Diversity Week Culture Show

Bryn Mawr's many cultural groups came together on November 10 to perform in the spectacular annual show that concludes a week of events and discussions about diversity issues.

Members of Bryn Mawr's Asian Students Association (ASA) performed "Wasiwas," the traditional Filipino Tealight Dance. Performed in the dark, the dance represents a fisherman's wife holding lighted candles for him, since fish are attracted to light. The seven performers were Teresa Hsu '02, May Chau '04, Elaine Tong '04, Bertina Hu '04, Mary Lagdameo '05 (also the choreographer), Karen Pang'05 and Sarah Tan '05.

The Association of International Students (AIS) sponsored the grand finale fashion show.

The Vietnamese Students' Association (VSA) performed a traditional dance with rice paddy hats to the song,"Bong Hong Viet Nam," which reflects the femininity and beauty of Vietnamese women.

Barkada dancers incorporated hip hop styles into the national dance of the Philippines, tinikling.

Squids, kids and ammonids

A squid born with its tentacles fused into a long proboscis, the effect of strife between parents on interaction with their children, and an unusual feature of an ancient ancestor of the chambered nautilus were three of the topics researched by 12 Bryn Mawr graduate students in biology, geology, physics, chemistry and psychology, who participated in the first annual Graduate Research Symposium in the Sciences on October 5.

Organized with support from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Science in Society, the symposium was launched to "provide well-deserved visibility in the community for our graduate science students," said Associate Professor of Physics Elizabeth McCormack. As does a journal club begun last summer, the symposium also helps expose students to research in disciplines other than their own, "truly an asset when much of the most exciting new science is done in areas between the disciplines," McCormack said.

The students made short oral presentations and displayed posters using charts, text and graphics to explain their research in Thomas Great Hall. "Poster sessions are a long tradition in the sciences as a way to advertise our work and to make it accessible to a wider audience," said Keck Postdoc-toral Fellow Xenia Morin.

The presentations were judged by Joe Rucker, assistant professor of chemistry at Villanova, and Hillary Nelson, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Penn School of Medicine. Prizewinners were Elizabeth K. Shea (biology)and Timothy F. Edge (clinical developmental psychology).

Shea studies three species of ommastrephid squid, whose tentacles are fused their entire length at birth but divide by adulthood to form two separate, shorter tentacles. Using light and scanning electron microscopy, she measured the proboscis and splitting tentacles in specimens she collected to track this development.

Shea said that there are different theories about what the young squid eat and the way they use the proboscis: not at all; to grab prey in the same way adults do; or in some unknown, unusual way, perhaps to reach back and grab at microorganisms growing on their backs. The squid is born with an internal yoke sack; the proboscis may help it make the transition from yoke to raptorial feeding in some way.

Edge used daily diaries to test competing theories about the effect of marital strife on parent-child reactions-the compensation and the spillover models. For three days, 43 couples recorded answers to questions about the daily interactions between themselves and with their children in the evening; the results provide strong evidence for the spillover model."On days when mothers and fathers reported more marital anger, they reported being less engaged with and having more aversive interactions with their children," Edge reported.

William Gottobrio, geology, studies cross sections of fossils of the Devonian Clymeniid ammonoids, a branch unique among the thousands of genera of this class of shelled mollusks-distant ancestors of the squid, octopus and chambered nautilus-which became extinct 65 million years ago. Ammonoids had a siphuncle, a tubelike structure that may have regulated the air in the shell's air filled chambers, but those of Clymeniida run down the back of the shell rather than its underside. Comparative studies of ammonoid shell structure and hydrostatics may lead to a better understanding of the role of the siphuncle and why Clymeniida radiated so explosively into 64 genera within a relatively short time period and then abruptly became extinct. Deposits of the fossils are extremely rare, found largely in Kazakhstan, Iran and Morocco, but Gottobrio said he and Professor of Geology Bruce Saunders were able to obtain from colleagues in Russia 62 specimens from16 of the genera, "a significant amount."

Abstracts of all of the presentations may be read online.

Amateurs or professionals?

