The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Halley Posner (Page 1 of 8)

A Stutterer No Longer, on Paper at Least

When does a secret become a secret? Is it when someone whispers into another person’s ear and begs them not to tell? Or maybe it happens more gradually, merely a result of choosing not to talk about an aspect of your life.

I did not intend for my stutter to become a secret. But nonetheless, it seems like it did.

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Reviewing 211 Days and a Lifetime in Art

On Friday, April 6, the 2018 Senior Thesis Exhibition opened to the public. Every year, the show is one of the most well-attended events at the Bates College Museum of Art, and for good reason. The show is the product of a full year of preparation for 14 splendid graduating seniors. It has been 211 days since the first day of this academic year and the beginning of their projects, but the show unveils much more than that — it unveils deep passion and sense of place. The works speak more than my words ever could.

There is an array of media in this exhibition: drawing, painting, sculptures, hand-drawn animations, photography, and ceramics — and behind every medium a couple of familiar names. For me, part of the punch of this show comes from seeing that the artists are my friends, classmates, and acquaintances. They are the person who held the door for me last Tuesday, or that course mate who was always sketching during class. The Senior Thesis Exhibition reminds me of how incredibly talented and fortunate Bates is. This show is inevitably permeated by a sense of place and community, which were visible in the curiosity of the visitors who flooded the museum on April 6.

Leading to the show, the 14 exhibiting artists worked closely with Robert Feintuch, Senior Lecturer in Art and Visual Culture. Feintuch, who is leaving Bates this year, has been organizing and installing the Senior Thesis Exhibition shows ever since he joined Bates in 1976. In an email interview, he told me the first show he organized took place in Chase Hall, prior to the opening of the Olin Arts Center in 1986! “He has done it many times before, and so, I felt that I was working with a professional who knows how to make his voice known, while also balancing the voices and options of all the artists. He is a true mentor,” Sophie Olmstead ’18, one of the exhibiting artists, revealed.

“I think, for me, the best part of it has been seeing what happens when smart students make working the center of their lives,” Feintuch revealed. In a number of exchanges we had, Feintuch always seemed passionate about working with seniors, often mentioning the intimacy that comes with teaching art. Feintuch helped to select, organize, and place the over 150 artworks at the museum. “I enjoy the challenge of working out an installation that makes individual students’ work look strong and that, at its best, also makes interesting juxtapositions and connections,” he added.

In the relationship between Feintuch and the 14 seniors, I found one example of the close relationships that make Bates the place it is. Community seems visibly important in the 2018 Senior Thesis Exhibition, even if not always intentionally. If there is one thing that this show reminded me of, it is that an art piece is not a self-contained end goal, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Art has an impact in the world. No wonder the show seem like the product of much more than 211 days of work — the pieces are the product of a lifetime of learning and sharing.

Max Breschi ’18, an exhibiting potter, found a concrete example of what I feel in regards to this show. The artist created an installation of utilitarian pottery as a way to give back to the L/A community for his years at Bates College. The installation asks that the viewer choose a pot that speaks to them. Every day, a person can leave with a piece from his installation. Since seeing the 2018 Senior Thesis Exhibition, I feel like I have been walking around with my hands full of “metaphorical pottery” that I carry around.

More than a celebration of talent, the show makes me thankful for the friendship and collaboration I’ve learned to cultivate at Bates since arriving here. If there is a connecting thread that runs through an exhibition as diverse as this one, it would be that art is exchange.

The show is free and open until May 26, 2018. All are welcome.

Mariam Jalabi Reminds Us “We Are Part of a Global Village”

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As this year’s speaker from the University of Maine Law School’s Justice for Women lecture series, Mariam Jalabi came up to our neck of the woods to talk about her life in fashion turned activism. Born in Damascus and growing up in the Golan Heights, Jalabi was surrounded by her family of activists throughout her life. Currently, she is the UN Representative of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, living and doing her activist work in New York.

