
bands, guys in tank tops and
flat-brims. But they were the
minority. Some men wore top
hats and tight suits like the Mad
Hatter, and some girls wore only
bikini bottoms with fanny-pack
codpieces and painted mari-
juana leaves covering the tips
of their otherwise bare breasts.
Others wore Teletubbie or bear
outfits, or giant Pikachu heads.
One man I passed on Saturday
wore only a Speedo and a small
silver crown fixed to his head at
a rakish angle, while sucking on
a large lollipop. Another was so
adorned with ribbons, beads and
feathers that he resembled an
Aztec god.
But the decadence doesn't
stop there. Many festivalgoers
carry totems, which are long
poles with anything on top.
And I mean anything. Blow-up
sex dolls. Bill Murray's face.
Simpsons characters. I saw one
depicting a cartoon King of
Kings, with a Mr. Skin-esque
grin, and the words "PRAISE
CHEEZUS" in big block let-
ters, likely in honor of the String
Cheese Incident's combined 12
hours of stagetime.
And of course, drugs. They're
an essential part of the festival,
so ubiquitous and accepted that
one pizza vendor put up a sign
that read "DON'T FORM LINES.
LINES ARE FOR YOUR NOSE,
NOT SPICY PIE." I'm watch-
ing Ms. Lauryn Hill and a guy to
my left lights up a joint the size
of a Sharpie. I'm raving along at
Zedd, and a guy to my rightvacu-
ums a good quarter-teaspoon of
coke into his left nostril.
This overwhelming amount
of, well, everything made me
wonder "Is this where all the
weirdos gather? Or is this where
people gather to be weird?"
I've concluded that it's the lat-
ter. Of course, I don't think that
Electric Forest is where Mor-
mon missionaries and Goldman
Sachs executives congregate

to let loose, but I did get the
impression that Electric For-
est provides a safe environment
for ordinary people to abandon
mainstream mores for a week-
end. A guy in a hammock put it
best in a remark to another guy
in the hammock strung below
his: "I'm going hard tomorrow,
because I have to go back to real-
ity after that."
Electric Forest is not only a
retreat from "normalcy," but
also an oasis of kindness and
togetherness. Festivalgoers go
out of their way to accommo-
date each other. One girl entered
a Port-A-Potty after a long wait
in line, only to burst out and run
after the previous occupant who
had dropped a $5 bill. During a
packed performance by Steve
Angello, another girl got tired
and decided to sit down right in
the middle of the crowd. Every-
one, even those wildly dancing
while rolling, made sure to give
her space.
At an event like this, people
make themselves vulnerable by
dressing in shocking and reveal-
ing ways, taking mind-bending
substances, and then walking
around an environment that is
confusing even if sober. To have
a good time requires a level of
trust on everyone's part, that
their fellow attendees will not
take advantage of them, and will
even help them out if need be.
I experienced this trust first-
hand. On Saturday, I was sitting
in the crowd at the Sherwood
stage, vibing to Schoolboy Q
and taking notes. I struck up a
conversation with a couple sit-
ting near me, Nick and Kat from
Louisville. We chatted about
Electric Forest and why people
would come here.
"We're all here for the same
thing: music and good people,"
Nick said.
As a red-shirted security
guard walked around inquiring
whether the numerous people
smoking joints had medical per-
mits, I remarked to Nick that I
didn't usually strike up conver-
sations at concerts.
"But at a place like this you
should never feel like you can't
talk to anybody," he replied. "
You can go up to anybody and be
like'Hey, what's up?'"
At that moment, I saw a friend
about 15 feet away, one who
I hadn't talked to in awhile. I
immediately leapt up and moved
towards her, forgetting that my
phone, backpack and notebook
were still on the ground next
to Nick and Kat. I looked back
anxiously, and they motioned
towards my things and gave me
a thumbs up, indicatingcthat they
would watch over them. Leaving
your stuff with strangers prob-
ably isn't something to make a
habit of. But as Doctor Thomp-
son said, "When the going gets
weird, the weird turn pro." The
going at Electric Forest is defi-
nitely weird - I viewed them
watching my stuff as asmatter of
professional courtesy.

I

4

I

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