From the prehistoric potter to the Athenian sculptor, the Roman administrator to the Italian Renaissance man up to the modern day performance artist, individuals' views on professionalism have changed over time and been affected by social class, political power and contemporary theoretical viewpoints. Graduate students from around the country and abroad debated why and how these views have shifted in "Amateurs or professionals?" the third biennial Bryn Mawr College Graduate Student Symposium held October 12-13. Here are some of the highlights:

Geoffrey F. Compton from the University of Michigan discussed professional merchants in the international society of the late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean in terms of their social significance, as distinct from their materialsignificance. Evidence suggests that professional merchants organized to protect their own interests as a collective power, paradoxically derived from the marginal social position of commercial specialization.

Margarita Gleba from Bryn Mawr considered textile production in Iron Age Italy, particularly spinning and weaving, practiced primarily by women. Gleba challenged the theory that spinners were buried with a single spindle whorl, and weavers with several whorls and numerous rocchetti (loom weights for the production of narrow bands of cloth). Gleba proposes that rocchetti in burial assemblages instead signifies the deceased's specialization in textile craft. So, while all women practiced spinning and weaving, it was believed that only professionals brought all their tools into the afterlife.

Jennifer E. Gates of the University of Michigan focused on amateurs and professionals among the "laboring classes" of the ancient Mediterranean-merchants, farmers and slaves-since most historians research artisans, artists, writers and other public figures. She addressed the ways modern definitions of elite and "common" professions have bled over into our reading of ancient historic sources.

Eoghan Moloney of Cambridge University examined the patronage of Greek tragedy, not usually of interest to scholars. "There was more to 'tragedy's moment' than has generally been acknowledged," he said. As the genre developed into an international art form, a wider range of benefactors began to offer new commissions to playwrights, directors and actors.

Inspired by the 1650s treatise "Osservazioni della Scoltura Antica," Linda Ann Nolan of the University of Southern California examined the beginnings of the division between artist and restorer of ancient sculpture. Nolan showed how 17th-century Rome provides a backdrop against which to consider the sculptor and restorer as two distinct categories, offering a case study of two Roman sculptors who performed different types of restoration on ancient sculpture: Gianlorenzo Bernini andIppolito Buzzi.

Dara K. Sicherman, from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, surveyed digital expertise in contemporary printmaking. "With the current revolution and continual evolution of the digital printmaking medium, virtually anyone with a computer and appropriate software program has some sort of access to computer 'art,' " she said. "What then establishes the digital artist as an expert with that of an amateur practitioner or even someone who is simply sitting down at the computer for the very first time to design a birthday card or a garage sale flyer?"

Using Michel Foucault's notion of the highly codified "medical gaze," Elizabeth Dungan of the University of California, Berkeley, explored the specialized knowledge required by CT/MRI scans. According to Dungan, the artwork of Kiki Smith highlights uncertainty about "reading" the body. Smith explores ambiguities inherent to medical visual practices, allowing non-specialists access to the ambiguities of imaging and re-imaging the body.

Keynote speaker Irene J. Winter, Harvard University's William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts, opened the symposium and made concluding remarks. The event was sponsored by the graduate students of the departments of Art History, Classical and NearEastern Archaeology, and Greek, Latin and Classical Studies. Abstracts are online.

Street theater activism

Wearing an Air Force shirt she bought at an Army Navy store, Susanna Thomas '02 twisted a scarf around her head like a turban and then draped it across her face like a bandit's mask. She could be saluted, subject to racist attacks, or arrested, depending on the symbolism of her clothing and the message it sends about"what kind of person I am," Thomas explained.

"And if you have possession of a black brassiere and a camping penknife, you might end up in prison for three weeks," she added.

That's exactly what happened to Thomas, who was arrested on July 22 as she was leaving Genoa, Italy in a car following the bus of Publix Theater Caravan (PTC), an Austrian political street theater company that had staged performances at the G-8 summit meeting. A devout Quaker, Thomas traveled with the group earlier in the summer on a No-Borders Network tour to do research for her Growth and Structure of Cities senior thesis on the spiritual roots and techniques of social activism. She was working in Genoa as a journalist and translator with press credentials from the Independent Media Center. She and PTC members, whom Italian authorities had tried to link with the anarchist group, the Black Bloc, were released on August 14.

Thomas described the use of symbols and humor by the theater of resistance in an October 10 colloquia lecture for the Center for Visual Culture, which had awarded her a grant to do her summer research.

