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Culture & Resistance Posts

Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery

Over Thanksgiving Break, I also visited Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery. Within the gallery, I visited two exhibits: Christopher Madden’s “Works of Thanksgiving” and the Holiday Art Show. The first display showcased an array of painted images, ranging from silhouettes to deserts. Madden used lots of cool tones in his work. My favorite piece from the collection, “Laundry Day,” illustrated homes on a hill, seaside with laundry hung up on clothes pins breezing in the wind. The only piece I found that clearly related to Thanksgiving was a piece titled “Breezing Up.” The image displayed pioneers on a ship labeled “Gloucester.”

The second exhibit, “Holiday Art Show,” featured various cheery pieces. Some of my favorites include the multicolored glassware and the festive, ceramic Christmas ornaments. Additionally, I really liked a painting called “Train.” The piece was very soothing; it was an acrylic painting on canvas. It seemed to be an abstract work using teal, white, and light blue paint. Although I cannot clearly draw a connection to our class discussions (like I was able to do with the other gallery I visited), I still enjoyed my experience at Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery.

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Pieces and Parts (Art Gallery Exhibit)

While home for Thanksgiving break, I visited the Pieces and Parts exhibit at the Falls Church Arts Gallery. This show highlights assemblage/media media multi-part works. The artists incorporated various mediums into their work. Two pieces in particular stood out to me. The first piece, titled “A New Day,” originated as a commentary on the school shooting in Newtown. However, after starting the artistic process, the creator realized the subject matter was too upsetting. In the excerpt next to her piece, the artist notes that “a direct view of the tragedy could never do it justice.” As such, the artist painted over what she had and started over. She recognized that following her intuition brought her to “a more optimistic place.” In conclusion, she titled her piece “A New Day” as that is what she wishes for the children who survived, the school’s staff, and the families of those affected. I think that the artist’s commentary on tragedy directly relates to our discussions in the class throughout the semester. Like the works we’ve read, works of culture shed light on political/social issues in a manner that allows readers to more easily process them; a direct, harsh depiction might shy readers/viewers/spectators away from thinking about such difficult yet important issues.

The second piece that really caught my eye, titled “Walls,” illustrates the artist’s response to current governmental policies. The artist utilized clippings from magazines as her medium for the paper collage. Collectively, the work showcases “Pieces and Parts” of individual’s lives, those who face the repercussions of those policies. The piece highlights the diversity within the United States, but also conveys the affect of “Walls.” In her artist statement, Vicky Dorn-Fontana notes that “we need to remain a safe haven for all who seek freedom from war, oppression and are in search of a better life.” While this particular statement directly speaks to the United States, I think it has relevance globally and relates to our discussions throughout the course of the semester.

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Black Panther

Black Panther is a superhero movie based on the Marvel Comics. Black Panther has received numerous awards and nominations. The movie revolves around the country of Wakanda which was founded hundreds of years ago by five African tribes. The most valuable resource and reason for the success in technology and every other aspect of society in Wakanda is the metal vibranium. Wakanda poses asthird world country and hides their advancements in technology from the rest of the world. The film begins which T’Challa becoming king and the new black panther. T’Challa immediately becomes involved with protecting Wakanda’s secret as certain members of Wakandan blog,including one of the Michael B. Jordan’s character, Killmonger who hopes to share Wakanda’s secret with people of African descent around the world to help them conquer their oppressors. Killmonger challenges T’CHalla, throwing him off a cliff, and becoming king. As Wakanda’s secret had the potential to be leaked, stress within the community builds under the new king. Eventually T’Challa returns to save the day, killing Killmonger and restoring order and secrecy.

I have watched this movie before but considering our studies this year, I interpreted it through a different light. Although I enjoyed it the same, perhaps even more the second time around, there were many underlying themes which left me conflicted post-viewing. The biggest conflict and interesting aspect I felt was that there never seems to be a bad guy in the movie. Although members of Wakanda have the ability to help this oppressed, they don’t. On the flip side, as Killmonger seems justified to power from his past wrongs, he seems to have legitimacy in taking the thrown and instilling his ideals. All seriousness aside, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly from costume design to underlying themes. 

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Black Panther Movie

Carvell Wallace’s discussion of the importance of Black Panther for the African-American community is an important one and helped me understand the movie more after I watched it. I remember going to the theaters to see the movie and not quite understanding why there was so much excitement around it fully. Wallace clears this up and shows the ways Black Panther empowers its black audience in ways other black films do not.The most important point that Wallace made for me was how there have been other superhero movies with a black superhero lead. The difference with Black Panther was that it was the first superhero movie that depicted not only a black superhero lead, but it depicted black people with “a lot of agency.” The film was “seeped very specifically and purposefully in its blackness.” 

I think this is an interesting contrast from just talking about a film with a black lead or leads. Black Panther shows a civilization where black people have thrived and been at the forefront of invention and technology which white people want from them. It’s the kind of story that in the past would have only been written about white people. It doesn’t show the typical black narrative of showing black suffering and redemption. It shows black people thriving without the constant discussion of  their suffering.

