Include Asian-American voices in racial discourse
“Do you identify more as white or black?”
Michelle’s brother posed this question to her when she was 16, and it forced her to think about how much of her identity she could actually construct for herself. The obvious answer to the question was Not Applicable—she is an Asian American.
For Michelle’s brother and for many other people in this country, conversations about race mostly function on a black-and-white binary. What her brother was really asking was, “As an outsider, which team are you rooting for?”
But Michelle is not alone in her struggle to place herself within this constructed racial binary. As three individuals from different U.S. geographical regions and Asian ethnicities, we are connected by our feelings of otherness—of not belonging to either black or white identities.
On one hand, South and East Asian Americans’ relatively high educational achievements and family income levels are used by our society to call us “model minorities.” (Curiously, most Americans seem to forget that 40 percent of Hmong Americans and 38 percent of Laotian Americans drop out of high school.)
The “model minority” stereotype operates on the harmful assumption that merely with hard work, any ethnic or racial group can climb the social ladder out of poverty. It also has the unintended effect of pitting Asian Americans against African Americans and Latinos by positioning them as somehow different from other minority groups and as honorary whites.
And yet, the three of us have never felt fully white. We are never quite sure what people mean when they ask us, “Where are you from?” Even though Michelle and Wendy were born in America (and Paul immigrated when he was six), people assume that all three of us have a special familiarity and connection with our homelands and speak an Asian language fluently. This complicates our status as so-called honorary whites, and suggests that we may be forever foreigners under the gaze of society.
In high school, Wendy was excited when her teacher announced a new unit in the health curriculum centered on race and identity. It would be a rare public space for her and her peers to talk about race, a topic that was seldom discussed in her predominantly-white high school in New England.
But when she watched the movie that her teacher said was about race in America, she only learned about issues facing blacks and whites. When the movie was followed by a student panel that her teacher said was “comprised of all different cultures and backgrounds,” she was equally disappointed to not see a single Asian face in the panel.
Who would speak to her experiences as an Asian American? How did an educational space supposedly set on affirming her race instead affirm her feelings of otherness?
All three of us are privileged not to face the same systemic discrimination that many African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans face. But we also think that it can be all too easy for our communities and governments to neglect the critical issues affecting Asian Americans, such as the little-known fact that they have higher poverty rates than the national average.
Even at Bowdoin, we have felt culturally and socially slighted, and have found that many spaces on campus centered on race rarely seek to actively include and affirm the voices of Asian Americans.
“Growing up [as Filipina], I never learned about my history in textbooks or in school… My research has shown that history can be personal and [be] about you. It doesn’t have to be objective,” said Genevieve Clutario, a cultural historian at Harvard University.
Clutario spoke at the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference earlier this year, which Paul attended. It was the first time in college when Paul had found a public space where conversations on race centered on his own Asian American identity and where he didn’t feel like the “other.” Curiously, that first experience was not at Bowdoin.
Whether through public spaces like ECAASU or private conversations with friends, we know that race for us does not operate on a black-white binary. We know that our experiences cannot be easily compartmentalized as white or black, and we know that our conversations on race are richer when we expand the dialogue.
Next Wednesday, Multicultural Student Programs will hold a discussion on Asian American race, identity, and activism. But we can do more. Petition the school to add more courses in Asian-American studies (there were none this school year), or ask the Women’s Resource Center and Health Services to follow up on Kristina Wong’s talk on the high rates of depression among Asian-American women. Whatever your cause, let’s show that Bowdoin values its Asian American students.
Wendy Dong is a member of the Class of 2018. Michelle Hong is a member of the Class of 2016. Paul Ngu is a member of the Class of 2017.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that no Asian Studies courses were taught this year. The College taught many Asian Studies courses, but no courses in Asian-American studies. The article has been updated to correct this error.
Activist musicians Dr. Bernice and Toshi Reagon perform for MLK Day
The Bowdoin community sang and clapped through the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration on Monday in Pickard Theater, led by activists and songwriters Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and her daughter, Toshi Reagon. The pair revisited protest songs from the Civil Rights Movement songs of freedom.
The Reagons sang familiar songs like “This Little Light of Mine,” as well as originals written about social issues in South Africa and Brooklyn. The singers happily coached the crowd through their bluesy renditions as Toshi plucked a guitar.
As a member of the Freedom Singers and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bernice Reagon has been a major voice for social change since the 1960s. She is the founder of the all-female African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, which has used music as a way to speak out against injustice, and is a respected professor and curator of African American folk music.
Toshi is continuing her mother’s tradition of activist music with her band BIGLovely. The band also includes Bowdoin’s own Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Judith Casselberry, who originally met the Reagons in the performance circuit and has developed a close relationship with the duo.
While the College held classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, Bowdoin formed a committee to honor the holiday by organizing celebration activities in remembrance of the Civil Rights Movement.
“We wanted something to honor King, but, more than honoring just King the man, honoring his legacy and the work he was committed to,” said Leana Amaez, associate dean of multicultural student programs and a member of the programming committee for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The programming themes in 2013 and 2014 were the eradication of poverty and activism, respectively. This year’s theme was faith, and the committee thought the Reagons were a good representation of the role of faith in social movements.