Fashion and political activism seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. “It seems like such a big shift but really I approached fashion from a very political perspective,” Jalabi remarks. “I got into fashion because I believed that I could dress women in a more liberated and a more democratic way. Clothing is not just clothing; it’s not a piece of cloth. It’s actually a language that you use to represent yourself to the outside world. And the way women dress is a way they speak to the world or how society addresses them. It’s a code that we all use. I wanted to create something that was practical, that was comfortable, and that was very fashionable for women who wanted to dress in a modest way.”

She saw fashion, not merely as the clothes on your back, but as a conscious representation of yourself to the outside world.  In Islamic culture, there are certain norms in which women who want to dress conservatively are encouraged to comply.  But Jalabi started her own consultancy and worked with clients in places like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to help women transcend those norms.

Jalabi remarks, “And it was something that was my passion – to help women represent themselves in a better way to the world. I was also interested in women’s entrepreneurship programs that had helped them create their own lines, their own work, and their own embroideries and their own ideas of what beauty was. Because beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is something that we create.”

For Jalabi, changing society was not limited to the fashion industry.  Once the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011, Jalabi knew she needed to be involved and active while still running her fashion business. As she became involved in the movement and became a regular face at all the meetings she could, she started to notice that “…women were not represented at the level that I wanted them to be represented at.” So she kept going to the meetings, creating contacts, and speaking up to promote the narrative that she wanted to be heard.

In November of 2012, when the Syrian Opposition Coalition came together and asked if she would be their representative to the United Nations, Jalabi readily agreed under one condition.  “I will do it if we worked as part of my job to include more women and marginalized group in the effort to represent Syria and work with the UN,” Jalabi remembers.

Fast forward six years, Syria is still embroiled in this conflict and Jalabi is still engaged in this work.  At her lecture later that evening, “The Struggle for Human Rights: From Syria to Maine” she emphasized the seemingly never ending nature of the conflict and the necessity of including all people in finding a solution.

“You can’t create a solution for Syria without including the whole population,” Jalabi states in reference to women’s inclusion in the peace process. Women have been entrenched in protests from the very beginning.  Women engage in peaceful protests all over Syria and throughout the conflict.  Specifically, the Brides of Damascus were a group of women protesters in November 2012 who wore wedding dresses in the Medhat Basha market holding red banners calling for a peaceful end to the conflict.

Jalabi argues that the crisis in Syria echoes loudly throughout the world. “We live in a global village,” she argues.  Events on one side of the globe reverberate past what we can see and have longer effects than we will know.  Engaging in social action work right here in Maine can have positive effects the reach out farther than our borders.

North Korea Agrees to Talk

The time is finally upon us. North Korea has agreed to have diplomatic talks with both South Korea and the United States. Kim Jong Un will meet separately with both South Korea’s Moon Jae in and Donald Trump of the United States. While the South Korea meeting date is set, April 27, the United States’ formal time has yet to be determined.

It should be remembered that North Korea has engaged in diplomatic talks, notably the Six Party Talks held six times on and off between 2003 and 2009 in Beijing. In this case, the negotiations took the form of six countries – the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia – all taking to each other; “multilateral negotiations” in political jargon. While the focus of these talks was to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program, no changes in favor of denuclearization or halting of the project occurred. The talks ended when North Korea tested a Taepo Dong-2 three-stage rocket, billed as part of a civilian space program, after repeated warnings from the United States, South Korea, and Japan and condemnation from the UN Security Council.

From then, North Korea, under Kim Jong Un’s leadership since 2011, has ramped up their nuclear missile testing programs and refrained from engaging in negations. However, this changed when, on March 8, President Trump accepted Kim Jong Un’s invitation to return to the negotiating table. Although the date is not yet officially set, these talks between North Korea and the United States will, at this point, take place in May.

While diplomacy and negations are always a good sign, New York Times reporter Mark Lander notes that this meeting is a “breathtaking gamble.”

