“Fluid” seems to be the best way I can describe Ms Zaha Hadid’s works. Her work is awesome, carrying forward the deconstructivism style of Libeskind.



And that goes for her shoes as well:

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옛날 옛날에 민들레 꽃이 있었어요. 추울 때 해가 꽃에게 따뜻하게 포옹하고, 목이 마를 때 비가 꽃에게 물을 주고, 외로울 때 하늘에서 별이 많이 나고, 음악을 듣고 싶을 때 새들이 꽃에게 노래를 부르고…모든 것이 민들레가 행복했어요.

어느 날 어떤 이상한 꽃이 민들레 옆에서 자랐어요. 이 꽃이 예쁜 색깔을 입고 아주 외래 식물이었어요.

“안녕.” 민들레가 먼저 말했어요. “너, 뭐야?”

“나는 야생 화라고 불러. 나는 아주 아름다운 꽃이야. 사람들이 나를 사랑하고 공원에서 나를 심어.”

“와, 좋겠다!” 하고 민들레가 말했어요. “나도 공원을 보고싶다.”

“너? 너는 흙을 욕심하게 다 먹고, 너 너무 미워가지고 사람들이 너를 죽어버려.”

“아니야!” 그리고 민들레가 울었어요. 마음이 상했고 민들레가 스스로 아주 미운 꽃이라고 생각했습니다.

어느 날 어떤 남자가 민들레를 땅에서 잡아 뜯었어요.

“아이고! 인제 내가 죽을꺼야!” 하고 민들레가 생각했어요. 이 남자가 공기를 내뿡자, 민들레의 씨가 다 날아갔어요.

첫번 씨가 천장에서 자랐습니다. 천장은 시체로 뒤덮여 있었어요. 민들레가 시체를 보고 생각했어요: “사람들이 다른 사람들을 죽인다. 사람들이 민들레를 죽이고, 사람을 죽이고, 동물도 죽이고…하지만 사람들이 죽으면 한번만 죽다. 민들레는 죽으면 영원히 살수있다.”

다른 씨가 동물원에서 자랐다. 야생 동물은 감금된 상태에서 가끔 답답해서, 자유로운 상태를 열망해요. 민들레가 생각했어요: “나는 미운 꽃이지만 내가 바깥에서 하고 싶은 것을 할 자유가 있다. 하늘, 흙, 바람과 함께…… 여기에 있는 동물들이 아주 고귀한 동물들인데 행복하지 않아요. 나는 자유럽게 살아서 행복해요.”

마지막 씨가 숲속에서 잘았어요. 어느 날 어떤 남자가 나타났어요.

“안녕. 너 누구니?” 하고 민들레가 말했어요.

“난 모르겠어요. 마음이 아주 복잡하고 아무도 내 정체를 모르기를 바래고…나는 혈혈다신이에요…”

“아, 나도 옛날에 똑같이 생각했어요. 미래는 암울해 보였어요.”

“민들레, 옛날에 내가 어떤 민들레에게 소원 성취를 빌었어요. 아직 까지 이루지 못한 소원이었다. 좋은 친구를 원했는데 그것은 어직 까지 불가능 한 꿈이었어요. 다른 사람들이 나를 알아 오고 있지만 사람들에게 있어서 그는 여전히 완전 수수께끼이에요. 나는 세상 사람들과 어울리려 하지 않났어. 하지만 나는 민들레와 닮았어. 민들레, 나랑 같이 친구가 될래? 그럼 내 꿈이 실혀됄거야.”

이 말을 듣고 민들레가 웃었어요.

“이 것이 네 운명이야. 운명대로 이루어진거야. 우리 마음 안에서 혼돈이 많이 있고 어떤때는 죽음을 바라는 마음이 있지. 옛날에 나도 죽음에 직면한 생각이 있었어. 하지만 우리 다 좋은 운명을 찾아가지고 자신있게 살수 있어. 이 남자 꿈을 내가 만들었고, 인제 내가 이 꿈을 이루어 줄꺼야. 운명히 우리를 만나게 했다. 내가 영원히 살아도 돼.”