“Sometimes we focus on people who are passed away. We think about these things in a historical context, which is part of how we should think about it, but there’s also a very present context. Dr. Reagon is living history,” said Casselberry. “I think it’s important for us to all remember that this isn’t a long ago history. It’s a current history, and people are still living who did work in that time period.”
The Reagons returned to this theme in their performance, inviting the audience to carry forward the spirit of African American folk music and protest music.
“One time I heard my mom talk about songs that came out of the Civil Rights Movement, and she told people, don’t think of them as museum pieces,” Toshi told the audience. “You hear a song from the Civil Rights Movement, and you kind of separate yourself from it as if you don’t actually need it to be a part of your contemporary world, as if it can’t still do service to so many situations that are going on in the world today.”
The committee also saw the Reagons’ partnership as mother and daughter as a reminder that activism requires collaboration between generations.
“To have Bernice and Toshi together is for the community, and students in particular, it’s great to see the intergenerational continuity and how important that can be for how young people think about moving in the world, how young people think about the future,” said Casselberry.The Reagons delighted as hundreds of audience members lifted their voices for the choruses of each new song.
“I’m gonna invite you to participate in these songs as if they’re yours,” said Toshi Reagon. “In case you didn’t know, we like people to sing along with us.”
The audience responded enthusiastically, giving the community the opportunity to experience the songs the way they were experienced during the Civil Rights Movement.
“The traditions in which this comes from—old hymns, old Negro spirituals, protest music—it’s all about participation,” said Dean Amaez.
The performance elicited an emotional response from the audience, ranging from excited to nostalgic.
“It was absolutely breathtaking. It reminded me of my grandmother walking around the house singing some of the same type of Civil Rights spirituals, old church songs,” said Matthew Williams ’16, student director for activism and social justice at the Office of Multicultural Life.The Reagons encouraged the audience and reminded them that social change is driven by the young people in a community—a particularly relevant point for student activist groups on campus.
“Young people always speak to the current and contemporary energy of the time,” Toshi told the crowd. “Older people can’t shape that dialogue for young people. Young people shape the dialogue, and old people get behind them and support them while they do it.”
“Each generation has its own issues to deal with. Even if those issues are maybe not quite as clearly connected, or at least feel like they aren’t as clearly connected, I think that it’s important for young people to remember that they’re the ones that always make things happen,” she said.Williams also felt the songs were relevant to the work students are doing on campus to impact the community, like the protest acts following the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and the petitions for divestment.
Williams said he was surprised by the diversity of the turnout.
“I did not think that place was going to be that filled, let alone that diverse,” said Williams.“When they turned the lights on, I saw that it wasn’t just the entirety of the black population here, but it was filled with a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life.”Williams added, “I think it really does show how their music can relate to things that are happening on campus or even in our world today.”
The last event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be Common Hour with Reverend Dr. Emilie M. Townes on February 27.
Portrait of an artist: Tyrelle Johnson '15
“Just like a late-night conversation that you would have with friends—you know, when you have those life talks. Let’s just model that on stage,” said Tyrelle Johnson ’15.
Thus began the task of writing and directing “Perspectives,” a play performed during Orientation that portrays the diversity of experiences and backgrounds in the first year class. The show is based on short essays first years write before entering Bowdoin, describing their life experiences through challenges.
Taking on “Perspectives,” a Bowdoin Orientation tradition, was a new endeavor for Johnson. He has not been heavily involved in theater groups since high school and the job was one of many that Johnson applied for on campus this summer. Luckily, he said, the experience was a positive one.
Johnson said that condensing the life experiences of 505 individual students into one play with only six actors was not an easy task. It was a balancing act of representing everyone and avoiding repetition of similar stories.
“They were pretty much similar in that they asked the same questions to all the students. I had to be really creative to figure out ways to not make it so monotonous.”
Johnson wanted to highlight not only the similarities between students but also the differences.
“I was very serious about having it about class issues. The only way to do that is to pull out things that would signify what social-economic status people come from,” said Johnson. “I would look for things about trips that people who are poor couldn’t afford—things of that nature.”
These anecdotes were harder for Johnson to find than stories from the other end of the spectrum.
“It was much easier to find stories based on poverty than those of privilege,” he said. “Nobody who has a lot of money is going to sit there and talk about how much money they have, especially in a college essay.”
Choosing quotes was a process of digging below the surface.
“I had to really examine what these people were talking about and if that took money, and what resources it took to do that,” he said. “I had to really question certain stories.”
Johnson said he was more nervous presenting his own writing than he was performing.
“I had such a huge stake in it. I didn’t want anyone to feel like their story was represented in the wrong way. I hoped that people would laugh at the parts that I meant to be funny—which wound up happening. It worked.”
The goal of the production was to give an accurate overview of all the backgrounds that make up a typical class at Bowdoin. Johnson hopes the show made first years more aware of the other students they will be spending the next four years with.
“The show is really about developing a foundation—sort of a commonality among people—so they can actually discuss issues,” he said. “I hope that the show impacted them enough so that they might actually want to learn about their peers and figure out things that they may not have thought of. I want people to be connected.”
