The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Day: November 2, 2016 (Page 2 of 3)

Bates searches for a new Athletics Director

At the end of this academic year, the Bates Director of Athletics, Kevin McHugh, will resign after ten years of holding this position. This necessitates the need for a new director, for which the search has just begun.

During McHugh’s decade of service, the women’s rowing team won their first NCAA team championship. Players from the Track and Field, Squash and Tennis teams have secured individual national titles. Also, Bates athletes have received more than 200 All-America honors since 2007.

Under McHugh’s tutelage, Bates also joined the “You Can Play” initiative in 2013 to support LGBTQ inclusion and Garcelon Field and Bates’ rowing boathouse have been renovated.

On October 25, the President’s Office sent an email to the Bates community announcing the formation of a search committee. In addition to the college’s president, Clayton Spencer, this varied group consists of students, professors, coaches, the assistant Athletic Director, the Dean of Admissions and the Dean of Financial Aid. The committee is led by Matt Auer, the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, and Josh McIntosh, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

However, members of the committee will not be the ones traveling the country or tracking down and interviewing candidates. Bates has enlisted the help of Parker Executive Search, which according to Bates’ President’s Office, is “one of the leading college athletic search terms in the country.”

Bates’ use of this searching service is part of a recent trend of colleges enlisting the assistance of search firms to help them select athletic directors, coaches, and administrators.

ESPN senior writer, Dana O’Neil, wrote in her article “Need a Coach? There’s a firm for that,” that this rise coincides with “an increase in salaries, [and] a change in the profile of the typical athletic director — fewer are ex-coaches; more are coming from the business sector.” Laurie Wilder, executive vice president and managing director at Parker, even says that many Athletic Directors are now CPAs or MBAs, certified public accountants or masters of business administration, respectively.

At the click of a button, a Parker Executive Search employee can access profiles of any coach or director one may want to hire. This includes educational and coaching background, win/loss records, salaries and bonuses, shoe contracts or country club memberships, videos at news conferences or on the court during games and news stories referencing any “black marks” during one’s career.

Each profile is “complete with a prospective coach’s mug shot in the top left corner of the screen.” Parker has a wealth of information on “more than 1,000 basketball coaches and 2,000 football coaches” and has countless profiles of athletic directors.

When a school such as Bates signs up for a search service, at a fee “that typically runs between $60,000 and $90,000, plus expenses,” according to O’Neil, they gain much more than just access to a database of profiles.

Included in the fee is “handling all calls inquiring about coaching vacancy, reviewing its database with search committee members […] contacting coaches or agents to request interviews, arranging for travel and accommodations for candidates who will be interviewed, conducting public records searches […], confirming academic degrees, and negotiating a contract on behalf of the university.”

Also essential to the search process is feedback from any and all Bates community members, which is welcomed throughout the process.

At any time, one can email with thoughts on the following questions: What are the important opportunities and challenges facing the next Athletics Director at Bates? What are the most important qualities to seek in candidates for the Athletics Director position? And are there any potential candidates that you would like to refer, or other in the field whom we should consult about this search?

Members from Parker Executive Search will be visiting campus on November 16th to talk to members of the Bates Community and there will be more details on the event to come.

Bates’ search committee, alongside Parker Executive Search, will be hard at work throughout the next few months.

Where are you voting?

Where are you voting?

“I’m voting in Nevada because it’s a swing state.”  -Austin Lee

“I’m voting in Maine because I was too lazy to figure out how to get an absentee ballot, but if my mom asks it’s because Maine is going to be a much tighter race than VT.” -Danny Stames

“I’m voting in Maine to make sure we build a wall on the RIGHT border.” -Henry Baird

“I’m voting in Connecticut, using an absentee ballot and technically (physically) voting in Maine because I go to school in Maine but pay my taxes in CT.” -Ned Thunem

“I voted in Mass because I was already registered there and didn’t want jury duty in Maine.” -Charlie Colony

“Same as Danny,” -Rachel Ebersole

“I will be voting in Maine early,” -Amar Ojha

NBA preview

It was early morning on Monday July 4th, hours before any fireworks would light up the sky. As everyone took their first sips of iced coffee, news broke that would put the sports world (and twitter) into hysteria: “Kevin Durant signs with the Golden State Warriors.”

Basketball fans shared a collective scream of WTF?! Are we talking about the same Warriors team that just won a record 73 games and was a Draymond Green suspension away from winning back to back championships? How could they possibly add one of the best players of the generation to their already loaded roster?! A freakish athlete, who stands nearly seven feet tall, but handles and shoots the ball with the dexterity of a guard. A former MVP, and four time scoring champ.

