F Newsmagazine Visits the 2013 Fall BFA Show from F Newsmagazine on Vimeo.
This year’s BFA fall show featured a huge amount of spectacular work – too much, unfortunately, to feature at once. Tessa Elbettar captures some stills of the many excellent pieces, while Fen Chen captures the event on video.
Chicagoans March Against US Intervention in Syria
Local residents gather at an August 29 demonstration to protest proposed American intervention in Syria. Photos by Tessa Elbettar.
The opposition to U.S intervention in Syria is widespread. According to a recent Pew Research survey, Americans, regardless of their gender, race, class, and political affiliations, tend to oppose US military intervention and would prefer diplomacy. Demonstrations against possible military intervention in the area have taken place across the country. On Saturday, Sept. 7, demonstrators gathered in Federal Plaza in Chicago to voice their opposition to U.S involvement.
“We do not think it’s a good idea for anybody to go into Syria for any reason. It would only add misery and more destruction,” said Janet Fennerty, former Chicago Public Schools high school teacher and veteran anti-war activist. “It’s just stupid…to think that it’s going to have any effect on Assad or the rebels. Either way, it’s the people who are going to suffer.”
“I’m afraid we might repeat history,” said former U.S Army Sergent Alejandro Villatoro, who served in both the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the War in Afghanistan in 2011. “This act of war could bring a lot of implications, especially knowing that Russia and China and Iran are supporting Syria…we cannot afford to send more troops, we cannot afford to send our military or take military action knowing that we don’t have the resources and we’re already involved in two wars.”
Villatoro and other protesters expressed their frustration with Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama and his administration for wanting to engage in any military action in Syria. “We have elected a president that promised to withdraw from these wars and to bring peace, to bring hope,” says Villatoro. “But this is an act of war. He was not elected to take this type of action.”
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson recently wrote that the United States needs to intervene in Syria because, “somebody needs to be the world’s policeman.” This is an attitude shared by many mainstream news outlets, which also argue that a lack of intervention would make the US and the Obama administration appear weak. Other mainstream news sources believe the US must intervene in Syria to maintain its legitimacy as a world power, arguing it is the job of the US to make sure other countries abide by international law. Some of the protesters gathered Saturday disagreed with these assessments.
“That’s kind of hypocritical because we don’t abide by the law,” says Villatoro. “We invaded Iraq illegally and we haven’t received approval from the UN to take any military action in Syria.”
In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq under the pretense that Saddam Hussein had “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Iraq is still not confirmed to have had such weapons and many Americans postulate that the United States invaded Iraq to control its oil supply. Now the Obama administration claims that involvement in Syria is necessary because of Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians. Are chemical weapons the new Weapons of Mass Destruction? Syria, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, is not an oil-rich nation. But are there other reasons the United States wants to get involved in a civil war in Syria?
“It is strategically placed,” stated Fennerty. “It is in the middle of the Middle East. It’s a very strategic location and [the U.S is] also looking out for the interests of Israel, that’s for sure. So that’s another reason for them to try to take charge.”
“I think [U.S intervention] has a lot more to do with geopolitical consequences, having a government that’s opposed to Israel and is not a friend to Saudi Arabia, which are the U.S.’s allies in the region,” argues John Stachelski of the Chicago Anti-War Committee. “I think that [the US] does not want to have any opposition to their plans there. And there’s all this historical antagonism, especially between Saudi Arabia and Syria. It’s not necessarily about resources sometimes, or oil specifically…I think it’s a lot more complex than just a question of resources.”
On Tuesday, September 10th, the Obama administration reconsidered launching an attack on Syria. President Obama issued a speech regarding “the red line” and U.S plans to intervene in Syria. The administration has gone on to claim that it will place its strikes on hold if Assad surrenders his chemical weapons. Still, with no official diplomatic agreement reached, the US’s future in Syria remains uncertain. This makes it all the more important for these demonstrations to occur. With the Obama administration continuing to delay the use of military action in Syria, it could be the voices of protesters across the country that ultimately sway its decision in the direction of diplomacy.
The Third Anniversary of the March Against Rape Culture
Photographs by Tessa Elbettar
Hundreds gathered in Daley Plaza for Chicago’s third annual SlutWalk protest march on Saturday, September 7th. Created in Toronto, Canada in April 2011, SlutWalk marches have since spread worldwide, fighting to end rape culture, body shaming, and victim blaming. Protestors, both women and men, attend the event and dress their sluttiest, combatting the idea that how a woman dresses is an excuse or invitation to rapists.
The crowd was young and the atmosphere was energetic. Pussy Riot blared over loudspeakers as the march began. Demonstrators held signs bearing anti-rape messages such as, “Survivors Are My Superheroes” and “Yes means fuck me, no means fuck you!” Many women marched topless, wearing only bras. Some of them had words written across their bodies, spelling out “slut” or “still not asking for it.”
