Oct. 24, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 3

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    First Summer Arts Fellowship projects are taking shape

    By Carrie Golus
    News Office

    Fourth-year Sarah Vogel reads the first issue of her zine Antidown in the Ex Libris coffee shop in the Joseph Regenstein Library. The small version of her zine, which also will be available in a 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 inch version, is being “sold” out of an old cigarette machine in Ex Libris.

    This summer, fourth-year Sarah Vogel was paid $1,500 to sit on her living room floor, falsify maps of Chicago, paste together collages out of recipes and advertisements, and draw pictures of Wittgenstein.

    Vogel’s absurdist zine, AntiDown, was one of five projects to win funding from the University’s new arts funding body, UChicagoArts. Other winners of the first-ever Summer Arts Fellowships are creating an interactive art exhibition, a video, a theatrical adaptation of a memoir and an autobiographical performance piece.

    Over the summer, Vogel created 10 issues of her zine, named after a type of quark: “It’s not up, it’s antidown,” she explained. Vogel plans to copy and distribute one issue a month during the academic year.

    The starting point for the zine’s miscellaneous content, Vogel said, was the notion of a “card cataloger”–a person whose job it is to make sense of the overwhelming amount of “semi-random, erudite and interdisciplinary information” available in a library. Unlike a library, however, AntiDown contains fabricated or altered material along with–and undifferentiated from–serious scholarly essays written by various students and faculty members.

    AntiDown will be available in two sizes: regular (5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches) and small (about the size of a packet of cigarettes). The regular size will be distributed in free newspaper racks around the campus and throughout the city. The small version will be “sold” in an old cigarette machine in Ex Libris, the coffee shop in the Joseph Regenstein Library. “The machine doesn’t require money to function,” Vogel said. “It’s sort of an experiment in group psychology.”

    In a similar vein, Emily Evans, a 3rd-year student jointly enrolled at the University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is using her grant to develop an interactive exhibition, “Buy Before You Eat. Eat Before You Think,” an exploration of “the absurdity of consumerism.”

    Over the summer, Evans shot photographs of items on grocery store conveyor belts, recording when the items were purchased and how much they cost. In the exhibition, the photographs and data will be displayed in two seemingly contradictory ways: screenprinted onto glass and hung on the wall, and printed with edible ink in stacks of clear sheet candy.

    “Art is not meant to be described–it is meant to be experienced. Food is not meant to be described–it is meant to be eaten,” Evans wrote in her grant application. “This art is meant to be consumed–literally.”

    The summer arts fellowship program is so new, it was announced just a month before Spring Quarter ended. Nonetheless, the funding committee received 25 applications for five awards. “We were amazed by the wit, intelligence and invention of the proposals,” said David Levin, Associate Professor in Germanic Studies. “It was really exciting.”

    Levin, along with Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, and Heidi Coleman, Director of University Theater, had the difficult task of choosing which of these proposals to fund.

    “We wanted each project to be intellectually serious, artistically substantial and aesthetically provocative–a fair reflection of the diversity and vibrancy of the arts at the University,” Levin said.

    “Fifteen hundred dollars is a huge sum for these students. For the University, it’s a comparatively small amount of money, but these students make it go a really long way.”

    Fourth-year Irfana Majumdar originally applied for a grant to develop a solo performance piece, but once she began her research, she decided to make a documentary video instead. She spent the summer interning at the Centre for Postcolonial Education in Varanasi, India, where she interviewed women who were either uneducated or not educated in Western-style schools.

    “I was very interested in the kinds of power these women have in their lives, with respect to their relationships with men, children, parents, in-laws, space, time, futures and all decisions,” she said.

    “I had expected that these women would be very different from middle- and upper-middle class women–that the latter would naturally have much more power. However, I found many surprising parallels in the two situations. This was such an interesting discovery that I have decided to make that revelation a major part of the film.”

    While Majumdar has a rough script for the video, she anticipates it will probably change during the editing process, which she will begin during Winter Quarter. The finished piece, which is untitled as of yet, also will serve as her B.A. project for General Studies in the Humanities.

    Fourth-year Anna Brenner applied for a grant to write a theatrical adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family, which she hopes to stage at University Theater later this year. “Running in the Family has been read as a memoir, a work of fiction and an essay on the workings of memory,” Brenner wrote in her grant application. “It is also, however, a powerful series of performative gestures,” which she hopes to realize onstage.

    Fourth-year Katharine Perdue won a grant to develop a solo performance piece, “loosely based on a spoken-word poetry format using writing techniques from Natalie Goldberg,” she wrote in her application.

    The autobiographical work would explore the chaotic experience of living with a chronic illness through the voices of multiple characters, while examining what it means to be “an artist, a traveler, a diabetic, a graduating student, a daughter, a white female American figuring out what she has to say.”