Outside of this project, Johnson’s main artistic outlet is singing in the Meddiebempsters and his band, The Jboard. But it was performing in theater productions in high school that gave Johnson the confidence on stage he has now.
“Over time I just developed natural ways of being on stage. It just works for me. I just try to use my natural self-taught methods in this process—which has actually worked out because singing on stage is not that different from acting on stage.”
Johnson feels that his main contribution to the Meddiebempsters is bringing character to the performances.
“When I get on stage, I just know how to interact with people. I just get really goofy,” he said.
Like many students, Johnson’s artistic pursuits have been a part of his education, but ultimately Johnson would like to use his Government and Legal Studies major to become a judge. For now, singing is just a hobby.
“It just makes life around here a little nicer,” he said. “That’s all.”
Portrait of an artist: Chelsea Shaffer '14
When Chelsea Shaffer ’14 arrived on campus her freshman year, she planned on joining the Craft Center and taking a few art classes. Luckily for the visual arts department, a few classes turned into many classes, and many classes turned into a major.
Currently taking the Senior Studio capstone course, Shaffer’s project uses footage from recent home videos and digitized old home videos to visually represent memory.
“It’s sort of predicated on the idea that oftentimes our memories are not actually memories but just recollections that we have of images we’ve seen of ourselves growing up,” said Shaffer of her work.
Shaffer says she is interested in the power of public art and its influence on passers-by. For her Public Art class last semester, she flipped all the posters in the union so that people only saw the blank backs of fliers.
“I feel like we see those every day and that space is so familiar to us that sometimes we don’t even see those posters,” she said. “I wanted to break that routine of knowing exactly what was going to be there.”
Shaffer studied abroad in Florence, Italy where she got a taste of what life would have been like at a studio art school. After considering the pros and cons, she says she’s still glad she has her liberal arts background.
“What we lack in studio space or technical instruction, we make up for in the way Bowdoin professors teach their students how to think about art and how to talk about their art,” she said. “I noticed a lot of people could make these beautiful things but they didn’t really know how to explain them or didn’t know the art historical context for what they were making.”
While abroad, Shaffer produced a piece titled “Rising” that was displayed during the Bowdoin Art Society student show.
“It was a video that superimposed images of riots onto flowing water—like a rushing river—to talk about how that impulse to violence or the mob mentality is a natural impulse and that things will gain momentum and rise up,” said Shaffer.
While Shaffer has always been interested in art, she made her decision to major in it after her experience in Sculpture II, taught by Sculptor in Residence John Bisbee.
“I really liked the experience of getting the time and space to work on one major project and really thinking about it, and having a lot of autonomy over what it was going to look like,” she said. “It also got me really interested in the idea of studio practice.”
Shaffer’s first concern when producing a new piece is its aesthetic quality.
“Very often, the actual production of the art is driven by what I find aesthetically and formally interesting. That’s the most important thing to me—what something ends up looking like,” she said. “What it means is a little bit more of a perk.”
Shaffer starts by deciding what medium to use, and says the process of creating inspires what comes after. For example, painting from photographs makes her think about what the photographs mean to her.
“For video it’s usually a little more conceptual,” said Shaffer. “I’ll have a sort of idea or sentence that I find interesting, and I’ll try to reproduce that idea in the video work.”
Recently Shaffer has become interested in community art projects and art therapy. Since she plans to teach after graduation, she hopes she can incorporate art into her job.
“I see it as a really good way to connect people, a good way to bring people together in a community and a good way to beautify a community. I think that that is a really important role of art—making a place worthwhile and a good place to live in,” said Shaffer.
For Citizenship and Religion, a course being taught at the Maine Correctional Center, Shaffer has been working on a group project with other Bowdoin students and an incarcerated student. They have been asking people to answer the question of what citizenship means to them by writing or drawing on an index card.
“There are a lot of people who are incarcerated at that facility who have been participating in the project—drawing on the cards, writing things down. It’s been really great to get that perspective,” she said. “I’m really interested to see what Bowdoin people have to say, but it’s also interesting to see this whole other group of people who have a lot at stake in their own citizenship and how they would respond to that.”
To Shaffer, the beauty of this project is that it provides people in the facility with an outlet for creativity.
“Maybe people don’t get to see their drawings or read their poetry or read their writing because they are incarcerated, but this way they have a chance to sort of express themselves and have it reach a broad audience,” she said.
Shaffer’s video work can be seen in the Senior Studio show on May 2, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Her citizenship project will also be displayed in the Fishbowl Gallery in the Visual Arts Center next weekend.
Portrait of an artist: Ben Woo Ching ’16
Both athlete and artist, Ben Woo Ching ’16 is combining his interests into a photography project showcasing nude athletes in a celebration of the body.
Woo Ching was inspired by the annual ESPN “Body Issue” which focuses on the forms of world-class athletes.
Woo Ching, a member of the football and track teams, wants to celebrate the effort Bowdoin athletes—approximately 30 percent of the student body—put into building their bodies.