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Here is a picture of Sang Mi Ahn and performers from last night’s “Metro Graffiti” performance:

From left to right: pianist Chappell Kingsland, trumpetist George Brahler, choreographer Courtney Ramm, composer Sang Mi Ahn, bassist Celeste Schulman, conductor William White, saxophonist Corey Dundee, percussionist Brian McNulty

The premiere of Sang Mi Ahn’s “Metro Graffiti” is not a true bona fide premiere in that the piece was already performed two nights ago during a composition recital in Auer Hall; however, this is the first time the public gets to witness what Ms Ahn and her musicians have been witnessing in private — a visual manifestation of the piece with the help of 25 dancers who bring the ideas behind “Metro Graffiti” to life. After her piece was performed during the compositional recital, Ahn received enthusiastic accolades from her audience for her first jazz-inspired piece. Although she claims being somewhat unfamiliar with the genres of jazz and blues, she felt moved to compose a piece in that style and in a span of a few months, “Metro Graffiti” was brought into being.

It is difficult to believe that Ahn has never composed in the jazz style prior to “Metro Graffiti.” Her work possesses a finesse and kinetic energy that is difficult to find in even more experienced jazz composers and arrangers. Rhythmic vitality and a sonorous tenor saxophone solo — played by the wonderfully talented Corey Dundee — against the backdrop of piano, percussion, trumpet, and double bass lend an atmophere of constant movement and flux. Elements of jazz are sprinkled everywhere from the improvisatory-like soloistic sections to the colorful open sonorities, exhibiting the overall aura of freedom. Still, Ahn was hesitant to describe the piece as “jazz” because of her insecurity that she did not know enough about the genre to label it as such. “This piece is for jazz instruments,” she told her performers during rehearsal, “but it is not a jazz piece.” Her musicians, knowing better, laughed.

The image used on the cover of Ahn's "Metro Graffiti" by the talented Jir Shin Boey

The 25 dance member cast from IU’s Contemporary Dance Program composes the largest dance ensemble in the Hammer and Nail compositional gala where compositions from the Jacobs School of Music are brought to life through the collaborative efforts of dance and music. Ahn originally did not bargain for such a large group, but through the efforts of the dancer who was initally assigned to her, Ahn now possesses the largest dance troupe. Choreographer Courtney Ramm had them act out the bustle of everyday city life in accordance to Ahn’s vision. Ahn imagined, during her compositional process, a scene in the metro subway where businessmen and women, street musicians, students, teenagers set a pantheon where, despite being in the same crowded space, each are in their own worlds. Businessmen in trenchcoats talk into cell phones, a lone girl idolizes the street musician, students listen to their mp3 players, commuters grab their coffees. The atmosphere is busy and depicts their rush, their stress-laden routine doomed to contine the next day and the day after that in a hectic, neverending cycle.

Because of this, “Metro Graffiti” is not, say, a piece you would find on Miles Davis’ smooth-serene Kind of Blue, but that it precisely the point. Fast rhythmic passages propel motion and the bustle of repeated notes in the sax and trumpet in the outer sections represents routine. Everything is continually charged and driven, depicting a scene the imagination can readily conjure. Even though the dancers add spectacular imagery to the piece, Ahn’s “Metro Graffiti” does not need them to evoke the vision of hectic city life.

As for the image of graffiti itself, Ahn decribes that very eloquently:

At certain subway stations, one can see graffiti that had been created by anonymous artists. While graffiti had in the past been associated with vandalism, it is increasingly appreciated as a form of art that enlivens the city through its vivid color and dynamic shapes.