These negotiations are vastly different than any others. One: no sitting president of the United States has ever met with a North Korean leader. Two: The State Department is still sparsely staffed and concerningly unstable. Remember, Rex Tillerson was ousted on March 13 and Mike Pompeo, former head of the CIA, was nominated to take his place. According to Politico “…of the 163 Senate-confirmed positions for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, 65 positions don’t yet have a nominee, while many nominees have yet to be confirmed…” In other words, many of the top tier jobs in the State Department are empty or have new leadership. We are, a country operating without seasoned diplomats. Three: there is still no ambassador to South Korea. How can the United States make informed decisions about Korean culture and politics without a specialist?

Lastly and most importantly: heads of state, Kim Jong Un and President Trump, are meeting in the preliminary rounds of negations. Having this high-level meeting is also a huge concession to the North Koreans. Negotiations of this caliber normally are started by low level diplomats because they have the ability to change their minds without having massive blowback on their political carriers.

This is not the case with heads of state. Hypothetically, when the president comes in with an ask and then changes his mind, that receives much more attend than if that same situation happened with some low-ranking diplomat. Bringing in the president is like starting a baseball game with a relief pitcher, it’s taking the rules of the game and turning them on their head.

Another recent change is that Kim Jong Un visited China last week. Let me say that again; the most reclusive leader in the world left his stronghold for the first time since assuming control to go and meet with President Xi Jinping. This meeting could be seen as a trial run for future talks with South Korea and the United States. According to CNN, discussion points ranged from Kim’s commitment to denuclearization with some caveats, and to Xi’s acceptance of Kim’s invitation to visit Pyongyang.

But what was this meeting really about? Was this an effort to strengthen bilateral relations between China and North Korea? Is there an agenda that we just don’t know about? What role will China play in the upcoming negotiations?

This next month will definitely be a time to watch closely.

 

Pau Faus Brings Humanity to Spanish Political Figures in Film “Alcaldessa”

I am a 1997 kid and I grew up in a Spain of economic decadence, a straight-up (note the irony) down-hill Spain. The new millennium approached and within less than a decade, apartments went from somewhat affordable prices to price tags that nobody could handle. Banks gave out a lot of money and messed up a lot of people, particularly hard-working, middle-class folks. I still remember the year my sister moved to Madrid and she paid 1,000 Euros in rent for a 30 square meters (322 ft.) apartment. Having a teacher salary of 1,600 euros/month for a tiny apartment and using more than half of it to pay rent had become the norm in the big city. This was 2004.

Discomfort grew and we transitioned from a right-wing government to a left-wing government when I was six. I still remember the moment when socialists won the election in 2004, and my dad increased his involvement in the party. I also remember the day when he had to close his small construction company, which he had worked his way up to owning after years of being a construction worker himself. There were too many buildings, and no one to live in them. Hundreds of construction companies around the country shut down, hundreds of people were out of luck. This was 2008.

Ada Colau, Faus’ film star, had a lot more schooling than my father. Nevertheless, the two of them have something in common and that had to do with money. They were both affected by a collapsing burbuja inmobiliaria (real estate bubble in English). Whatever side of the bubble they had been in, both companies and customers alike weren’t happy. Fast-forward, mass evictions became a norm and Ada Colau, current mayor of Barcelona, became one of the leaders for the social movement emerging from such evictions– the PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, or People Affected by Mortgages).

Pau tells the story of another working-class member, Ada Colau, who went from calling a representative of the Spanish Banking Association “a criminal” at a parliamentary hearing to the first female mayor of Barcelona under the merger left-wing party of En Comú Podem. As Pau would put it in his Q&A session, he “was interested in documenting how someone moves from activism to institutional politics.”

