Art that helps me see and address my shortcomings:
Fear of Failure/Self-Doubt → Confidence
These are a few of the mediums that have influenced how I think about failure. My attitude of persistence and tenacity has been defined in part due to the below books, poetry, and music. My optimistic and cheerful mien can also be attributed to the art I am exposed to.
Good Enough by Paula Yoo (book)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (book)
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (book)
"What Kind of Asian Are You?” by Alex Dang (poetry)
“Packing for the Future” By Lorna Crozier (poetry)
“Best Day of My Life” by American Authors (music)
Spotlight: Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume (book)
This is a book I read in the 3rd grade, from which I learned to embrace what makes me different. The main character in this book, Cornelia, is the lonely child of two musicians, who find solace in words. Cornelia’s aptitude for language sets her apart from her peers, but finds herself a friend in a new neighbor, an elderly woman who regales Cornelia with tales from her youth. I wouldn’t define myself as shy, but similar to Cornelia, I find it difficult to connect with others easily. This book taught me to put myself in difficult, uncomfortable situations, and gave me the confidence to be more outgoing.
Procrastination → Smart Work
I am and always have been a hard worker. However, a lesson I still struggle to learn is how to work smart, not hard. Smart work, entailing time management and organization, is the key to success in not only school, but also everything else I am involved in, from playing tennis to playing my clarinet. Below are a few mediums that have taught me to redefine what I view as work and understand the implications of procrastination. While I still struggle daily to practice the concept of delayed gratification, these have inspired me and have given me the tools to change my habits.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (book)
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (book)
“Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” by Tim Urban (TED Talk)
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson (book)
The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (sculpture)
Spotlight: “Postcard” by Frank Ticheli (music)
This uniquely challenging piece was one I played with my band in 10th grade. Up to date, it is the hardest piece of music I have successfully performed, and it represents months of practice and dedication. This piece represents the difficulties and joys of the learning process; to learn a skill or concept, we must always start with the basics, no exceptions, and once learned, the skill/concept must be practiced until flawless.
Stubbornness and Hubris → Selflessness and Empathy
Pride and a single-minded focus are not necessarily bad, if one also practices the complementary traits of selflessness and empathy. My difficulty is finding the balance. To what extent should I remain uncompromising and driven by self-interest, and to what extent must I sacrifice what I want to what is right? These mediums, especially The Mahabharata, help me understand not only the facets of my personality, but also my role in society.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (book)
“Stories of Akbar and Birbal” (animated cartoons)
The Onion (website)
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (play)
Heidi by Johanna Spyri (book)
Bhagavad Gita (ancient epic/book)
Spotlight: The Mahabharata (ancient epic/book)
I consider myself to be religious person, and one reason for this is that I believe that religion provides us with a moral compass and general guidelines on how to live. Having been raised with the stories of Lord Rama, Krishna, and the Pandavas, I feel that it is only natural that I take these stories to heart and allow them to shape my view of myself and the world. Reading the Mahabharata, an ancient epic that describes a war between the families (the Kauravas and the Pandavas) of two brothers, I was taught the dangers of arrogance, jealousy, and lack of discipline. I was also taught that what is right for me may not be right for someone else- the concepts of right and wrong are not as easily defined as I naïvely believed them to be.
Written by Sree Y.
Thoughts on the Cultural and Personal Value of ‘In(di)visible’ at The Station Museum of Contemporary Art
The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, as I wrote the first time I wrote for this blog, is the kind of space that contextualizes art in order to inspire deep cultural and ideological impact. With their new show, In(di)visible, The Station has once again pulled together an art exhibition that does just that and more.
I think about it even now, weeks after I attended the opening with a couple of friends. I remember that on the ride home from the museum that night, the three of us sat in complete silence, each of us drawn into ourselves like springs retracting after being stretched too far. Looking for some kind of reconciliation with our feelings through an understanding we were not very likely to find. That sense of pulling, at least for me, began the moment we walked through those gallery doors. It was the effect of being drawn into and through an exhibition operating on a multitude of artistic, emotional, and intellectual levels. It was the kind of show that forces you to think, to feel, and then to repeatedly challenge those thoughts and feelings.