The performance of “Metro Graffiti” at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre with the 25 dancers is nothing short of dynamic. The lead dancers possess a unique way of moving that simultaneously exhibits electricity and grace. Mechanical movements of the businessmen glancing at their watches, turning their heads, contrast with the fluid movements of tourists and one love-struck girl listening to the saxophone street musician. Although I tried my best to capture a few photos, I was sitting far up in the balcony so the guards wouldn’t kick me out for sneaking out the Canon Powershot I pilfered from the library, resulting in the compromised quality of the shots.

Stoic lines contrast with fluid movements, a stage where the rigid and the expressive mesh.

Straight lines of businessmen and women to the right contrast with the free movements of the tourists.

 

Saxophonist Corey Dundee walks onstage

Final bow of the 25 dancers

The one thing that was lacking was in the acoustics. The Buskirk-Chumley venue did not aid the sound as freely as Auer Hall did, resulting in a drier tone. In Auer Hall, Dundee’s tone absolutely soared but in the Buskirk, the balance of sound was muffled. Ahn’s “Metro Graffiti,” when given the proper stage, has a free open quality that was regrettably amiss in the Buskirk venue.

What sets Ahn apart from her peers is not only her ability to listen for unique sounds and ideas, but her humility that makes her accessible and easy to converse with. Despite having legions of bragging rights — and she has them — she is modest about her gifts and goes out her way to help her performers and musicians. She helps percussionist Brian McNulty move his equipment, to which he expresses his gratitude, saying she is the first composer to do such a thing. Despite having a modest income, she buys dinner for her performers — gourmet pizza one day, subs the next, and Turkish food for the final rehearsal, keeping in the mind the vegetarians of the group. And despite already being a prolific composer, she is bold to experiment with other genres with an open mind, whether it be her classical-based ensembles, choral works, her jazz piece, or her more recent delvings in electronic music. The diversity of her compositions is a testament not only to her talent but also her willingness to learn and build. With each piece she is intimate, and reaches out to her audience to pull them in and offer a glimpse of the worlds she imagines, and the sentiments she feels.

From onstage, I can count the number of standing ovations after the final strains of Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth) have faded into the ether. About half of the audience in Auer Hall are on their feet, applauding and smiling. I want them to sit back down.

Today’s concert consisted of two orchestra-chorus numbers, Szymanowski’s Stabat Matar and Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden. The Jacobs Music School at Indiana University, despite having a smattering of contemporary ensembles, usually does not extend many opportunities to perform works such as these, especially to students unable to enroll in contemporary music groups. We started rehearsing the two pieces on Monday, and because of the rarity of rehearsing such works, the events of Saturday were an especial shock. There we were, rehearsing the work of one of Poland’s most prominent composers who, despite all credentials, does not get performed very often in the States. It seemed like such horrible, ironic timing, the coinciding of the crash and our performance.

I wrote an email to the Conductor’s Orchestra organizing the event, and told them to please consider dedicating today’s performance to the victims of the Polish airplane crash and their families, as the opportunity to use Szymanowski to express our condolences was very fitting. I received an enthusiastic response back from one of the conductors who unfortunately was not conducting anything in the program. He told me he would ask the main conductor and push him to do this.

Shortly before showtime, I met the main conductor in the elevator and asked him if he did decide to dedicate our performance to the tragedy. His response, surprisingly, was very apathetic and whimsical. The other conductor who answered my email told me that he was completely behind me, and that he would ask once more.

Unfortunately, the main conductor bestowed upon the audience two wonderful works without any acknowledgement of the situation in Poland. He had intentionally missed a golden opportunity to address and alleviate grief and confusion through our art — one of the most important aspects, I personally feel, of what we do. As it was, our performance simply became a job. Instead of feeling like what I was performing had meaning, I felt the emptiness, and the potential for the event to be so much more than what it was. I felt disappointment in the conductor’s attitude, who gave the impression of thinking that the tragedy is a Polish tragedy instead of a universal tragedy. I felt disappointment that the performance existed in its own medium, instead of being used to show our respects to the Polish amid their time of difficulty.

