Tag Archives: art

$ex Machine

by Lyla June Johnston, ’12

I wrote this poem on an airplane a few years ago. It’s been sitting in my notebook for a long time. I took it out the other day and decided I wanted to make a hip-hop track of it. I wanted to reclaim hip-hop as the healing force it was born to be by making it flashy, sexy and truthful. It’s main message is that we are not the sex slaves that pop music tells us we are, we are human beings that deserve love and respect.

How it developed was pretty interesting. I found the beat to go beneath it from the creative commons search on soundcloud.com. It was produced by a man in Sweden whom I’ve never met who goes by the name of “Dr. Mess.” I asked him if I could overlay some lyrics on it and he was fine with it. This is the beauty of making art for the people, not for the profit, under creative commons license as Dr. Mess does. The greed and fear that comes with copyrighting is relinquished and so we can collaborate more freely, even from across the ocean. Continue reading

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Why Culture Shows Make Me Cry

by Sammie Wills, ’16

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There are few things I find more beautiful than the ability to resist oppression through happiness. There is a certain strength and grace in creating joy despite aggressors’ attempts to diminish hope.  This joy can be embodied through the dance and song and art of a culture, passed down to remember and celebrate the resistance engendered by a people.

This very mode of resistance demonstrates why I love culture shows.

First, I must be careful to note that there are indeed multiple problematic aspects of culture shows. The culture show itself is, and will always be, a highly-romanticized, typically-westernized performance of native cultures and traditions. Continue reading

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On Art, Activism, and Journalism

by Katie Brigham, ’13

I’m used to hearing various iterations of the question “What are you going to do with that?” It’s not annoying, it’s a totally reasonable response given my academic choices. I’m an International Relations major with a shockingly broad concentration (“Comparative Culture and Society”) and a Studio Art minor. I’ve spent summers volunteering abroad, summers doing research, and summers holed up the darkroom working on myriad analogue photography projects. As of late, I’m also a Journalism co-term. Given that the title of this degree is also the title of a professional field, I’ve been getting the “What are you going to do with that?” question less.

But: I really don’t know yet if I want to be just a journalist.

So if I’m not in a talkative mood, I’ll answer That Question in a sort of, “Yeah man, I don’t know, LOL!” kind of way. But if I’m feeling more expansive, you’ll hear all about how genuinely exciting I think the intersection of art, culture, and international affairs is. I’ll muse about journalism as an art form. Potentially talk about how using both photography and journalism to tell unbiased stories has made me feel more productive in addressing issues of social justice than any other experience in my life.

Hence my latest answer to That Question is that maybe I want to be a multimedia journalist. Continue reading

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White Fetish

by Janani Balasubramanian, ’12

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A failing of the word ‘activism’ is its designation of certain activities as political engagement and the rest of our lives as some other floaty and apolitical space.  In reality, we are always enacting and interacting with the structures of power and social positions each of us inhabit.  My friend Alok and I were at a queer conference this weekend in Atlanta to facilitate the same workshop that we’re presenting tonight: ‘Because You’re Brown Honey Gurl!: A Dialogue about Race and Desire’.  Our intention was to bring to bear a conversation on spaces where desire, sex, and romance circulate as political spaces.  The project of queer liberation isn’t limited to our policy engagements or our organizing work — it is also about considering how we desire and are desired in white supremacist realities.

We use the term ‘sexual racism’ to describe the ways that racism and racist traumas inflect our romantic and sexual relations. Continue reading

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Our Challenge

by K. Blaqk, ’14

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The title of this piece is “Our Challenge.” Over fall quarter I discovered the “Nu Rainbow,” which replaces the traditional ROYGBIV spectrum with one representing the variety of colors  of human beings. This move felt especially important to me, as I was starting to see the urgency in queer politics taking on an explicitly anti-racist agenda as well. Lumped into queer issues and racism are also structural class inequality, problems of imperialism and militarism. So, “Our Challenge” is first to build a coalition of marginalized and oppressed peoples and then to channel that organization into a form of resistance and way of remaking the world around us. Continue reading

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My Summer in Cape Town: Or I’m Sorry for Using You

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

They will ask you
Whether your project can inflict ‘harm’
And you will respond: “minor discomfort” to expedite the review process

Her name is Cym,
And the arc of her smile mirrors her painted eyebrows,
On Mondays she asks you what you did over the weekend.
You do not tell her.
You are guilty of the conversion rate, how you can afford a club, a skin, a language that she never will.
She wants to know what it feels like to live in America
If you have a handsome boyfriend there who will buy you dinner sometimes

In your field research class they will teach you about the importance of obtaining consent.

Cym cannot sign your form
So she communicates with the earnesty of hazel eyes Continue reading

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On Art, Activism, and Rainbow Mohawks

by Holly Fetter, ’13 + Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, ’06

I had always imagined Stanford to be a particularly radical place. Back in the days when the closest I came to activism was wearing an Obama pin through the halls of my conservative high school, the escapades of my cousin Jonathan inspired the dream of an oasis called Palo Alto. Stories of his collegiate adventures were passed through the familial grapevine, reaching me in such a dramatized state that I couldn’t help but be enraptured by his coolness. He studied studio art, lived in a magical house called Theta Chi, skipped school to attend anti-war protests in San Francisco with his professors, left school for a few quarters to translate obscure texts in Florence, won a prize for illustrating Beowulf, and, perhaps most impressively, sported a rainbow mohawk as a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.

Now he’s a bonafide artist residing in Brooklyn, NY, where the disheveled hipsters and rooftop parties let him know he’s far from his humble Montana roots. Jonathan has taken to writing and illustrating historical graphic novels. His latest book, called Trinity, tells the story of the atomic bomb. Meant to please high school students, physics geeks, history buffs, and general aesthetes alike, it’s a wonderful volume on the creation of destruction. Jonathan probes the mystery of the U.S.’ atomic power, only to leave any simple answers totally unattainable. The book has garnered incredible press, from a starred Kirkus review to articles in the Huffington Post, Boing Boing, Brain Pickings, Science News, the Boston Globe, and others.

Aside from being an impressive artist, he’s also an impressive activist. I thought I’d ask him a few questions about his experiences with art and activism in preparation for his upcoming reading in San Francisco. Continue reading

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Cultural Work in the Philippine National Democratic Movement

by Julian Jaravata and Michael Tayag, ’13

From May 18 to May 20, activists from throughout the country travelled to Chicago to attend the 4th congress of BAYAN-USA, the 2nd congress of Gabriela-USA, and the founding congresses of Anakbayan-USA and the United States Chapter of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS)—all of which are progressive, anti-imperialist alliances of groups fighting for genuine social change in the Philippines and other countries around the world. Anakbayan-USA (the youth organization to which we belong), Gabriela-USA, and BAYAN-USA are national democratic alliances that work specifically to address the root causes of issues such as forced migration, corruption, and poverty in the Philippines. The movement working for national democracy in the Philippines offers an important example of how peoples subjected to colonialism and imperialism have risen up to reclaim the history, land, and culture that have been taken away from them. Furthermore, the establishment of a US chapter of ILPS highlights the need for international solidarity, especially as a weapon against imperialism. The congress included figures such as Fred Hampton, Jr. and Carlos Montes, who spoke out about the oppression engendered by imperialism. One May 20, the congress attendees mobilized against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the G8, a military alliance and the world’s eight most powerful economic powers, respectively. Continue reading

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