In the wake of the high profile Steubenville and Rehtaeh Parsons rape cases, coupled with the ongoing War on Women, SlutWalk is as relevant as ever. The Walk opened with a rally where rape survivors and allies of survivors gave moving and eloquent speeches. Erica Cribb, the first to speak, delivered a deeply personal speech in which she recounted her own sexual assault experience. “Ironically”, said Cribb, standing on the Picasso, addressing a rapt and supportive audience, “living through that experience was one of the most empowering experiences of my life[…]I had a far greater mission to fuel the fire of my existence. I don’t call myself a victim, I’m a survivor, and so are you. Use that adversity to fuel your fire, your passion. Spit in the face of your rapist, your abuser.”
The protesters that congregated at the base of the Picasso shared a similar sense of determination to turn the tide against a culture that perpetuates sexual violence and the idea it is permissible.
“We are in a society of victim blaming,” said Kelly Hayes, a survivor, supporter, and member and promoter of feminist vigilante gangs. “We live in a world where every day we are second-guessing every aspect of ourselves. That repression is rooted in a lot of things. It is rooted in capitalism, it’s rooted in the way the mainstream media markets these ideas, the way everything is marketed to us.”
According to Hayes, SlutWalk is an opportunity to undermine that culture of repression to create a new atmosphere of learning and liberation where women can come together and celebrate themselves and their bodies. “We are of no profit to the system unless we are constantly self-critiquing,” Hayes continued. “But here, we come together and form a moment of knowledge. All these forms of oppression, and specifically, the most obvious, sexual oppression, is not our fault and we have the right to express ourselves in any way without it being interpreted by the patriarchal society as an invitation or as an excuse.”
Alex Forni, a student from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, stated, “I think SlutWalk is an important march not only to raise awareness of the issues that face women on all levels regarding sexual assault […] but also to network with other people who have the same interests and create a bigger network to fight for the cause.”
Forni is a member of PACT 5, an organization dedicated to end rape and other forms of sexual violence on college campuses.
“We need to stop the way we talk about rape culture,” says Forni. “It’s not a joke. And, people that are victimized, they’re not victims, they are survivors. The way we talk about rape needs to change in order to change what rape culture is.”
Forni also stressed that it is important to remember that rape can happen to anyone, regardless of gender. However, though not every single rapist is a man, according to the United States Bureau of Statistics, 99% of rapists are male.
“The key is,” said Adam, a SlutWalk participant. “you have to speak to men. They are obviously the ones perpetrating [rape] and they’re the ones with the problem. You gotta gear your message towards men and changing men’s minds and changing masculine culture.”
“In terms of what men need to do,” said Kelly Hayes, “Allies need to get real about being allies because that it not something I see happening out there. You have men who talk about being enlightened, men who talk about how much they hate misogyny, but do they call their bros out when they make jokes they shouldn’t be making? Do they stand by the women in their communities when they speak up?”
Hayes and other demonstrators argue men need to stand alongside women and condemn sexist behavior for more widespread change to occur. “Until you have one [man] who is brave enough to stand alongside a woman and say ‘shame on you all, shame on you all, this should not be allowed,’ then folks start falling in line,” continued Hayes. “More people need to be more willing to be that first person to step up.”
SlutWalk and similar events are crucial in that they will hopefully prompt both men and women to stand up together and fight sexism and misogyny wherever those problems are manifested. SlutWalk is built on the coming together of women, men, survivors, and supporters who are determined to create real societal change. SlutWalk Chicago’s 3rd anniversary was a success with a large and enthusiastic turnout. The coming years will hopefully continue to produce larger crowds to further educate all on the desperate need to combat rape culture.
Pride Month in June is the culmination of Chicago’s vibrant LGBT community. The parade kicked off at noon on Sunday, June 30, 2013, at Montrose Avenue and Broadway in Uptown and ended near the intersection of Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road in Lincoln Park.
So what exactly are you to do when you’re at an outdoor music festival waiting for your favorite band — say Japandroids or Cults — to take the stage and it starts pouring rain? Why, you wait it out of course, because this show is exactly the moment you’ve been waiting for — torrential downpour be damned! That’s precisely what thousands of fans did a number of times at the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park for the three-day event that started on none other than Friday the 13th. In the end, though, the rain stopped, the sun shone, the mud dried and thousands went away happier to have withstood the elements.
Allotted a photo-pit press pass for the three days, I can emphatically say that I’m glad I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of some of those bands because, quite honestly, I might be a little too old for that shit. Of course, that’s said in hindsight after pouring (pun intended) through the thousands of images captured over the weekend. Had I been a diehard fan, maybe eating mud and feeling other people’s hipster sweaty bodies might have been more inviting.