From grasping snippets of conversation from some singers and audience members, they too felt the same. Some even found it very odd that the crises in Poland was not addressed, especially since we were performing Szymanowski’s Stabat Matar and the Schoenberg also leaned towards that atmosphere of peace and reconciliation.

In many aspects today’s music exists in a state removed from the politics/events/culture of the present (unlike, say, the 19th century) and when given the opportunity to use it to address the uncertainties or situations of our world, it is a complete shame when it is turned down. There was so much potential for the event to actually mean something, but unfortunately, that opportunity is now forever lost.

Various posters for my favorite movie: Park Chan-Wook’s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, the third installment of his Vengeance Trilogy (the second, Oldboy, won the most international acclaim and the heart of Quentin Tarantino, but Lady Vengeance is far more eloquent and personal).

Park Chan-Wook speaks:

“With the development of civilization and the rise in education levels, people have had to hide their rage, hate, and grudges deep within them. But this does not mean that these emotions go away. As relationships become more and more intricate, the rage only grows more and more. While modern society is burdening the individual with a growing sense of rage, the outlets through which people can release their rage are becoming narrower. This is an unhealthy situation, and it’s probably why art exists. In reality, however, the vengeances represented in my movies are not actual vengeances. They are merely the transferring of a guilty conscience. My films are stories of people who place the blame for their actions on others because they refuse to take on the blame themselves. Therefore, rather than movies purporting to be of revenge, it would be more accurate to see my films as ones stressing morality, with guilty consciences as the core subject matter. The constantly recurring theme is the guilty conscience. Because they are always conscious of and obsessed with their wrongdoings, which are committed because they are inherently unavoidable in life, my characters are fundamentally good people. The fact that people have to resort to another type of violence in order to subjugate their initial guilty consciences is the most basic quality of tragedy characteristic in my movies thus far.”

-during Cannes film festival

we got a red light pornographic dance fight, systematic honey

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our hair is perfect while we were getting shit wrecked, it's automatic honey

...but we got no money

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we just like to party, like to p-p-party hard

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BANG BANG we're beautiful and dirty rich

On October 7th 2006, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was exitting the elevator from her Moscow apartment when a hitman shot her four times. The correspondent for the Novaya Gazeta, a controversial newspaper owned by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that explores Russia’s true social/political environment, was killed on the spot. The assassination, triggered on Vladmir Putin’s birthday, ignited the outrage and sorrow of Chechens as well as fellow Russian journalists who sought to expose the corruption of the FSB and government officials. Said Litvinenko, fellow journalist and a former KGB/FSB officer who resigned due to firsthandedly witnessing much of this corruption, “I know that a journalist of her stature could not be touched without sanction from the Russian president himself. Anna was a political opponent, and this is why she was killed.”

When later poisoned to his own death in London, Litvinenko uttered the famous phrase: “You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, for the rest of your life.” But the furor, as always, reverberates for a short period of time before dying down, the names and stories of Politkovskaya and Litvinenko fading into obscurity — which was part of the intent of those behind their assassinations, as well as a clear message to those championing human rights and truth in Russia that, should their work continue, they will be next.

But today Russia, Chechnya, the world needs Politkovskaya more than ever. The Moscow subway bombings of yesterday reek of unanswered plotholes that the Russian government will most likely keep to themselves. The event was blamed on Chechnen suicide bombers — though hard evidence to this has not manifested. Due to the brutality of the two past Chechen wars, during which both sides suffered immensely, every act of terrorism in Russia seems to be automatically assigned to the doings of the Chechen people. However, this accusation is not always true; the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia were originally blamed on Chechnen terrorists but were most probably orchestrated by FSB officials themselves. The end result of that conspiracy was Vladmir Putin’s ascension to power, and the engagement of the Second Chechnen War. Anyone who dared to divulge this truth was at once silenced through intimidation, or death. One man standing outside one of the bombed apartments in which his daughter, son-in-law, and grandson died, angrily said, “They say it was Chechens who did this, but that is a lie. It was Putin’s people. Everyone knows that. No one wants to talk about it, but everyone knows it.”