It would be worthless to try to describe the exhibition itself, for at the core of its ability to so deeply impact the viewer is the way in which each piece so intimately conveys its own narrative as a part of the larger story, through the physical space and in conversation with the viewer. It is a story that needs to be told personally, the kind that gains meaning only by virtue of its being told and retold, given a space in which to exist. This is how it creates change on an individual level, in hope for change on a higher, cultural level. It gives voices to those previously silenced and challenges the unilateral narrative that is Western history. It is the tales of the old and the young, first and second generation immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and more, told from a variety of perspectives and conveying a multitude of ideologies. These are the stories of the subaltern set center stage. In action, this exhibition is the very embodiment of its name—the act of unifying ‘invisible’ people and giving them absolute autonomy in the telling and creating of their past, present, and future.
To walk through this exhibition, then, is to engage the entirety of your humanity with the humanity of their experiences. To feel time and space collapse somehow when history is terrifyingly similar to the present. Although not Asian, as an immigrant myself I found that this exhibition forced me to look into a part of that experience I had been reluctant to challenge before. And thus, with my head against the car window on that exceptionally foggy night, riding down dimly lit streets that all looked almost the same, I found that the ambiguity of space right then was ironic. I couldn’t help but think, over and over, about why it hurts us so much. Why, when space changes, and cultures converge, we are so afraid. Why we are forced to choose between cultures, between nations, between mother lands and mother tongues and places and languages that are new to us.
I cannot say that I have any answers, although I feel at least closer to at least understanding where these challenges come from and why they matter. And so I would say that, regardless of your thoughts or knowledge on immigration, Asian American culture and history, and even art, these are questions worth asking, and this exhibition is one worth seeing.
Written by Ana Paula P.
Two weeks ago, late on Friday night, I found myself sitting on the edge of the stage in the basement at Sid Rich college. The walls, bright red as they are, somehow told me this was a good place to be that night. The echoes of the space were somehow a comfort where the music bounced around the few bodies inside. At around 11:30, there were already only four of us left in the room, taking in the dimness and the emptiness where before had been light and music and chatter. And it felt good. Really, really good.
This was a space whose existence I’d discovered barely three weeks earlier—it is now a space where I remember one of the greatest nights of my time at Rice so far. There hadn’t been a party; no solo cups, LED lights, or beer-sticky floors and bodies. What we had was the result of an idea, three weeks of hard work, and Cavity’s first student art show of the academic year.
Cavity, a small coalition of student artists and art-lovers, was a concept placed in our hands by three upperclassmen who, in a space of two weeks last spring, did more for student art at Rice than anyone else had for a long, long time. It was—and is—the result of minds coming together to do something where there was a need for it. Not just chatter and idealism, but walls and bodies in real time. Where Rice University turned away from providing us with the time and space for student art that so many of us want, they said we won’t stand it.
One night during dead days in the spring, they proved that they meant what they said, and on that night two weeks ago, in a place as seemingly unlikely as Sid’s basement, we proved it again. We found a space and made one of the most powerful connections I’ve ever felt—student to student, all of us who wanted to fill that space together. It was small, but it was ours, and it was covered to every aspect of its capacity with the things we all created. On those crazy red, black, and yellow walls there were paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, projections, lights, and words. There was a dance performance, a journal to draw on, a stage anyone could step up to and make something of their own (they painted furniture we’d literally picked up off the streets, and let me tell you, it looks pretty damn cool). A sculpture hung from the ceiling, and even the empty air around our heads eventually became full as students DJ-ed and beatboxed throughout the night. It was all ours. I’ll never get over how exciting that was, honestly.
No, it wasn’t easy, and it was far from perfect. It was a lot of running around helplessly, taking the longer way around, some canvases falling off walls, and a few messes (we somehow ended up with Oreo cheesecake and Oreos). It wasn’t neat or glamorous, but the beauty of it, and what I’m here to write about, wasn’t in that. It was in the people who—when we thought about student art and said this is something we care about—responded with hey, we do, too, and proved it. That was all it took, and it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever felt. It was a kind of comradeship unlike any other, the feeling of bringing something to life, to live alongside the things other minds brought to life, and watching them all run off together and be.