Naturally, over the next couple of days people flocked to both sides of the historic move. Some expressed sympathy for Durant’s decision. Durant had the opportunity to move to a better city, with better teammates, and more money; it was a no brainer. Others, like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, did not show the same compassion. Smith, a notoriously bombastic sports pundit, called it the weakest move he has ever seen from a superstar.

As this new super team reality has set in over the last couple of months, it seems as though there are now only two true championship contenders. The Warriors and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers lead by Lebron James: the same teams that have met in the finals for two consecutive seasons.

Although this matchup certainly feels inevitable, keep in mind that the same two teams have never met in three straight finals in NBA history. Indeed, this year’s finals may not be as set in stone as we believe. As Bill Simmons aptly pointed out in his latest column, the last time everyone said, “Oh, this is going to be boring… We already know the finals” was 1986, when Larry Bird’s Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers were supposedly destined to meet. But then something weird happened: the Rockets young big men proved to be too much for the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, and all of a sudden the Celtics vs. Lakers never came to be. The NBA has a habit of surprising us when we least expect it.

Warriors vs. Cavaliers round three will undoubtedly dominate headlines and conversation, but do not let that distract you from the rest of the NBA. As the 2016-2017 NBA season begins, I urge you to not take it for granted. Trust me, I am annoyed as many of you are about Durant’s decision. But do not forget about all the other storylines that make this league great.

The Timberwolves, lead by Karl-Anthony Towns Anthony Wiggins, and their new coach Tom Thibodeau look poised to join the NBA’s elite. A fully unleashed Russell Westbrook may become the first player to average a triple double since Oscar Robertson; as well as the first player to average 50 turnovers a game (well, maybe a slight exaggeration). Without Kobe hogging the ball, the young Lakers may actually be able to show their talent. And do not forget about Anthony Davis and James Harden who, despite disappointing performances last season, still have all the tools to compete for MVP. Dwyane Wade will be wearing a uniform that does not say Heat on it. After key off-season signings, the Celtics will once again be contenders in the east. Heck, even the Knicks might actually be competitive this season.

And remember if the season does turn out to be a bust, at least we don’t have to watch baseball anymore.


“Last Gas:” Liberation, desire, and ambitions in Northern Maine

It’s one of those days in which I seem to have been teleported back home. I see Nat Paradis, the main character of this unconventional love story, and I’m flown back home, to my village. I am not in Spain, though. The people I see through the theatre stage’s frame are not speaking Spanish and the scene I am watching is not set in Andalusia, but in Northern Maine. I am in the U.S. and yet I feel home. I look at Nat Paradis, interpreted in a somehow appropriate monotonous and heartbroken style by Augustus Kelley, and I see what has been the struggle of many people an ocean away. Premiered in Portland in 2010 and, in the past few weeks of October, brought to life again in Lewiston, this play seems to feel somewhat significant and maybe universal for the folks with ambitions raised in rural environments.

Moving rather slowly to convey the slow-paced lives of its characters, “Last Gas” starts off monotonous yet ludicrous, soon becoming troubled, and then bursting in the personal liberation of Nat towards its second act. This play, written by John Cariani and directed by Janet Mitchko in this year’s season of Lewiston’s Public Theatre productions, is set in “the Last Convenient Store before Canada” which is run by Nat Paradis and his father Dwight, wittily and actively played by Kurt Zischke.

As soon as the play starts, we are introduced to the character of Nat Paradis, lead role of a comedy that gets serious, who far from achieving his goals in life has been stuck for the 41 years of his existence in the remote northern area of Maine. Father to a teenager named Troy Paradis, playfully interpreted by Brandon Tyler Harris, and divorced from the forest ranger Cherry-Tracy Pulsifer, played by Katharine McLeod, Nat is nothing less than utterly unhappy.

The action does not kick in until, on his 41st birthday’s eve, Guy Gagnon­ (acted by Ben Loving) offers to take Nat to Boston for a Red Sox vs. Yankees game. Shortly after this, he finds out that his teenage girlfriend – Lureen Legasse (Mary Mossberg) – is back in town. This could be his chance to bring his happiness back, acting on his second chance to resolve what lingered in his mind since he finished high school some 20 years ago, when Lureen left to go to college and he did not follow her steps.

