Friday, March 14, 2008

Bear Vs. Ceca

One of my professors just e-mailed the class with an odd bit of news: "A Macedonian court has convicted a bear of theft and damage for stealing honey from a beekeeper who fought off the attacks with thumping 'turbo-folk' music." Apparently, "turbo-folk" artists (not to be mistaken with American "freak-folk" artists) include a Serbian named Ceca. Ah, the power of music in a nutshell: something as sexy, upbeat and sentimental as this can ward off even the most honey-drunk beast.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A New School News Brief

Artist and Architect Will Be Commencement Speaker

Vito Acconci, an internationally recognized architect and multi-media artist, will be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree at The New School's Spring 2008 graduation ceremony on May 16 at Madison Square Garden.

"I thought his life's work and intellectual approach spoke directly to what we do at The New School and to our students," New School President Bob Kerrey, who chose the speaker, wrote over e-mail.

Acconci, an Italian-American born in the Bronx and now based in Brooklyn, began in the 1960s as a poet and as co-editor of the mimeographed art magazine 0TO9. Later, he used his own body as a template for confrontational performance and video art projects and created striking, abstract, mixed-media paintings.

He recently designed "Walkways Through The Wall," a bus shelter made of giant, cylindrical walls of concrete and glass that leads into the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee—where the sculpture serves as public seating.

Honorary degree recipients this year also include the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman; Majora Carter, Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx; Henry Mintzberg, an author on business and management; and Elizabeth LeCompte, a founding member of the Wooster Group, a theater collective. In addition, the University in Exile Award will go to Wanda Nowicka, a Polish women's reproductive rights activist.

Info on piece, from Barnaby's Blogs:
"'Home Entertainment Center (green)', 1991
Home Entertainment Center - 12 sex dolls Series
Inflatable sex doll, spray paint, radio, speakers, strobe-lights
14 x 18 3/4 inch., 47.6 x 35.6 x 12.7 cm (18 3/4 x 14 x 5 in.)"

Celebration of Russia, With Hats, in Lang Cafeteria

Yuki-Jennifer Kurumi wrote this and I contributed reporting.

Fedoras, rabbit-trimmed Hasidic streimels, Boston Red Sox caps and furry Soviet Ushanka army hats harmoniously teamed up for the first New School Russian Hat party on Feb. 27, held in the Lang Cafeteria.

The hats, known as shapke in Russian, felt at home on this cold winter's evening. Propaganda posters of a military cap-wearing Stalin hung beside images of Rene Magritte's trademark bowlers, both watching over students and faculty members who sported various kind of headgear. (Lang Dean Jonathan Veitch donned a hat from the Georgian Caucuses made of Persian lambskin.) Using newspaper as material, hat-makers at "The Old Haberdashery" table accommodated those who came without headgear of their own.

Lang writing professor Inessa Medzhibovskaya imagined the idea for the party one freezing day when she lost her favorite hat on the way to a Heidegger study group. The philosophy students, as a surprise, presented her with a new winter Dasein hat. The incident inspired her to create an event that would celebrate the importance of hats both in her native Russian culture and in her adopted home of New York City.

Lang senior Mona Jougas—not from Russia, but Olympia, Washington—helped organized the event. "I wanted to bring some of my love of Russia to the Lang Cafe," Jougas said. "I wanted to celebrate the Dasein hat."

Approximately sixty attendees crowded into the cafeteria, drawn at least in part by a generous buffet of Russian delicacies such as Borodinsky breads, blinys, caviar and buckwheat kasha, as well as Smetannik pie and Margarita Torte for dessert. The Russian hat presentations started while the well-fed audience sipped Tsar Nicholas rose-petal tea.

The festivities began with a scene from an absurdist play, and continued with song and dance performances of folk, classical and contemporary Russian music. Later, costumed actors and readers taught the audience about the importance of hats in the Russian world, a reading of an excerpt from student Anthony Giordano's work in progress, and lastly, a dissection by Lang alum Ross Lipton of etymology of the word “hat," in a paper titled, "What is Hat?"

"If we are truly sinners in the hand of an angry God, then what have we done to find ourselves in such un-hattable palms?" he asked. He argued, among other points, that the question not only possessed a "mononic quidity" but a "beholding essence."

At the end of the night, it appeared that most students were content with the presentations and with hats in attendance. But Lang senior Nickolus Gragg, wearing a small, black fedora, had one criticism: "The party was graced with beautiful things Russian, save the most Russian of all: vodka!"

These articles ran in Tuesday's issue of the New School Free Press.

Silverbell Still Kickin'

Lang Writing Chair Neil Gordon, who will take up the mantle as Lang Dean this summer, recently received an email from a relative of the storied pianist Silverbell, who I mentioned in my recent profile on Gordon.

Jeanette K., who sent Gordon this photo of the pianist, writes: "Einar 'Silverbell' Brady is alive and well and still lives in NYC - although no longer in a truck :-) I spoke to him just a couple of weeks ago. He played one of his new songs for me over the phone. It was beautiful."