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Black Panther: Movie Response

I found that the readings for Tuesday’s class provide a solid introduction to “Black Panther”. I had never seen the movie before, and two quotes from Wallace’s “Defining Moment” helped set the stage for what was to come. On page 3, Wallace writes that “superheroes are powerful and beloved, held in high esteem by society at large; the idea that a normal black person could experience such a thing in America was so farfetched as to effectively constitute gallows humor.” Further down the page, the article features a quotation from Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds, an online community centered around sci-fi and comic-books. Broadnax notes that Black Panther is “‘the first time in a very long time that we’re seeing a film with centered black people, where we have a lot of agency’…these characters, she notes, ‘are rulers of a kingdom, inventors and creators of advanced technology. We’re not dealing with black pain, and black suffering, and black poverty’ — the usual topics of acclaimed movies about the black experience.” (Wallace 3-4). I think that these two excerpts effectively summarize “Black Panther”’s significance: a movie that showcases both African-American males and females in a powerful, positive light.

“Black Panther” reached movie theaters in February of 2018, a little over a year after Donald Trump took office. I cannot help but draw a connection between these two events, given their proximity. I found an article on The Atlantic titled “An Oral History of Trump’s Bigotry.” This piece exposes many instances in which Donald Trump uses racist rhetoric. Not only does this film bring an African-American story to Hollywood, but it also counters the degrading language that the President frequently uses. Furthermore, “Black Panther” provides a change in the typical narrative of pop-culture — that is a different perspective other than the usual white narrative.

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Big Wild Concert

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Big Wild concert at The National. Big Wild is an EDM artist whom I had heard of, however I was not entirely familiar with him when I purchased tickets and agreed to go with friends who are fans of his music. What struck me the most about the performance was how the artist made the effort to engage more of the senses than just hearing the music. There were massive LED screens on the stage that displayed different patterns and designs that went along with the songs, and this made the concert much more about the music.

It was overall incredibly entertaining and I enjoyed being exposed to a music genre who’s culture I was not entirely familiar with and was then completely immersed in a mosh pit of EDM fans who were completely lost in the music. I think that cultural events, and concerts more specifically, can bring people together in a way that not many other things can. Everyone was there to have a good time and enjoy the music and that night, I was able to escape the stresses and problems that I normally have to deal with in everyday life.

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The Race Card

Last week, I attended one of the Sharp Series events called “The Race Card.” The speaker was Michele Morris, and she came to campus to talk about race in the United States and The Race Card project. The project essentially allows for people to submit six word stories on post cards. Today, they have received over 500,000 cards from 50 states and 96 countries. Some stories include “Lady, I don’t want your purse” and “Black babies cost less to adopt.” Morris talked about how the most important part of work that she does is listen. For instance, another one of the six word stories that she shared was “I’m white and pay the price.” It is important to hear from all perspectives, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. Morris also talked about the importance of having a conversation about race in a public forum, since it is such a difficult subject to talk about. If these discussions are held in a public forum, then it allows for growth and progress. We need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable and stepping out of our comfort zones. It was especially interesting to see this discussion take place on the University of Richmond’s campus, as the city of Richmond’s history with race is so layered and the school is very dedicated to being more integrated and inclusive, given the lack of racial interaction across different races that currently occurs on this campus.

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InLight Festival @ Chimborazo Park Nov. 15/16

Last weekend I went to the InLight light festival at Chimborazo park in the Churchill neighborhood downtown Richmond. Despite my prior ideas upon first reading the event, the shows did not consist of lasers and crazy light shows/short films. The InLight festival was founded in 2008 and continues to be run by 1708 Gallery. This free event featured, performances, sculptures, videos, and interactive projects which illuminated pathways, walls, sidewalks, etc. 

The projects displayed this year highlighted the social and geographic history of Chimbarzoo park, which had previously been grounds for a Confederate military hospital during the Civil War. 1708 Gallery looked for artists to display their artistically interpretation respond and elaborate on the complex racial history. Personally my favorite exhibit was a short film using clips from different sports events and post-game interviews. A clip of Arthur Ashe particularly caught my eye as I have taken a class with professor Ashe here at Richmond and recognized the name. 

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The Internet as a Weapon

During his talk, “The Internet as a Weapon,” Yasha Levine, a Russian-American investigative journalist and author, discussed how the internet and technology has evolved into an extremely powerful weapon. Levine is a Soviet immigrant who grew up in San Francisco, California. In San Francisco, Levine was taught that technology would solve all problems in the world- inequality, corruption, etc. He was taught that the internet would hold people accountable because of its transparency. His image of America, being an immigrant, became inseparable with the promise of technological revolution. 

While technology has taken over, it has been turned into a weapon in ways many would not imagine. After it was able to throw the 2016 election, people have increasingly feared how the internet can be such a powerful weapon of influence. Social media can track out every move and it is connected with American security. Additionally, the technology has the ability to predict conflict, war, etc. Technology is constantly evolving and progressive and if people don’t keep it in check it can become a dangerous part of this time period.

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Culture Event: UD Cross Currents

This past Saturday I went to the University Dancers performance, which was in collaboration with a professional dance company as a part of the Tucker Boatwright Festival of the Arts. I attended this event because my friend Bella was a performer in it. The event was outside in front of the American Civil War Historic Tredegar Museum. It was about the James River and the history around that area. The performance consisted of dancers as well as a poet. She spoke about the scenery of the James River as well as common Richmond experiences. During the middle of the show, the music was unexpectedly cut off due to a technical difficulty with the music. The show started up again after the speakers were replaced. The University Dancers had sections of their own as well as a final piece with the professional dancer.

I really liked the choreography and I was honestly impressed that the dancers were able to dance in the cold weather. The audience was served tea to keep warm. There was one dancer that was standing alone in the cold when the speakers blew for 10 minutes before they told her she could go backstage. I was honestly freezing myself so I can’t imagine how she felt. Overall however, I really enjoyed the performance and was glad that I waited in the cold for it.

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