Trouble emerges out of Nat’s decision between trying on his second chances with Lureen the Sunday of his birthday and going with Guy to the game in Boston. We think Nat and Lureen will get back together and second chances will work on them; Nat is confused nonetheless and (like in real life) the decisions he makes change the course of his life. From then on, love is lost and found, in different forms, in an intertwined play where sexuality seems to tremble and will not unravel all the truth about the characters until the very end.

Generally simple in language, albeit witty and sparklingly funny in nature, this play is no common “romantic comedy.” There is no clear boy meets a girl, no clear prediction of what will happen next, but rather a certain sense of surprise for a “wait until the end so you see what’s actually going on in here.”

Through a group of somewhat ludicrous characters, we are introduced to the world of insecurities, fear, monotony and lack of ambition that sucks some people’s blood in certain rural communities all over the state. This hilarious yet serious account of life in Northern Maine may universally speak for people raised in rural places who struggled to get out and never made it or who actually made it yet left behind certain things.

Already known for writing about his home-state, Cariani brings up the somewhat universal message that being oneself, regardless of your location, renders essential to finding happiness; something that the cast of this production has managed to convey very neatly.


The full spread

This week marks the second annual installment of the on-campus, student-operated, sexual education week at Bates. Sex Week was introduced to the student body last year as Maddy Ekey ‘17 felt the need to create a sort of forum in which a dialogue surrounding safe and healthy sex could be fostered. Similar to last year’s events, Sex Week 2016, organized by Maddy Ekey ‘17 and Jessica Garson ‘17, is an opportunity for students on campus to attend lectures, workshops, and events that work to educate the Bates public about how to enjoy sexual interactions in a safe and healthy way.

In coordination with various groups and organizations across campus, such as the Bates Public Health Initiative, Sex Week contains a week’s worth of events that are meant to “sex, sex positivity and sexual health with the hope of fostering an inclusionary dialogue across Bates’ campus”, according to Ekey.

Both Ekey and Garson both believe that including a sexual education week on campus is pertinent to solving problems stemming from unsafe or unhealthy sex that are inevitable on a college campus. Issues surrounding safe sex, such as the use of contraceptives and practicing responsible sexual relations are only the beginning of what Sex Week aims to address.

“We don’t talk enough about sex on campus in a positive way” and that the ultimate goal of Sex Week is to “educate students on ways to have healthy sex both mentally and physically”, says Garson.

This being the case, Sex Week 2016 does not only provide workshops and lectures surrounding how to have safe sex physically, but also provides opportunities for students to understand how they can have healthy sexual relationships mentally. Both Ekey and Garson believe that this is something heavily overlooked on college campuses where hook-up culture constitutes a majority of sexual activity between students.

Clubs and organizations are contributing to this year’s week of events. For example, the Multifaith Chaplaincy is addressing the issue of spirituality in practicing healthy sex, which is something that may be overlooked by students on a college campus. Ekey and Garson recognize the need to facilitate an engaging conversation surrounding safe and healthy sex, and as a result, many of the events that comprise this year’s Sex Week work to appeal to more students. For example, on Friday there will be a “sex trivia” event in 280 Basement which offers alcohol for students 21 or over. In addition, Sex Week will address the deeply ingrained issue of sexual consent with a lecture taking place at Commons 222 on Thursday at 1 PM, titled “Communication, Consent, & Power”.

As Ekey and Garson will be passing the torch regarding the organizing of Sex Week to other students next year, they hope to inspire students on campus to engage each other in conversations surrounding healthy and safe sex not only during this week, but during students’ careers at Bates. For more information about this year’s Sex Week, please refer to Bates Sex Week 2016 Facebook page, or the Bates Today announcements throughout the week.

Bad hombre

“Hey Hey Ho Ho, Donald Trump has got to go” was one of the chants employed by Bates protesters who attended Donald Trump’s rally in the neighboring town of Lisbon this past Friday. While the rain and blustery wind may have stalled some from engaging with the protest, it certainly did not halt concerned Bates students. For an hour, huddled in raincoats, students challenged Trump through chants, signs, and solidarity.

This rally in Lisbon marks Trump’s fifth visit to Maine since March. In the rowdy crowd of about 1,200 people packed inside a small gymnasium, there was a noticeable contingency of women wearing “Women for Trump” shirts, smiling proudly at the Republican nominee.