Which leaves us with this perplexing, ugly question: Were the Moscow subway bombings orchestrated NOT by Chechens, but by someone else? Like the FSB, for example (and for what end)? Does it even make sense that Chechens, after the end of the counter-terrorism operation in 2009 and during much-needed recovery, wish to trigger another war?

Although some US journalists have intelligently questioned the verity of the statements that it was Chechnen suicide bombers behind the attack, they are unfortunately physically too far-removed from Russia to solidify their investigations. Neither do they seem to understand that investigations carried out by Russian officers (some of whom are tied to the FSB) can lead to a truth that will do anything to remain hidden.

It is unfortunately easy to ascribe such acts of terror like the subway bombings to Chechen rebels. In October 2002, Chechen terrorists held hostage 850 people in a Russian theater. In September 2004, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev (killed 2006) masterminded the Beslan School hostage crises, where more than 1,000 children and teachers were held captive in the gymnasium for several days and at least 330 people died.

Although they carried their dissent through these seiges, it was Politkovskaya who was their voice. Politkovskaya was the medium of truth, the only one who would frankly and intelligently tell their story to the world. Although she did not agree with the methods the Chechnen terrorists were using, she understood that they were using such opportunities to negotiate with the Russian government. When Russian officials tried to send in their own to the theater and Beslan school, the Chechens refused to speak with them. They demanded Politkovskaya.

During the theater siege, Politkovskaya immediately flew back to Russia from a media ceremony in LA, and while giving water and juice to the hostages, broadcast their voices to the world. “The terrorists,” she said, “wanted someone who would accurately report things as they were. My work in Chechnya makes people there feel that I don’t lie. But there wasn’t much I could do for the hostages anyway.” During the siege at the Beslan school, as Politkovskaya was getting ready to actively save the children by brokering talks between Russian officials and Chechen rebels, her tea was poisoned by state agents. Due to her illness, she was unable to attend the scene and mourned the catastrophic aftermath where sudden open-fire took the lives of so many.

But with Politkovskaya gone, there may not be anyone to broadcast the voice of the Chechen people and investigate if they were behind the bombings. There may be no one willing to expose the truth, if they should find it, for fear that the FSB would silence them next. Even today, the aftermath of the theater and Beslan school crises are left with disturbing conclusions found from crime scene investigations–that it was the FSB who fired first on both accounts, that Chechens did not begin firing until Russian officials started killing both terrorists and hostages alike. With Litvinenko and Politkovskaya now permanently MIA, this means possible danger for the Chechen people even more than ever. Who will continue the work Politkovskaya started?

Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko are needed today more than ever. The two investigators who sought to convey truth amid a muddled KGB/FSB-controlled Russia ended their lives in tragedy: Politkovskaya was assassinated on Putin’s birthday several years ago, and Litvinenko was poisoned shortly thereafter.

Journalist Lisa Ling once lamented the state of American news, saying that it was near impossible for solid coverage to be given to the American audience. News transported from Russia to the United States seems to suffer twice this malady: the state of news in Russia in a censored environment where KGB/FSB officials and authorities monitor citizens is far from free, so what we receive in the US is an even further-removed muddled translation of the going-ons there. Scott Anderson’s article “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” covering the Russian apartment bombings in 1999 strove to look inside how Russian officials engineered these bombings (while publically blaming Arab terrorists and Chechnens), and how a back-then unknown Vladmir Putin used this as an opportunity to ascend to power. (Anderson’s article can be read here. It is well worth a read).