"Street theater is part of a phenomenon in Europe, also growing in the United States, called non-violent corrective direct action," Thomas said. "Based on the tradition of carnivals, it is a popular art, using rags, trash, things that are lying around, donated materials and public spaces-alleyways, docks, bridges, government lawns-to create festivals with a political message."

"Idon't personally have an opinion about the work of the PTC," Thomas noted. "I was working as a journalist coveringtheir events. But, the idea of the No Borders movement is that refugees should not be denied access, put in prison and forcibly, often violently, deported and sent back to dangerous situations simply because of their ethnicity."

One of the stops of the PTC's No Borders tour was Siska Detention Center in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where about 300 refugees, including Kurds, Turks and Iraqis, were kept crowded in rooms without adequate food and medical care. Protesters clad in hard-hats and bright orange worksuits unrolled banners and rolled towards the building a tower of tires carrying an inflated green plastic alien and a sign: "This is the only alien present."

"Tires are very scary things," Thomas said. "Police wanted to know if they were weapons, if they were going to be thrown at people. What PTC does is make a tire monster, put googly eyes on it, and write whatever is relevant to the event, meaning that it is the embodiment of some 'other,' something strange and frightening."

The response from detainees was "tremendous and heartbreaking," Thomas said. "They threw scrawled notes from the windows reading: 'Please come to our rescue,' 'We are dying,' 'We are war refugees,' 'We don't want to go back to our countries;' origami birds; confetti; strands of prayer beads; and beautiful drawings. One showed the Statue of Liberty in shackles and chains, another a dove behind bars. PTC posted the notes on its web page; there was nothing else it could do." Corporate media present also filmed the collection of notes and drawings. See more on Publix Theatre Caravan and the No Borders network.

"Free" trip to Rome!

Caesars Palace in Las Vegas offers an art appreciation experience without the class implications and, seemingly, the security guards, of museums, argued Mel McCombie '76, Visiting Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Connecticut, in a September 5 Center for Visual Culture colloquia lecture.

Prototype of the fantasy resort, the 1965 hotel and casino complex was dreamed up by one-time ceramic tile contractor Jay Sarno, who had built a string of"cabana" motels from Atlanta to Palo Alto.

Sarno wanted every visitor to feel like a Caesar or a Cleopatra and spared no expense in creating his version of a decadent and opulent Rome. (He claimed he did not make "Caesars" a possessive name because it was a place "of all the people," but McCombie said the dropping of the apostrophe "was really a punctuation error.") Sarno scouted Europe for architectural details, photographing columns, pilasters and flying buttresses.Copies of statuary from 300 B.C.E. to the 19th century, including the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo's David were made in Italy from Carerra marble.

An arcade of luxury shops called the Appian Way was added to Caesars in 1978 and The Forum Shops in 1992 and 1998, with elaborate architectural effects that include "marble" Animatronic statues of gods that come to life amid dancing waters and high-tech laser-lights.

Over the decades, Las Vegas has been transformed from Sin City to a family-values oriented theme park and convention center to an up-scale consumer experience, said McCom-bie, who is the author of Art and Policy: The National Endowment for the Arts and Art in Public Places. She described the creation in various casinos of "analogous cities and cultural experiences whose purpose is to encourage spending," whether by gambling or shopping. The historical and fantasy themes, with "few cues to actual time and space, distance visitors from everyday concerns and enhance their release from conventional responses and controls."

Steven Z. Levine, Leslie Clark Professor in the Humanities, professor of history of art and director of the Center for Visual Culture, pointed out that ancient Rome already was an architectural pastiche-Las Vegas may not be so postmodern after all nor "an elitist's chuckle. Civilizations have always cannibalised others."

Dale Kinney, professor of art history and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, agreed that the Caesars collection was not that different from those assembled in the imperialist expansion of Rome, "but in Rome the sculptures displayed were meant or thought to be morally edifying, whereas in Caesars it seems they are just grandiose decor."

Levine suggested the corollary that insofar as the casino sculpture ennobles spending, and that in a capitalist society the essence of good citizenship is to spend, in these analogous cities, "There are no more moral citizens, only rich people."

As Caesars employees are said to remind one another, "Remember, it's all for the show."

cover icon Return to Spring 2002 highlights