Through Catalonian independence debates mostly unmentioned in his work, Fau brings a human perspective to the life of the politician. How many times have I heard people insulting politicians? I don’t even know. As my mum used to say, “blame all these politicians now, but the one getting crazy mortgages without holding a clue of whether you’d be able to pay back were you.” Political figures come from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, and they get credited and discredited often. Fau succeeds in creating a documentary film that forgives the position of the politician and humanizes the gaze of their viewer.

Presented in a countdown narrative that unfolds in both Catalán and Spanish, Fau documents a whole year of En Comú Podem’s political campaign through the eyes of his camera and its gazes at Barcelona’s mayor.

We see Colau in campaign planning meetings, in rallies, in debates with other electoral candidates, and in her humble apartment in Barcelona. We also see her a lot in the back-room of the party’s untidy headquarters. There, Fau pulls out some black background and films Colau in some sort of video-diaries that express her concerns.

Interestingly enough, when Fau was questioned about what he asked her in those interviews, he stated that his go-to strategy was to ask, “How are you feeling today?” These video-diaries, extremely powerful because of the intimacy created, let us learn about her strengths but also about her fears. Believe it or not, she is human and is afraid of becoming a leader as she analyzes her journey and realizes that a couple of years ago, it was she who cursed institutional political powers.

Politics is a tough and over-complicated beast.

I am aware that back home people would hate on me for looking at our politicians from a forgiving point of view. “Whether they are right-wing or left-wing, they are all thieves” is the current motto in many households. That being said, I found enjoyment (as one of the only Spaniards in the room) in watching Fau’s documentary succeed in finding an empathizing eye in a profession that can bring its “professionals” as many supporters as haters.

 

MGMT is Back with Little Dark Age

MGMT is pretty weird. The band’s particular brand of alternative/indie with hint of psychedelia became popular after their first album Oracular Spectacular, followed by two less popular albums Congratulations and MGMT. On February 9, the group released a fourth album called Little Dark Age. It follows the band’s own groovy synthesized feeling – a Pink Floyd that decided to be pop – but without the visionary energy. The band took inspiration in American politics to compose the new album and a few tunes reflect that. Most songs are quite flat and almost too relaxing, but the song “Little Dark Age” is a decent crowd pleaser. Like other similar bands, Alt-J and Of Montreal, MGMT produces one good album every few average ones. Little Dark Age had promise,but fell in the “alright” category. Worth a listen but not worth the hype.

The American band was formed by Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, who met during their first year at Wesleyan University. Oracular Spectacular was the band’s big hit and targeted at the young indie fandom around 2007. They were the good weird then, but since that time alternative synth music has leaned towards pop and dance; MGMT seemed left behind. Although Little Dark Age is a bit closer to pop, there is still some emptiness, tension, contrast, energy, and wicked melodies missing and most of the songs feel like an endless spiral. “The album was unimpressive… the songs are not very distinct and kind of blur together but there are a couple of interesting songs,” Joshua Andino ’20 told me.

The ninth song of the album, “When You’re Small,” is a little more interesting. It has a clear Pink Floyd feel for me: a moody repetition of sad melody and slow lyrics that are perfect for a gloomy day. The inspiration for the album was the American political situation (and you-know-who) so perhaps this would be a great song for November 8, 2016. “When You’re Small” captures the classic liberal arts college artsy frustration. What makes this song possibly the best of the album is the auditory simplicity but complex arrangement and odd lyrics.

“Days That Got Away,” the seventh song of the album, has some interesting effects and feels to me like walking dizzily around a big city. It’s busy and confusing but still homogeneous somehow. The lyrics are “days that got away” on loop and even the dreamy voices feel isolated. If it is a trip, it is not quite a good one. There’s nothing to hold onto.

Andino added a different opinion: “for me ‘Little Dark Age’ and ‘When You Die’ are two of the nicer ones in the album.” I agree that “When You Die” is the closest MGMT got to their earlier vibes. “When You Die” has suicidal lyrics and explicit language in a distorted and psychedelic vehicle so listen with caution.