Bates Student Action, a club on campus that aims to fight for change on the local, state and national level through intentional and deliberate leadership building, co-lead by Cash Huynh ‘18 and Emily Manter ‘18, was largely responsible for this large mobilization of students. They organized rides and sent out mass emails to garner support. The message for the peaceful protest was clear: denounce the sexually violent language Trump has promoted, especially his recent locker room comment. Huynh explains, “By engaging in this rhetoric, Trump invites others to participate as well. And as a club we stand in direct opposition to his violence.” The students attending the protest made it clear that Trump’s discourse is not acceptable. In addition to the catchy chants, students made witty signs. “My favorite sign was definitely one that read, ‘Hands off my cunt-re,’” Alexandra Gwillim ‘18, says, whom attended Friday’s rally.

While there was minimal aggressive heckling from Trump supporters, Bates students still received verbal pushback. Echoing similar rhetoric that circled during the Ben Chin election last November, local Trump supporters attending the rally were angered by the Bates’ liberal and peaceful presence: “For a while, there was one woman denouncing us. Telling us that we are too young to understand politics. That we are just privileged Bates students” Alexandra Gwillim says. “But we are so much more than that, we belong to this community too. We want change and we are going to fight for that change.”

Matt Hires delivers songs of love and life at VCS

By the time I got to VCS this week – which was at 9:10, approximately – I was disappointed by an empty chai dispenser; however, Matt Hires’s music quickly refocused my attention to the main event on stage. Returning for his second year in a row, Hires wasted none of his time in the Mays Center. He played song after song, all of which were originals, and took the occasional break to connect with the audience. Needless to say, I forgot about the chai almost immediately.

The Nashville-based singer-songwriter was accompanied by three other band members, one of whom was a drummer – something we do not see very often at VCS. Unlike his last visit where he was an acoustic soloist, the band vibe was energetic, electronic, and passionate. Many of the songs they performed that night were from his new album “American Wilderness,” and addressed songs of personal contemplation and self-reflection. The messages he illustrated through his music lingered throughout the venue, creating an intimate atmosphere.

Hires said, “It’s the most cohesive body of work that I’ve put out, and I didn’t intend it to be that way – it just happened. One of the first songs I wrote for the album was the first track, ‘Fighting a Ghost.’ The second verse contains the line that the title of the album came from. A lot of the ideas behind a lot of the other songs came from that – feeling a little lost amidst all the noise and commotion of culture and society.”

One song entitled “A to B” urged the audience to live life to the fullest with the chorus lyric, “You can live your life walking in a straight line, but it’s more than just A to B.” The song had a relieving sense of uncertainty, following the theme of the album; the motions of each individual going through life is never set, but there is still comfort in that. Hires delivered this motto especially in “A to B” implying that as long as we take advantage of the journey, the rest will fall into place.

The oldest song he sang at VCS was written 10 years ago for his fiancee at the time (and now wife of eight years) entitled “Honey Let Me Sing You a Song.” Right before his sang this, he shared a story of when he was asked by a fan to sing this song as he was proposing to his girlfriend in a restaurant. After many unforeseen issues, Hires was interrupted mid-song by the restaurant manager telling him he cannot sing in the restaurant. This story certainly elicited a chuckle from the Bates students and the song itself was quite beautiful too. After that, he sang a song about two people who fall in love on an airplane as it starts to crash, entitled “Red Eye.”

Hires released two previous albums: “Take Us to the Start” in 2009 and “This World Won’t Last Forever, But Tonight We Can Pretend” in 2013. Hires brought quality music to VCS this year, and I can only hope Bates brings him back again.

Hires just released a new album, “American Wilderness.” ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Hires just released a new album, “American Wilderness.” ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Matt Hires brought several original songs to Bates for VCS. ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Matt Hires brought several original songs to Bates for VCS. ALL EYES MEDIA/COURTESY PHOTO

Women’s Volleyball clinches playoff berth

This past weekend, Bates Volleyball competed in two NESCAC home games in Alumni Gym. On Friday, they swept past Hamilton 3-0 to improve to 4-5 overall in conference. With the win, they clinched a berth in NESCAC playoffs for the second year in a row. Captain Chandler McGrath ‘17 led the team with 20 kills, reaching her career 1000 kill along the way. McGrath has led the team in kills all of her four years at Bates.

The next day, Bates faced off against second place Middlebury and rolled to a 3-1 upset win over the Panthers for the first time since 2003. The win improved their NESCAC record to 5-5, their best regular season record since 2003 as well. The team has been performing at an extremely high level the past few weeks. They have currently won three in a row and have improved their home record to an astounding 7-1. Cassidy Martin ‘19 commented, “I think the end of our season has been the best part, we’ve come so far since preseason and it’s such an amazing thing to be a part of. In our last two home games everything just clicked. It was such a fun game.”