“Knowing how much work it is to put in between practice, film, lifting, conditioning in the mornings, games on the weekends and then school and or work on top of that—knowing all of that, I thought why not try to capture that in an image and really give credit,” said Woo Ching.The photo shoot will be produced entirely in black and white film. In Woo Ching’s opinion, the style is perfect for capturing the details of the human body.
“I thought that aimed more to the shadows that are cast from every muscle. You can really see the definition—not as precisely as a brand-new Canon, but I like that as well,” he said.
Visiting Artist-in-Residence Accra Shepp encouraged the idea for the project and allowed Woo Ching to make it into a semester-long study.
Working with film instead of digitals is a new creative challenge for Woo Ching, because the conditions for the photo must be set before the photographer pushes any buttons.
“You have 36 photos in a whole reel. I just developed four rolls of film, and I found 11 photos that I like,” he said. “It makes you more humble and makes you think more about what you’re taking an image of.”
The fact that Woo Ching is an athlete and knows his subjects personally helps to make the process easier. While he said it was initially uncomfortable to photograph his friends naked, Woo Ching has gotten the hang of it.
“We shower together at practice and at games, but when it’s just the two of you, music helps enormously,” he said. “The first shoot was completely silent, and that was so awkward.”
In general, students have been open to being photographed, but Woo Ching has been very sensitive to the comfort level of his subjects.
“That’s why I haven’t shot any girls yet. I wanted them to feel the most comfortable,” he said. “This is completely artistic and academic.”
Woo Ching has enjoyed photography so much that he is now considering a visual arts major or minor—something he never would have predicted when he came to Bowdoin from Colorado.
“The thing I like about art and especially about photography is that you have something tangible afterwards,” he said. “I get a photo to look at. I can give it away to someone and it means something to me.”
He hopes to compile photos of 12 athletes to represent the athlete population as a whole.“I’ve chosen people from all different sports for the most part,” said Woo Ching. “Hopefully it’ll turn out to be a fair snapshot of the Bowdoin athlete.”
Although Woo Ching does not currently have plans to exhibit the photos, the Department of Athletics has expressed interest in using the photos in its offices. He hopes the photos could be displayed with biographies, since the subjects’ stories are the focus of his project.
Goodyear talk unpacks radical history of surrealist photography
“Under the Surface: Surrealist Photography,” challenges the idea that photography recreates images exactly as the human eye sees them.
Bowdoin Museum of Art Co-Director Anne Goodyear gave a talk on Thursday that connected the work of Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, two central figures in the Surrealist movement highlighted in the museum’s current show.
Although the featured image, titled “Dust Breeding,” has aesthetic value in itself, the talk provided insight into its background story and significance.
At first glance, the image resembles a dusty, barren plain, but the photo is actually the dusty back of another Man Ray piece. By changing the context of the photo, the meaning of the photo also changes.
“They found ways in which the photograph itself could be manipulated to reveal layers of reality that we might not otherwise be cognizant of,” said Goodyear. “Yet at the same time, we could also think about the fact that it is, of course, literally the back of this with dust on it.”
“You’re partially obscuring something and thereby partially revealing something. You can’t have one without the other,” Bowdoin Museum of Art Curatorial Assistant Andrea Rosen added.The Surrealist movement began in Paris in the twenties and thirties. Though it started with reactionary World War I literature, it soon spread to visual arts and gained global support.
“We don’t just have that core group of the Parisians. We see that those artists move to the U.S. following World War II and ripple out to American artists, Latin American artists, Eastern European artists,” said Rosen. “It had this global rippling effect. We have work in the show going until the 1960s but really their influence carries up until today.”
The destruction of World War I reverberated through the arts, and photography responded with a tendency toward a twisted reality. The featured photograph of Goodyear’s talk demonstrates a bleak outlook on life.
“It looks like an apocalyptic landscape, which really gets at the profound destructiveness of World War I,” said Goodyear.
Despite how visually depressing some of the images can be, the artists were not entirely hopeless. There is a story of brilliant new thought in psychology and political science that comes through in Surrealist work.
“They believed a positive change could be made, not just through a political revolution but through revolution of the mind,” said Rosen. “And that’s where the theories of Sigmund Freud were significant to them. The idea of the unconscious held great appeal—that if they could, through their art and through their writing, make people more aware of the workings of their unconscious, they could change the way people thought, and that that could bring around that change in the world that they sought.”
She noted how radical many of those artists were. “They believe in breaking taboos, breaking with tradition, shocking the viewer. So in that way they seem very iconoclastic, but in fact they’re kind of hopeful. They really kind of believe that through that shock [they can] make a positive change in the world.”
With the advent of communism in the first half of the 20th century, the Surrealists became an active subset of political thinkers.
“The Surrealists have an engaging, interesting, tense relationship with communism,” said Rosen. “They believe in a fundamental political change as do the communists at the time, so they are often aligned with communism but have reservations about officially joining the Communist Party because of some of the restrictions the Communist Party wants to put on what art can be.”Photographers chose subjects and settings that are inherently strange, but also used new methods to develop the photos. Man Ray, for example, created techniques that resemble what modern digital manipulation does today.