Oracular Spectacular is still my favorite album of the band and Little Dark Age doesn’t really come close. The band’s first album opens with the simple riff of “Time to Pretend,” dreamy, soft, and vibrant like a drugged smoothie in Palm Beach. Little Dark Age lost the simplicity but that’s okay; times are complicated and America is busy. Little Dark Age is not “dancey,” but maybe MGMT delivered on the album that the country needs now.

 

Who is Clayton Spencer?

Clayton Spencer is a name immediately familiar to anyone who knows Bates College. She is Bates’ eighth president as well as a great fundraiser, but we want to know more about the lady behind Bates and how she got here.

Growing up in the South, Spencer’s father was president of two different colleges. Living on these campuses exposed Spencer to new ideas and passions. She remarks, “growing up on a college campus in a small town was fabulous because every time a speaker or visitor came to campus they would come to our house for dinner, and I was very fascinated with the adult conversations…”

When it came time for college, Spencer knew she wanted to go to an institution that valued the liberal arts style of education. “I grew up with a model: you went to a liberal arts college for college, because you wanted the close relationship with faculty, and then in graduate or professional school, go to the best one you can find, right?” Spencer tells.

Williams College provided her  wtih a positive undergraduate education, one marked by close faculty relationships and the liberal arts style of education for which she was looking. Oxford University, which exposed her to a different type of learning style, was next on the educational docket.

After spending the first twenty-five years of her life on college or university campuses, Spencer believed she would pursue a career as an academic. Instead, she pivoted in her career path, opting for law school after Oxford University.

“I grew up thinking I’d be a straight academic, and then I became so interested in the world that it felt like law was a better choice for me. But even when I went to law school, I said that I wanted to work in education, and I imagined that I might want to be a university general counsel,” she notes. She worked her first year out of Yale law school as a clerk, then at a firm doing litigation, and finally as a federal prosecutor.

“Those were all good experiences that, in one sense, toughened me up as a professional, but I also knew deep in my heart that it wasn’t purposeful work for me. It wasn’t work that was aligned with who I am. So, I really came alive when I left being a prosecutor and went to Washington and was chief education counsel for Senator Kennedy—that was fabulous, because that was the intersection of law and education…” admits Spencer.

After working in Washington in the Senate at the junction of law and education, she and her family, moved back up to Boston where she was offered a consulting job by the Head of Government Relations and Communications at Harvard.

Her stint at Harvard lasted fifteen years and was “pure joy” with the trials and tribulations that any job has. Working there allowed her to use the skills learned on Capitol Hill, but also provided an avenue for her to be around higher education again, the flow of ideas. According to Spencer, most jobs have a shelf life, so when the fifteen-year mark at Harvard came around, she started looking for a new challenge.

But why Bates? Why go back to the small liberal arts world when you have already gotten acclimated to places like Oxford, Yale, and Harvard?

In her own words Spencer notes, “I have an irrational passion for Maine. I love Maine…For me, New England had always had a romance to it, and once you’re in New England, then you pick the most romantic state: it’s this big, naturally beautiful state with mountains and ocean and moose…I’m a cliché. I’m a summer person who thought Maine was all about those summer experiences, and of course, you realize the reality of Maine is much more complex. But as far as I’m concerned, it makes it much more interesting. I had a secret fascination, and compulsion to go to Maine, and everybody knew this about me.”

Spencer, the southerner turned Mainer, knew she wanted to make a life for herself in this corner of New England. When the position for President of Bates opened, she jumped at the chance.

“What is best about Bates long predated me,” she notes. “But my job is to bring strength to strength, to make the institution stronger by the time I leave than it was when I got here in a variety of ways, and hopefully to have joy and colleagueship while that’s going on.”

Elbadawi ’18 and Hopkins ’18 Showcase Diverse Approaches to Dance Theses

Everyone knows thesis: it’s the project that we work towards for three years; the culmination of our academic careers.