I think, in the end, that it was an art in itself, and it was all thanks to all of you, who heard us and listened.
Thank you for filling that space with us.
There is more to come, and it is always for you.
Written by Ana Paula P.
All photos from The Station Museum of Contemporary Art website. Torture by Andres Serrano is on display through October 8th. Admission is free.
From the outside, the Station doesn’t call to you, it doesn’t welcome you—it stands there and it waits.
And when it’s done waiting, inside it’s almost just like any other gallery; light, polished wood and white walls, bouncing spotlights and the echoes of words spoken inside off of each other. But these walls move, because this space is about the art, first and foremost, and so with every new exhibit they are torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the incoming work. And so, it is also different from any gallery you’ve ever seen.
1502, on the Corner of Alabama and La Branch. This is the Station Museum of Contemporary Art.
It stands as a small warehouse in Houston’s Third Ward, where the roads are at least three different colors of repaved asphalt, and the number of wires crossing from post to post above them feels a little claustrophobic. It’s the kind of place where it feels like the sky should always be gray, because anything else just wouldn’t make sense. Just like the wire metal mosque and worn out billboard in front of it don’t really make sense, at first. But it is all there—inside and outside its walls—for a reason, and every piece of art has something to say.
Currently these walls hold Torture, a controversial photography exhibit by Andres Serrano, in which a combination of staged photographs, portraits, and still life shots displayed in massive prints reveal to us a dark and convoluted narrative of torture in the modern world. It is, by no accident, a political, active, and incendiary work.
As told in the exhibit’s introductory literature, Torture was born in the walls of The Foundry, an obscure experimental space in a commune of southwest France. To produce his staged images, Serrano hired models who allowed him to submit them to shackling, humiliation, and “degrading positions” with the help of military personnel, thus blurring the line between staging and reality, asking How much is too much?
And there is a whole other level of contextualization to this narrative—a powerful statement in the inclusion of images of real torture survivors, historical torture sites, and portraits of political figures with links to torture controversies. Indeed, like Serrano himself, the Station Museum is no stranger to controversy. It is not their goal to seek it out, but they will not run anywhere but towards their pursuit of creative and expressive freedom. Their mission is indicative of this, undoubtedly proud:
“The Station Museum upholds the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The museum is an activist institution supporting civil society issues as well as artists who engage in social, political, aesthetic, economic, and/or spiritual content and expressions.”
Serrano’s Torture arguably occupies all of these adjectives. To see his work is to feel and to think somewhere dark—to find discomfort in something beautiful, so that we walk through it and around it, and most importantly, so that we cannot ignore it.
Wandering through the exhibit on a class field trip a few weeks ago, I felt the overwhelming presence of a narrative that needed to be told, and was able to do exactly that inside of those frames and on those walls. My body and the bodies of these photographs shared the same space, and, maybe only by some long stretch of my imagination, I felt that my body and the bodies of the individual people suspended in those photographs shared the same space.We shared stories without words, and they told me something I didn’t know before.
And so I think there is something to be said for space, for how Torture’s current residence in The Station Museum is a marriage of art and place united towards a common goal. Just as much as the space means nothing without the art, the art is arguably nothing without its walls. Whether it is in this place or another a thousand miles away, the art does not, in the end, exist to its full extent without this physicality. Without a place to hold the viewer, there cannot be a viewer, and without them, does anyone ever hear what the artist is saying?
I can’t help but think back to our own art community at Rice, and about how our lack of student art spaces is nothing short of an insult. It is another voice, an administrative one that says, Your art will not exist because we do not want to hear it. But we, the students, do. And we will. Just like at the Station Museum, there are places—places hidden from view, that need us to find them—where the walls are shifting and ready to be filled. These conversations are just beginning.
For now, I find comfort in this: there are places out there that don’t sell themselves to us, but that does not mean we cannot find them. Spaces where narratives are unfolding at a million miles per hour—where art is coming into contact with the world outside, kicking and screaming. Where it comes into contact with you, to kick and scream at you until you hear what it has to say. Where art and artist and viewer share a space and say We want to feel, and talk, and think about this, whatever this is. Where we are not passive.
These spaces are close to you. Find them. Make them.
Written by Ana Paula P.