Museum acquires Winslow Homer’s camera, gains new perspective on artist’s life
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is poised to offer new insight into Winslow Homer’s life through the lens of his camera. Maine resident Neal Paulsen recently donated the legendary artist’s camera to the Museum to add to its collection of Homer’s works. It will be on display starting in 2015.
Winslow Homer is commonly hailed as one of the greatest painters of the second half of the 19th century. His work spans from commercial illustrations in Harper’s Weekly Magazine to landscapes.
“It’s not just simply that he was out looking for pretty, dramatic landscapes. He was interested in the more elemental forces at the root of the natural world,” said Frank Goodyear, co-director of the Museum.
Paulsen inherited the camera from his grandfather. He claims that his grandfather, an electrician, received the camera from Homer in exchange for electric services.
After a lengthy investigation, the Museum has confirmed that the camera in fact belonged to Homer.
The first proof of its authenticity was Winslow’s documented awareness of the new phenomenon of photography.
“At the very least he was well aware of photography as a new visual technology because he himself was pictured through photography many times,” said Goodyear. “He was aware of photography as a recording device.”
Another clue was the negative plate holder inside the camera, which bears the date August, 1882 and the initials “W.H.”
Additionally, the model was manufactured and sold in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, which was very close to the fishing village where Homer lived at that time.
The Museum also used its current Homer collection to identify the camera. In the Homer family papers, there are photographs of Maine that match the period and the size specifications of the camera.
“Photographic enlarging equipment wasn’t really popularly introduced until the early 20th Century. If you wanted a big photograph, you needed a big camera with a big glass plate,” said Goodyear. “Your negative would have been put up against a piece of photographic paper and contact printed. The resulting image would be the same size as your negative.”
Museum officials found that the photos and the negative plate are in fact both three by four inches.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the camera was on display at Scarborough High School in Scarborough, Maine, but Paulsen thought the best place for the artifact was Bowdoin, considering the large number of Homer works and artifacts in the Museum’s collection, including a set of his watercolor brushes.
The donation has curricular benefits as well as cultural ones.
“It’s a wonderful gift from the donor. It’s terrific that he had faith in Bowdoin in its ability to use it both in coursework and in the Museum,” said art history professor Dana Byrd. “I’m teaching a history of photography class next spring, so I’ll certainly introduce Winslow Homer’s camera.”
The resurfacing of the camera has yielded inquiries from several art historians who have expressed interest in conducting research on Homer’s work as a photographer, a skill he hasn’t previously been recognized for.
“The $100,000 question here is did Homer have an extensive interest in photography once he acquired a camera in the 1880s? Was he using photography throughout the 30 years that remained in his artistic career? Did he take photographs that served as the source material for paintings he might have done? We do not know,” he said.
At the time Homer used this camera, the art of photography was not as accessible to the general population as it is today.
“The birth of amateur photography doesn’t really start until 1888 when the George Eastman Company introduces the Kodak camera,” said Goodyear. “Why this is interesting is because the camera that we have acquired comes from before the introduction of the Kodak camera and would have required some knowledge of optics and chemistry.”
Photography in Homer’s time required a deeper understanding of how a photograph is produced—more for the “serious amateur” than the lay person.
Some of the photographs in the collection, which the museum can now be more certain were taken by Homer, are similar to the paintings he did.
“There are a couple of pictures in our collection that do seem to show the coastline, the sea, waves breaking on the coast that kind of look a lot like Winslow Homer paintings,” Goodyear said. “We haven’t done enough research yet to say that photography might have been a source material, but that’s what these exhibitions are meant to do—to pose some questions that can be the basis for dialogue.”
The fact that Homer owned this camera might also just be an interesting new element to what historians know about his daily life.
“The pictures that we have here—there are plenty of family pictures, so he might have just seen photography as a recreational pastime—and these are in a sense early snapshots,” he said.The Museum plans to put the camera on exhibition during summer 2015 along with its collection of Homer’s personal artifacts.
Students intern on set of alumni’s horror film 'POD'
Eleanor West ’10 taught several current students the tricks of the motion picture trade by allowing them to intern for her on the set of the indie horror film that she is producing, titled “POD.”
The students worked on location in Round Pond, Maine, from February to early March.
Directed by Mickey Keating, the movie is about siblings who visit a brother in an isolated house on the suspicion that something strange is going on with him. Keating has done one other horror movie, “Ritual.”
West reached out to Bowdoin students through the theater department. Five students, Monica Das ’14, Nicolas Magalhaes ’15, Kiyomi Mino ’16, Natalie LaPlant ’16 and Christina Sours ’16, interned on set and did a wide range of tasks.
The interns learned how crews create illusion for the audience. When they were on set they were mostly setting up the scenes about to shoot, which included shoveling snow to perfect various shots.
“The magic of film is that the fourth wall of the camera can always trick you,” said Magalhaes. “They may only have an inch and a half behind them but they’ll make it look like it’s a huge space.”
“POD” was mostly filmed at the house of West’s stepbrother, Will Frank. Working in one house with a small cast and crew meant that many of them stayed in the house together.
“Since the protagonist is a hoarder, the house looks filthy on purpose,” said West. “But that’s a challenge when you’re living in the house.”
