bigger pond

Archive for September, 2007

Hoop Jumping or, “Yes, I am capable of participating in your obscure academic rituals”

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

As much as everyone in academia tosses about the grand idea that graduate students should be doing ‘original work’ and ‘finding their voices as scholars,’ dreams of being an academic renegade are quickly shot down. In order to ascend to the pantheon of senior art history scholars who publish about “the history of string” or present papers that sound like modernist poetry, the lowly grad student must first demonstrate an ability to confuse mere mortals. For my department, this means writing really, really long papers that use phrases like “transgressive materiality” and “abjection-based subjectivity.” These are strange academic hoops to leap through, an acrobatic feat necessary to prove to established scholars that you understand confusing ideas well enough to confuse other people with them. It’s relentless, really.

Still, I am excited to try my hand at this long-and-original-scholarship thing. I have a topic and idea that I’m passionate about. I’m eager to prove that this barely-known Japanese American artist has something relevant to say about current issues. I’m tickled that I arrived at the crux of my thesis through theological considerations which led to some solid research questions. I’m ready to write:

The thesis I am proposing suggests that Lynne Yamamoto’s ‘Chiyo’ pieces are more complex than the binaries of gender and race established by the existing scholarship. While Yamamoto creates installations with highly specific references to an unfamiliar history, she simultaneously allows for an intuitive response from viewers through her use of the abject. I will argue that Yamamoto’s work thus participates in two major theoretical conversations of American art in the nineties: the emphatic creation of personal identity through autobiography and the dissolving of identity through abjection. The ‘Chiyo’ pieces embody a tension between these positions, and new scholarship is necessary to explore the rich interplay between two seemingly opposed strategies.

Academic hoops, here I come.

In Which We Meet Some Sumo Wrestlers

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

So, some friends from Hawaii, Gavin and Hannah, recently moved to Ames, Iowa so that Gavin could attend vet school. To be perfectly frank, there’s not a whole lot going on in Ames, so the Ganzers took a Labor Day road trip to the Gateway City.

Koi Peek a boo

Now, if you have ever thought, “Self, why would I want to spend Labor Day weekend in St. Louis?” the answer is embarrassingly simple: Japanese Cultural Festival. And as if it wasn’t already a fabulous idea to get thousands of people together to celebrate my ancestral culture, the good folks at the Missouri Botanical Gardens decided to take things one step further.

They added sumo.

Longtime readers will remember that I have a (necessarily large) warm spot in my heart for sumo. Having it at the cultural festival is seriously a stroke of genius.

And so, there we were. Three Hawaii kids and one supportive Oklahoman/Texan, sitting on the lawn at the botanical gardens, watching the Hawaii-born sumotori be introduced to the 800+ crowd. After the wrestlers cracked a few fat jokes, they asked for a brave volunteer from the audience. And, of course, Gavin offered. What followed was, quite possibly, one of the most magical things we’ve experienced since moving to St. Louis. Consider:

The wardrobe The pressTiming The growlThe lift The carry

Thankfully, there was a rematch.

The chase

So, pretty much it was awesome. Make your reservations now if you want to come with us next year. If you promise to wrestle the sumotori, we’ll pay for your entrance fee.
Train Hard, Eat Plenny