Sofi Elbadawi ’18 is one such senior who is currently working on choreographing her dance thesis this semester. She explains that she got her inspiration when she choreographed a duet for the fall Back to Bates Dance Concert with fellow dance major Riley Hopkins ’18, in which they danced to popular love songs.

She explains, “While I was doing preliminary research about love songs, I stumbled upon a TED Talk by Mary Len Catron called ‘What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Love.’ In this talk, Catron argues that the metaphors we use to talk about love equate the experience to violence, sickness, or mental illness. She specifically deconstructs certain phrases, like ‘to fall in love,’ ‘to burn with passion,’ ‘heartbreak,’ ‘being crazy in love,’ and ‘love-struck.’ When I listened to love songs again after hearing this TED Talk, I was fascinated by how often these metaphors appeared.”

Just like with theses in any other academic department, there is intense research that goes into a Dance thesis that helps students mold testing questions, which the project strives to answer. For Elbadawi, she decided to explore three main questions: “Can the subtle, underlying violence in common metaphors for love be exposed through physical exploration and embodiment of these metaphors? How do metaphors inform the way we understand the concept of love? How can movement be used to exaggerate and juxtapose the cheesiness, clichés and hyper-romanticism of the language of love songs?” To answer these questions, Elbadawi put together a cast of five students – Hopkins, Peter Cottingham ’18, Ellie Madwed ’20, Libby Wellington ’20, and Danielle Ward ’20 – who would all be part of the dance process. These members act as equal parts support and sounding board throughout the project.

A seasoned member of the Dance Department, Elbadawi is no stranger to choreographing and engaging in creative dance processes. Over her college career, she has participated and created many dance pieces. But, thesis presents different challenges.

She explains that, “This project is similar to previous pieces I have choreographed, as I used the same tools and methods to generate movement that I have used in the past…However, my thesis is much longer and much more intensively researched than anything I have created in the past. It also deals with a more musically-based sound score than I typically tend to use.” Working on a senior thesis is a unique experience in every Batesie’s academic career. Advisors push us harder and empower us to expect more out of ourselves.

Hopkins took a different route with his thesis, choosing to perform Trisha Brown’s piece “Foray Foret” solo. This thesis process is different from Elbadawi and others. He notes, “My thesis process has been a continuous navigation of the unknown, to be honest. My thesis research is focused on the performance of this piece that I learned, whereas every other dance thesis before me has been focused on original student choreography.”

Through self-reflection and outside research, Hopkins finds that, “I enjoy being watched as a dancer. I love being a spectacle. I perform because it excites me to see how I can leave an impression on the audience, no matter what that impression may be. There’s an interesting dichotomy between being an objectified body on stage – one that is purely looked at from the outside – and being a subjective agent that connects with the audience by somehow being relatable.” In more technical terms, he follows the thought process of “kinesthetic empathy,” a theory which explores that the audience can relate to movements they see because it seems attainable in their own bodies. He uses this theory to “cross the line from being an objectified body to a subjective agent on stage.”

Bates encourages diversity of thought and fosters new ways to approach topics. “I’m gaining a lot from this process so far,” states Hopkins. “No one really does research on performance here, just choreography and theory. I’m excited to pioneer this new opportunity for future dance majors and show people the benefits of scholarly performance.” Hopkins shows that the thesis project can be used as a way to explore new areas of dance.

Elbadawi and Hopkins, though taking different routes, are getting the most out of the senior thesis experience; they are both driving a project from inception to conclusion.