Like most indie films, “POD” had a relatively low budget. For the director and producers, however, this meant they had more control over the film.
“I imagine things would be easier with more money, but when everyone knows each other, it’s also easier,” said West.
The film is less of a gruesome slasher and more a psychological thriller.
Working in a small town was a mixed bag for the cast and crew. The local authorities were easily accessible, but the film drew a lot of attention.
“When you have actors screaming at all times of the day, that presents a problem,” said West.The students enjoyed working on a small production because it gave them more exposure to the film process.
“We could talk to the director; we could talk to the cinematographer,” said Magalhaes. “They were not uptight, despite the fact that it was a 12-day shoot—every minute counted.”
West was an English major at Bowdoin, but her career trajectory has been anything but linear. She has worked as a photographer, a congressional campaign staffer and an intern at a horror production house. West said she advises Bowdoin students to be open to varied opportunities.
“Don’t be afraid to try a lot of different careers. Don’t feel like the first one has to stick,” she said. Although being a producer is more about organization and logistics than it is about artistry, knowing what to look for in a shot helps smooth the process.
To students who want to break into the film industry, West said an open mind goes a long way.“Say yes to everything, whether that’s being an unpaid production assistant, an intern or working on a set,” she said.
Since this is the first film West has worked on, she has been learning cinema secrets alongside the interns.
“I learned that shaving cream gets paint and fake blood off walls easily,” she said. “I never would have thought I’d be doing this.”
Student documentary to examine Ivies
Although the cast has not yet been finalized, Larke currently anticipates following two or three students, in addition to himself, through their Ivies experiences this spring.
“I thought, ‘What would I make a documentary about? What’s important to me? What’s important to people my age, Bowdoin, my friends?’” said Larke. “I immediately thought—boom. Ivies.”
As a member of the track team—which usually cannot attend the Saturday concert because of a meet—Larke has never experienced Ivies himself. The project is partly a personal exploration of what Ivies is and what it means to Bowdoin students. On the other hand, Larke also hopes to investigate the deeper impact it has on our campus.
‘Vagina Monologues’ aims to dispel myths, create conversationThis weekend, Bowdoin’s V-Day continues an annual tradition with its production of the “Vagina Monologues” to benefit Sexual Support Services of Midcoast Maine. Co-directors Callie Ferguson ’15 and Xanthe Demas ’15 will lead a group of about 50 female students in a dramatic reading of Eve Ensler’s iconic narrative this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.The script is a set of monologues about women’s relationships with their vaginas. They range from intensely emotional to plainly comic.Bowdoin V-Day is a chapter of a global organization started by Ensler to prevent violence against women and girls. Each year the club receives the script from the global campaign, and this year’s includes a poem by Ensler that has never before been performed.The show is opening on Valentine’s Day this year. Janki Kaneria ’14, one of the leaders of V-Day, says this was not deliberate but has worked to the show’s benefit.“I think Valentine’s Day is one of those days that—as fun as it is—is sort of centered around a gender hierarchy,” said Kaneria. “We thought it’d be kind of fun to do a kind of feminist event.”The passage of the Campus Save Act legislation last march, which V-Day supported, includes laws that require higher education institutions to educate students, faculty and staff about sexual assualt prevention. For many of the performers, it was the spirit of activism that drew them to the production.“I have this group of really close friends, and we all went into college, and by the end of our freshman year, out of the 10 girlfriends, three of them had been sexually assaulted,” said Marcella Jimenez ’16. “The piece for me that was really important was to stand up and raise awareness.”According to Ferguson, the issues discussed in the monologues are uniquely relevant to college students.“This is a point in time when people are ex-teenagers and pre-adults, so there are a lot of remaining insecurities from growing up and coming into their adult selves,” said Ferguson. She also finds that the female-centric production is also empowering:“The idea of dispelling myths and creating a more casual, comfortable conversation around women’s issues and vagina issues is really significant to women who watch it and women who are in the show,” said Ferguson.V-Day members emphasized that the performance can still be an educational and relatable experience for men in the audience. “This is a good way to break those barriers and start a conversation between men and women about these things—start a public discourse,” said Jimenez.Although some of the situations presented in the monologues are not necessarily those experienced by a typical Bowdoin student, all the stories bring out an emotional response, says Jimenez. “There are some that are like you don’t really see what’s happening, but I can appreciate that woman’s story, and there are some that are like, yes, that’s it. It’s a range.” On a small campus like Bowdoin, the audience’s personal connection to the actresses can make the play’s message even more effective.“When you see that girl in your history class or you see that girl who runs next to you in the gym perform these monologues, you get the sense that it’s automatically grounded at Bowdoin in a way it wouldn’t be if you saw 30 women perform it at a community theater,” said Kaneria.The production this year is larger than in previous years. “Having an enormous amount of women on the stage is a really visually powerful spectacle and increases the weight of the words,” said Ferguson.Most of the cast members do not have previous acting experience and are simply interested in the issues related to the monologues.This year’s performance will also see the reintroduction of the Vagina Warrior recognition, which is awarded to one male and one female faculty or staff member that have advanced women’s causes on campus. The recipients this year are English Professor Peter Coviello and Women’s Rugby Head Coach Mary Beth Matthews.As one of V-Day’s biggest events of the year, the Vagina Monologues is meant to start a dialogue. After Friday night’s performance, the club will hold a reception to continue discussion of the ideas presented in the play.“Larger cultural change takes a while to happen,” said Kaneria. “One of the things we hope for is we want people to reflect on what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard.”Besides promoting the activist mission of V-Day, the leaders of the production hope to change the way people talk about female sexuality in daily conversation.“I hope that people become more comfortable with the word ‘vagina’—literally the language surrounding it,” said Ferguson. “Men, yes, but especially women. I hope that people feel more comfortable with themselves and that they feel connected to a larger narrative.”