So, what are my impressions from my very first indie music festival you ask? Well, for starters, the crowds were much, much kinder than any I encountered at old-school fests, such as the touring Lollapalooza or HFStival in Baltimore — two of my old favorites. Secondly, this generation of “rockers” amazes me in that they’re carrying the torch along as effectively as Led Zeppelin, Van Halen or Stone Temple Pilots ever did (even if in a less raucous way). Audiences will never change when they’re impassioned by a band or musician’s sonic weavings. To spend that moment with them playing and singing to you, for you, is all any fan really wants. The goosebumps and adrenaline rush of being a part of something special — that connectedness to the musicians and others — is really what it’s all about at the end of the day, and there was more than enough of that to go around at Pitchfork 2012. And that, my friends, is precisely the torch that’s getting carried along well into the twenty-first century.
Photos by Jaclyn Rivas
This axiomatically titled group show of current and recently graduated SAIC MFA students is a large, sprawling affair. Spread out over dozens of rooms and corridors in the labyrinthine Sullivan Galleries, it contains 30-some artists working in a variety of media. Sculptural installations, painting, and video predominate. Fortunately, all the artists are given ample wall and floor space — some have entire rooms — which places this show in sharp contrast to the chaotic clutter of recent year-end graduate shows. The overall installation bolsters the strengths of each work, and, if you have the time to devote undivided attention to each one, your efforts will be rewarded.
But whether the show fully succeeds as a curatorial statement is another matter. Title aside, the problem with “experience” as a curatorial theme is that it’s so open-ended, virtually any artwork could fit. It’s like curating a show around the notion of “time,” or “communication,” or “reality” — unless these themes are tempered with some specificity, they become vague abstractions.
Tellingly, some of the best works in the show address more concrete matters. Take Scott A. Carter’s “Of Private Devotion,” a room-sized installation just inside the gallery entrance. Evenly spaced on three adjoining walls is a series of small, white matte vertical wall paintings, created by delineating the surrounding space around each one with a glossy version of the same paint. Above each “painting” is a gaudy brass picture lamp, and on the floor in front, a single viewing bench made from old discarded picture frames. On one level, Carter’s piece is a cheeky send-up of the pieties of high modernist abstraction, and yet it still radiates something akin to spiritual aura.
Around the corner, both Craig Butterworth and Rafael Vega refer to modes of minimalist abstraction in novel ways. Butterworth’s freestanding sculpture, made with thin slats of untreated wood, resembles a trellis. But instead of festoons of garlands or ivy, it’s adorned with clamp-on work lamps. These dramatically illuminate the piece, and also turn it into a deft conflation of Michael Fried’s opposing notions of absorption and theatricality. Nearby, Vega is represented by a series of paintings, both large and tiny, that primarily consist of parallel diagonal lines, rendered with spray paint and other unconventional media. The combination of a dark gray palette with hard and soft-edged lines evokes the interplay of light and shadow within the urban landscape.
David R. Harper’s “Unrequited Needs” is equally evocative, but in a completely different way. This room-sized installation is comprised of three wall works and a sculpture, all of which are made with a striking crimson-colored felt. The sculpture is particularly noteworthy: a structure made with stark white logs, which supports a hanging, inverted group of red felt rabbits. With eloquent simplicity, the piece hauntingly explores the intersection of violence, trauma and memory.
Matthew Schlagbaum also works with a particular palette to unify two-dimensional work with sculpture. The former is comprised of 33 small, framed monochrome drawings in a variety of media, each frame and surface a distinct tint of gold. A large, boulder-like thing sits nearby, covered in painted patches of gold, bronze and copper. It’s called “Nothing This Pretty Could Be Real,” though some might beg to differ.
One work that completely stands apart in this context is an hour-long video by Benjamin Chaffee. It consists of a discussion between the artist and four participants regarding the introductory chapter to “Liquid Life,” a philosophical/sociological book by Zygmunt Bauman, which examines the fragmentation and disorientation of contemporary life (vis-à-vis the individual and the broader socio-economic sphere).
The ensuing discussion documented here is profoundly thought-provoking. Significantly, each person is obscured by a sheet of wood, cut to the outline of his or her silhouette (Chaffee himself is not on screen). This clever distancing effect seems to mirror Bauman’s tenets concerning the pervasive destabilization of identity. And yet, by forcing us to pay attention to voice over appearance, the subjectivity of each participant is strangely fortified. Matters are complicated even further by the uncertainty over whether these participants are reading from a script, or voicing their own individual thoughts.
Near the beginning of the video, Chaffee says something that resonates with the exhibition as whole: “This would be something new, relatively new for everybody.” Perhaps the overall curatorial theme would be much tighter if the curators paid particular attention to this statement by focusing on experience’s antonyms: inexperience, novice-hood, new beginnings. Given that this show inaugurates the new academic year, the theme would be particularly apt.
Experience is Never Unattached
August 16 – September 22
33 S State, 7th Floor