 

Portland Museum of Art Biennial Explores Contemporary Art

Walking around the Portland Museum of Art 2018 Biennial Exhibit, I happened to be thinking about what a museum is. The definition by the books popped in my head: museums collect, conserve, and interpret objects. But as it often happens, after a few seconds, I realized that this model is limited, and that museums today do much more than that; the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) certainly collects, conserves, and interprets art, but the collaborative nature of the Biennial seems to have added something more. In the show, over 60 works of art on display represent an active, diverse, and diffused network of living artists that are connected to Maine. Representing 25 artists that had never shown at the PMA Biennials, guest curator Nat May facilitated a show that creates, reflects, and promotes unique narratives that find the state of Maine as their point of encounter. In an informal talk with May, his interest for letting artists speak up and represent their own works was evident. More than simply collecting, conserving, and interpreting art on its own terms, the PMA Biennial provides a space for artistic life to be celebrated.

It is sometimes easy to lose sight and forget that a museum is a part of a community. There are plenty of stories. Omer Fast’s installation at the James Cohan Gallery in Chinatown pops in my mind as a moment when artist and administrator imagined art institutions as entities separate from the world that surrounds it. Fast attempted to have a site-specific installation by recreating a shop in Chinatown based on Fast’s imagined audience, without really collaborating with his real audience, the community surrounding the James Cohan Gallery in New York. The result was protests and poor reception for a number of reasons. How is an art institution to provide a genuine learning experience if it never truly goes beyond its walls? This is where art institutions that lack collaboration can fail. On the other end of the spectrum seems to be the PMA Biennial, which is intentionally aware of Maine communities and artists, its main public. Nat May, who was also the former executive director of SPACE Gallery in Portland, built his career getting to know artists in the state and seemed to be very committed to representing these artists in a collaborative and authentic way.

The results of collaboration are visible in the installation and content of the exhibition. As one enters the exhibition, the first painting is “The Twork – Torkwase Dyson,” by Angela Dufresne. The large painting of a black woman is visually striking; the vivid green background and form traditional of a court painting already demonstrate the interesting nature of the exhibition as a whole, subverting and re-appropriating narratives and identities that have historically been either misrepresented or absent. “The Republic of Hysteria,” by Anne Buckwalter has a similar political milieu; the grid of gouache and oil paintings on paper reimagines femininity by rewriting narratives of the female body and animality, subverting the negative connotations of the animal-like. Near Buckwalter’s art piece is “Reis Education Canoe,” by David Moses Bridge and Steve Cayard, a Wabanaki traditional demonstration birch-bark canoe. Nat May mentioned that this work is a mark of how knowledge flows in our contemporary society, since the indigenous knowledge of how to build these canoes seemed to have been partially lost or fragmented, but was able to be collaboratively reclaimed by Bridge and Cayard. Together, I would argue that these three pieces represent the complicated theme that emerged through collaboration in the Portland Museum of Art 2018 Biennial. They show the deeply collaborative nature of art making, curation, interpretation, and distribution, which exists not as an “art world” separate from the real world in which we live.

The Portland Museum of Art 2018 Biennial is visibly contemporary. A quick look around and one sees installation pieces that combine multiple art objects, re-imaginings of WWI material culture, subverted “court portraits,” reinterpreted symbols of gender, classic painting form with contemporary content, and objects that mark the flow of indigenous knowledge. One of the strengths of the Biennial is that multimedia art coexists in a space that allows the audience to engage with a body of contemporary art without the obscurity of academic writing. Even the catalog essay is collaborative, constituted of transcribed interviews rather than an individual curatorial take. Saying that the personal is political seems redundant and collecting, conserving, and interpreting seems like a very limited list of verbs to describe the PMA Biennial; beyond those words, the Biennial is simultaneously responding to and defining new contemporary problems.

 

Mayor Bouchard’s Letter Rattles the Community

On February 28, Lewiston’s mayor, Shane Bouchard, sent a letter out to 221 people, Bates students and community members alike, that can be understood as voter intimidation or an attempt to subdue the vote.

This is not the first time a letter has been sent out to Bates students seeming to attack their constitutional right to vote. The Sun Journal reported a similar incident that occurred on November 5, 2016 wherein orange fliers were disseminated throughout the campus erroneously telling students that in order to vote, they must have a valid driver’s license registered in Maine. That same year, there was a movement to change the date of the vote to June, which would have precluded many Bates students from voting.