This weekend, Bowdoin’s V-Day continues an annual tradition with its production of the “Vagina Monologues” to benefit Sexual Support Services of Midcoast Maine.
Co-directors Callie Ferguson ’15 and Xanthe Demas ’15 will lead a group of about 50 female students in a dramatic reading of Eve Ensler’s iconic narrative this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.
The script is a set of monologues about women’s relationships with their vaginas. They range from intensely emotional to plainly comic.
‘The Art of Cell Biology’ exhibit fuses visual art, science
Interdisciplinary class experiments with circus techniques
In a new class taught by visiting professor Kathryn Syssoyeva, Interdisciplinary Performance Making, students are learning circus techniques that they will use in an original production by the end of the semester.
The purpose of the class is to bring students from different departments together to improvise a performance based on Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” a short story about a dystopian America where the government enforces total equality by handicapping anyone with special talent. The new course is cross-listed under music, visual arts, dance and theater.
The class is an exercise in the theatrical process of devising. The process of adapting the story, writing the music, and choreographing movement is done spontaneously as a group. The students are a symbol of the communication that happens between departments, which Syssoyeva believes is important to the Bowdoin community.
Chorus debuts gospel style ‘Black Nativity’
This concert will take place Saturday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 8 at 2 p.m. in Studzinski Recital Hall.
This Saturday and Sunday, the Bowdoin Chorus will showcase an entirely new side at its first ever gospel concert. Senior Lecturer of Music Anthony Antolini will direct the choir in “Black Nativity,” the story of the birth of Jesus through gospel music and narration written by Langston Hughes.
Antolini saw the original production of Black Nativity off-Broadway in 1961 and fell in love with the music. Although the play only ran for 50 performances, Antolini bought a vinyl record of the music so he could relive the music every Christmas thereafter.
Students exhibit compositions at Frontier
On Thursday, Brunswick’s Frontier Café held a concert featuring compositions by students from Bowdoin, Bates, Colby and the University of Southern Maine.
This was the twelfth such performance since the concert series began two years ago.Bowdoin student Aleph Cervo ’14 was approached by Vineet Shende, associate professor of music and chair of the music department, who asked Cervo to assemble a group to perform an original piece.
Cervo chose a composition he had written for a previous competition called “In Three.”
Masque and Gown’s fall production opens with mystery and murder
In time for Halloween festivities, Masque and Gown is staging the classic murder mystery “And Then There Were None” written by Agatha Christie and directed by Sabine Carrell ’13 this weekend.
The play is a stage adaptation of Christie’s book by the same name— one of the bestselling novels of all time. The plot centers around 10 people who are lured to an island for various reasons, only to be murdered one by one.
“It’s a psycho thriller in a way because they’re all just kind of trapped, and you see how this affects their mind, that they know this killer is on this island and that they can’t get off,” said Carrell.
Renovations reinvigorate collaboration
Colby’s new art museum addition provides a framework for future work with and alongside Bowdoin’s museum
Though Bowdoin and Colby are often considered rivals in sports, the recent opening of the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art reinvigorates the two museums’ collaboration efforts—both between the institutions and with their student communities.
Colby opened its new art museum to the community on July 14 and to the campus on September 12. The sleek glass building is an addition to the existing four wings of the museum. The pavilion is 26,000 square feet and makes the Colby Museum of Art the largest art museum in Maine.
The new space provides galleries where students and faculty can take a closer look at objects in the collection for specific academic work. The museum also has new visual art studio spaces.
Changes revitalize Bowdoin Orchestra
After separating from the Bates Orchestra last year, Director George Lopez continues to lead the reformation of the Bowdoin Orchestra.
Artist-in-residence George Lopez replaced the previous orchestra director Roland Vazquez, and essentially restructured the whole orchestra program. While some of the changes have been made to improve logistics, others have been focused on the orchestra’s collective identity on campus. Lopez’s wide presence on campus—from playing piano for various performances to teaching private lessons—has helped to make the orchestra feel more integrated with the community.
“Everyone knows him. He performs a lot. That definitely helps give more of a name to the orchestra,” said first cellist Daniel Lesser ’14.
BMC's third annual 'Hipster Ivies' overtakes the Brunswick Quad
Tonight, student performers will take one last bow at Quadzilla before the grind of finals hits. The music festival, organized by Bowdoin Music Collective (BMC), will feature 10 student acts along with art projects by the Art Club and food provided by Residential Life.