Politkovskaya dedicated her life to making heard the voices of the Chechnen people, to whom this act of terror is currently ascribed to. Yet is there any evidence, not counting the “word of government officials” that these acts were indeed carried out by North Caucasus female suicide bombers–and, if this were the case–that such an act was “unjustified?” The reason why I ask the first question is that the word of the Russian government in relation to such events is not to be completely trusted. Russian officials have, in the past, engineered certain lies and tried to pass them off as truth. Take for instance the apartment bombings in 1999. The act of terror was blamed upon Chechnen and even Arab terrorists; that is, until contradictions slowly manifested upon themselves. Denizens of an apartment in Ryazan reported to authorities several men coming inside with large white sacks. When officials arrived, they discovered an explosive timer and detonators attached to the sacks. The men who had carried these inside the apartment were arrested; HOWEVER, to everyone’s surprise, they produced FSB identification cards. The director of the FSB tried to publically pass off the experience–many days later–by saying that these FSB workers were trying to train the “alertness” and “diligence” of those residing in the apartment and that the bags contained only sugar–a complete lie, as when the substance was chemically analyzed, it was found to be RDX. Scott Anderson wrote:

Contradictions in the FSB’s account were manifold. How to reconcile FSB headquarters’ sacks-of-sugar claim with the local FSB’s chemical analysis that had found RDX? If this truly had been a training exercise, how was it that the local FSB branch wasn’t informed ahead of time, or that Patrushev himself didn’t see fit to make mention of it for a day and a half after the terrorist alert was raised? For that matter, why did the apartment-building-bombing spree suddenly stop after Ryazan? If the attacks were truly the handiwork of Chechen terrorists, surely the public-relations black eye the FSB had received over the Ryazan affair would spur them to carry out more.

But the time for such questions had already passed. Even as Prime Minister Putin gave his speech on the night of September 23 praising the residents of Ryazan for their vigilance, Russian warplanes began launching massive air strikes on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Within a few more days, Russian armored battalions that had been massed on the border for months crossed into Chechnya, marking the start of the Second Chechen War.

Events moved very quickly after that. On New Year’s Eve 01999, Boris Yeltsin stunned the nation by announcing that he was stepping down from the presidency effective immediately, which made Vladimir Putin acting president until new elections could be held. And instead of holding them sometime in the summer, as originally scheduled, those elections would now occur in just ten weeks’ time, leaving Putin’s many competitors for the position little time to prepare.

In a presidential poll taken in August 01999, Putin had garnered less than 2 percent support. By March 02000, however, riding a wave of popularity for his total-war policy in Chechnya, he swept into office with 53 percent of the vote. The reign of Vladimir Putin had begun, and Russia would never be the same.

In regards to the second question I posed, Russia and Chechnya’s brutal history shows that both sides have suffered their dues at each other’s hands. Female suicide bombers have often, before turning into terrorists, experienced post-traumatic stress disorder due to the murder of their brothers, husbands, families, or to themselves getting kidnapped by Russian officials and brutally gang-raped. In one of my previous posts discussing John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer, I touched upon the fact that the way we view terrorism is always in terms of Bad versus Good, something removed from truth. Politkovskaya refused to see the people of Chechnya in such a light–often going out of the way to arrange search parties for missing Chechens– resulting in her demise at the hands of Putin.

This is not to in any way justify these acts of terror, if these events were indeed carried out by Chechnen terrorists. But this raises a set of new questions– why would Chechnens act now after previously fighting so hard for their rights? Now that Basayev, former Chechnen terrorist leader, is dead, who is the mastermind engineering this feat and for what purpose? To that end, if this was orchestrated by Russian officials themselves, what purpose does it serve? Does the fact that this occurred a day after the new US-Russia arms treaty signify something? Time will have to tell–and a clear-eyed view amid the chaos and muddle of the news media. Politkovskaya and Litvinenko have been silenced forever but in this time, the ghost of their presences are everywhere.

Also known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Hiroshi Sugimoto had his History of History exhibition here in 2007.