The win pushed the Bobcats past Conn College, and secured the seventh seed in the Conference tournament.

Bates will challenge Middlebury again this Friday in the NESCAC quarterfinals held at Tufts.

In response to the success the team has had so far and the win over Middlebury, Hannah Tardie ‘17 had this to say about her team: “It felt like everything that we have been working for this season fell into place this weekend. All of the emotional and physical energy we have spent was rewarded with our wins this weekend, not only making playoffs but also beating the number two team in our conference. The long rallies, teamwork, grit, and overall discipline I saw in our team this weekend made me proud and honored at the same time. It’s even sweeter knowing we get to play Midd. again first round of NESCAC’s. We’re coming for them.”

Best of luck to the volleyball team as they hope to top the Panthers for the second time in a row.


Shaun King interview

What do you think makes people uncomfortable with the phrase Black Lives Matter?

Issues of race can be very uncomfortable to talk about in general, in part because sometimes people have no idea what they’re talking about. What you get is people are very uncomfortable because they don’t know if they’re saying the right thing, if they’re being offensive, on a hundred different levels. Before Black Lives Matter made people uncomfortable, people have been uncomfortable talking about difficult issues around race, around racism, around bigotry. You can’t be so easily irritated that if you do say the wrong thing and step on toes, that if you get blasted for it you never have a conversation again. I think there’s also some people [who] are being obtuse about what Black Lives Matter means. People have defined and explained to people [that] in an ideal world, all people are treated equally. Anyone who says that’s the reality in this country is kind of being willfully ignorant on that issue. When these three young women coined this phrase ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they coined it in response to black folk who were being treated like their lives didn’t matter. That’s the root of the phrase: even though society in a lot of different ways often treats black lives like they don’t matter, it’s a declaration, that yes they do. In this country, particularly if you are a black teenager, an unarmed black teenager, you’re almost 20 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than an unarmed white teenager. [To] say Black Lives Matter is to say, hey, why does this disparity exist? Where does it come from? That phrase Black Lives Matter is a phrase that’s also affirming for people who feel like they’re under attack. Even if it requires an explanation, the phrase makes sense to me.

Unquestionably, Black Lives Matter has done a lot of work in elevating dialogue in our country. Can you offer some criticism to the movement, or what would you like to see change in the movement’s approach?

All movements could be better. I regularly see people say things like, ‘Dr. King would be turning over in his grave if he saw this or that.’ [That’s] really ahistorical. The Civil Rights Movement was messy as a movement… They sometimes disagreed widely on how to approach those problems… So the Black Lives Matter movement is no different than that in the sense that some of us hardly know each other. Some of us see problems very differently. And so, a lot of people say, ‘Wow, I wish there was more unity in the Black Lives Matter movement.’ That’s never really been the case in any civil rights movement. There’s always disagreements and wildly different approaches. Less than a criticism, I’ll tell you where we’re going. For the past two years, this movement has been focused on building awareness. And I think we’ve succeeded. Here we are at the campus of Bates College in Maine talking about it…. Most Americans are aware that there’s police brutality. They were not aware of that just a couple years ago. We’re pivoting away just from awareness, which we will have to continue to do, to solutions. You’ll see in most movements, for a long time, you’re just trying to make people know that there is a problem. Once you’ve almost completely saturated the market, you then say, well how do we solve it? I think you’ll see more and more of us in the movement talking about what [the] solutions are and how we approach them. You’ll continue to see many of us disagree on many of those approaches, and I’m okay with that. I think it’s healthy that we approach the problem from many different angles.

What role, if any, do you think your religion and faith plays in your social justice work? Do you think that religious values are something that can unite people?

One of the reasons I was excited to come here to Bates is a hero of mine, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, graduated from Bates and I graduated from Morehouse College, where he was president for 29 years and even before he was president, he was a professor and a debate team coach at Morehouse. And he was a man who had faith at the center of a lot of what he did, but did work that went way outside of religious circles… One of Benjamin Mays’ students was a man named Howard Thurman… He wrote this book called Jesus and the Disinherited. And Dr. King actually had that book when he was assassinated. Dr. King, Howard Thurman [and] Benjamin Mays all believed that their version of Christianity was one that fought against injustice. And I believe in that as well. There’s a huge evangelical Christian support of Donald Trump that I just can’t make sense of. And I’m deeply disturbed by [it]. But Dr. King was disturbed in the same way. He wrote Letter from Birmingham Jail, and what it was really about was how he was confused and perplexed and bothered by his fellow white Christians in Birmingham, who seem[ed] to support segregation and worse… What bothered him the most was the silence of people who claimed to be Christian. So I don’t speak a lot publicly about my faith, but privately, it guides me, and it keeps me encouraged as well.