Quadzilla is BMC’s biggest event and offers bands to showcase the fruits of a year’s practice. Despite its short history, it is considered a tradition among club members.
“Since BMC has only been around for four years, our traditions are being formed as we go along. This is one of the ones we’re most excited about,” said Nate Joseph ’13, BMC co-president.
Portrait of an artist: Phar\os will open Saturday's Ivies concert
Dave Raskin ’13Dave Raskin’s life has always been colored by music.
Raskin was raised in a musical family and was introduced to the piano and clarinet at a young age. He claims, however, that he didn’t become serious about music until late in high school when he first picked up the bass guitar.
Upon his arrival at Bowdoin, it was only a matter of days before he found others with whom to share his music.
AIDS activist Staley speaks at film screening
AIDS activist Peter Staley graced campus Monday night for a screening of Academy Award nominated documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” in which he stars.
“How To Survive a Plague” is a compilation of archival footage from the ’80s and ’90s during the AIDS epidemic in the United States. It focuses on the efforts of activist groups ACT UP and TAG, which fought for increased research efforts to find a cure.
The documentary centers on ACT UP and TAG’s rise to political importance, but also explores the stigma of HIV and the social reality of homosexuality during those decades.
Portrait of an artist: George Ellzey '13
George Ellzey ’13 was at first unsure where he was going to fit in at Bowdoin, but he found a welcoming home in dance.
Unlike many arts students at Bowdoin, Ellzey inadvertently stumbled onstage. He did not even know he was a talented singer until his host family suggested that he audition for a cappella. Now he sings with the Meddiebempsters.
“I went to a high school that focused strictly on academics or athletics, so I didn’t have any creative outlets at all,” said Ellzey. “Coming to Bowdoin opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
Portrait of an artist: Audrey Blood '13
Since stumbling upon her calling, Audrey Blood ’13, visual arts major and music minor, has fallen head over heels for the visual arts.
Until taking her first visual arts course at Bowdoin, Blood had not even considered taking up art.
“In high school I wanted to pursue music,” she said. “I always thought that I would go into the performing arts.”
Student musicians take the stage at BMC showcase
The Bowdoin Music Collective (BMC) gave amateur artists the stage at last Friday’s spring showcase, BMC’s debut event of the semester. The lineup was split between acoustic and electric acts, with songs ranging from Of Monsters and Men’s “King and Lionheart” to Rihanna’s “Take A Bow.” Many student acts also performed original songs they had written themselves. The floor of Jack Magee’s Pub was full for the duration of the event. David Raskin ’13, BMC co-president and member of student band phar/OS, said he expected a high turnout given attendance in past years.
Portrait of an artist: Natalie Johnson '13
As liberal arts students tune into their passions, some might find that what began as an extracurricular interest might become their life’s mission, as Natalie Johnson ’13, an English major and dance minor, quickly discovered. Hailing from rural Colorado, Johnson originally planned on going into law but changed her mind after taking Choreography 270. “I was a ballet and jazz teacher in high school at a studio for children, ages six through eleven, and I made pieces for them,” said Johnson. “I had never made a piece for my peer age, or considered the amazing thought of making a piece for other people who are better dancers than me. It totally opened up my world and made me think, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Semester’s end concert casts spotlight on student Jazz scene
Students trumpeted a successful end to the semester on Tuesday in a “Jazz Night” showcase on December 3, directed by Music Lecturer Frank Mauceri. Mauceri worked with two groups of musicians throughout the semester: the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo. Members of both the eight-person jazz ensemble and the six-person jazz combo agreed that this semester’s repertoire was particularly challenging. The concert included pieces like “Jive Samba,” by Nat Adderley and “Beija Flor,” by Nelson Cavaquinho. Though some students play in the group as part of a half-credit course, many perform extracurricularly. The range of experience varies, but most students have been playing music since they were children. “My mom used to play Paul Simon Live in Concert videos, and I used to watch that instead of cartoons,” said Rami Stucky ’14, explaining how his musical career began.
Curtain Callers debuts fall show ‘Urinetown’
This Friday, Bowdoin’s musical theater group Curtain Callers will open its fall production, “Urinetown,” a satirical musical directed by Erin Fitzpatrick ’15. “Urinetown” takes place in a dystopian society ravaged by a drought that vastly limits the water supply. To conserve water, townspeople must pay to use public toilets owned by Urine Good Company, run by evil corporate magnate Caldwell B. Cladwell (Trevor Murray ’16). Strict laws prevent people from peeing anywhere else, and violators are sent to a mysterious place called Urinetown and are never seen again. The plot begins when rising toilet fees prompt urinal custodian Bobby Strong (Chris Genco ’15) to challenge the laws.
Printmaker Chalfin explores safe alternatives in her process
Most jobs come with occupational hazards. In the world of printmaking, artists are exposed to dangerous chemicals that can seriously affect their heath; and Liz Chalfin is doing something about it. In a September 24 lecture, Chalfin discussed her continued pursuit of safe alternatives to the dangerous chemical processes common in modern printmaking.