Zach Guion ’19, President of Bates Democrats, notes that following Ben Chin’s first run for mayor in 2016, “the local Republican Party sought to move local elections from November to June. Some of them claimed it was to make it easier for folks who spend their winters in Florida to vote, but others were very open about the fact that it was directed at Bates students who had voted.” The Republican party spun this issue as a means for snowbirds to vote, hiding its true goal.

Peggy Rotundo, Director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives at the Harward Center and former member of both the State House and Senate, sees a concerning pattern that was evident before the most recent letter. “In my sixteen years in the Legislature, it seemed that the Republicans sponsored legislation each session designed to make it harder for out of state students to vote in Maine,” Rotundo notes.

In his most recent letter, Mayor Bouchard states in the second paragraph that he wants to remind the registered voters of Lewiston that there are “certain duties” that accompany the right to vote.

For example, he states that “[b]y registering to vote in Lewiston, you have declared residency in Maine, which has consequences for compliance with other Maine laws. If you drive a car in Maine, you are required to obtain a Maine driver’s license within thirty days of establishing residency…” The letter goes on to state that “[d]riving without a Maine license more than ninety days after establishing residency is a crime under Maine law.”

In a statement made directly to The Bates Student, Mayor Bouchard maintains, “[t]he letter is purely informational. The information is accurate. No group was targeted for any nefarious purposes.”

The Bates Republicans say that “[t]he fact that less than half of the letters were sent to Bates students makes the narrative that this was a targeted effort difficult to believe.”

When asked bluntly if this letter was an intimidation tactic to prevent Bates students from voting in further elections, Mayor Bouchard did not have a concise response.

Instead, he answered the question with questions of his own: “how is a letter that went out to all newly registered voters across the city to be construed as aimed at students?” and “how is an outline of what is legally required of new registrants at all intimidating?”

In the letter Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap sent to Mayor Bouchard on March 9, Secretary Dunlap unpacks the mayor’s statement and puts the letter into context.

Secretary Dunlap writes, “[w]hile the letter’s contents are indeed factual, I must observe that the respective processes are not relational; constructing them as such leaves the right to vote as subordinate to bureaucratic checklists – which neither the constitution nor the statues template – and further it does seem to be a rather awkward way to welcome new residents into a community.” Secretary Dunlap goes on to say, “[w]hile you cite the requirements in law accurately, what is not included is any information that ties these requirements to voting. U.S. citizens who have reached the age of majority have, in the State of Maine, an unquestionable right to vote.”

That last sentence is key: not having a Maine driver’s license does not preclude a person from voting.  Secretary Dunlap further notes that connecting the need to register a car in Maine and the right to vote “…only arouses unfounded fear in the minds of the voting public, and is a disservice to the public discourse.”  The letter sent by Mayor Bouchard, while not technically incorrect, blurs the lines between two different segments of the law, with the result of intimidating its recipients.  For example, residency is not voluntary “established,” it happens when a person moves to a new place, therefore it is not a crime to drive in Maine without a Maine license.

Kristen Cloutier, City Council President worries over Mayor Bouchard’s “lack of transparency” in this letter.  Cloutier emphasizes that this letter was sent out on behalf of the mayor only, not the entire City Council and the mayor did not alert the rest of City Council to its publication prior to its mailing.  Since the letter was sent on behalf of the mayor, rather than City Council, and it was printed on City of Lewiston supplies, it could be construed as a misappropriation of city funds.

Brian Wauford ’18, a recipient of Mayor Bouchard’s “welcome,” commented that “[w]hen I first read the letter I was really panicked, it made me initially regret registering to vote. I was especially worried because the letter directly quoted a stature from the Maine law.”

Quoting law that many students do not fully understand makes it easier to believe that the intent of the letter was to cause unease in the community, specifically towards the more liberal voting demographic of the Bates community.

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