What sort of advice would you give with regards to motivation, inspiration? Who do you look to, and how would you guide young college students on their quest to make a difference in the world of social justice?

Some of the most amazing leaders in this movement are in their early 20s… Particularly college students and young leaders who are functioning inside of systems that they feel are racist or oppressive…  I spoke at University of Kentucky last week, and earlier that day several students had people drive by in trucks and yell at them, have people throw stuff at them… And I felt terrible because I left that campus and flew back to New York… I just want to encourage students to know that if you look and study any movement over the last 100 years, students have always been involved, in part because they have a healthy recklessness that adults who have bills and jobs and all those other things don’t have. There’s a bravery and a courage that students have that you need to use… Don’t assume you’re too young to make a difference. Don’t assume you’re too far away from discrimination. Like the country might talk about Charleston, or Charlotte, or Baltimore, but there are problems right here in Maine, right here on this campus that need to be addressed… Just use the time you have and use it well.

When you least expect it, it will hit you. It is the Phantom Punch.

Last Friday, October 18, the Bates Museum of Art inaugurated its new exhibition: “Phantom Punch: Contemporary art from Saudi Arabia in Lewiston.” Words nearly fail to explain how powerful and intriguing this exhibition is.

Before attending the opening, I decided to gather everything I knew about Saudi Arabia. I can honestly say I did not know a lot – if anything at all. Of course I had heard of the big words: terrorism, censorship, absolutist monarchy, gender inequality and human rights. I was aware that I would be writing about this exhibition for The Bates Student, but what could I possibly know about Saudi Arabian Conceptual Art?

As I entered the exhibition, I was amazed to see that my stereotypes of Saudi Arabia were reflected in the artworks. I saw figures that resembled airplanes, mosques that resembled cages and depictions of the restrictions women endure. At first glance, conceptual art can look simple. I thought I had it. All of a sudden I was hit by the phantom punch: maybe things are not as simple as they seem.

“Paradise Has Many Gates,” by Ajlan Gharem, is the perfect example. In the museum, you will see photographs of a steel mosque that resembles, in my subjective opinion, a cage. The first interpretation comes easily: the cage symbolizes reprehension and censorship and the mosque represents Islam, which traps Muslims and restricts their freedom. I believe I was not the only person to have that interpretation. It seems intuitive.

All of a sudden, I was struck by the idea that the cage may symbolize protection. What if people are not locked in a cage, but rather secure from the dangers of the world? What if the cage is not inside, but rather outside? Who is trapped, is it the people in the mosque or everyone else? One symbol is changed and the entire interpretation of the artwork is changed with it. In “Paradise has Many Gates,” there is no way to say what is inside and outside: are Muslims trapped in a cage, or protected by their genuine beliefs?

The Museum catalog for the exhibition raises yet another interpretation. It calls the fences that build the cage “reminiscent of the fences built along the borders of Europe or the prison cells in Guantanamo Bay.” It raises the possibility that maybe it is not about how religion itself traps believers, but about how they are trapped by misconceptions (think of immigration, refugee “crisis” and other important issues). In some sense, it shows that “Paradise has Many Gates” extrapolates Saudi Arabia – it can be about cross-cultural global issues.

This was the phantom punch. When I least expected, I realized that the exhibition is not only about Saudi Arabia or about Saudi Arabian Conceptual Art. It is also about broader, more complex issues. Conceptual art has the value of being open ended and ambiguous, in many cases. It can be about humanity, religion, desire; you name it. “Paradise has Many Gates” is only a single example of an exhibition with dozens of works that challenges our ideas and personal identities.

As I said in the beginning, words fail to describe this exhibition. Even when using the first person singular, I cannot fully describe my subjective impressions of the artworks I saw. There is something inevitably missed in transcribing conceptual art in words. They use different mediums and different ambiances. My words will never be able to explain ambiguity, texture, social pressure, culture and identity in the same manner as the artworks did. The only way one can possibly experience the “Phantom Punch” in all its complexity is to attend the Bates Museum of Art. Enter the museum and embrace the phantom punch. Keep your minds as open as your eyes. There is a lot to see.


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