A HUJI Housing Day

 

Oh Mod & Bean, it’s been a minute. This past month has been all thesis all the time - but that’s a story for another day. In an attempt to get content back on a timely track, here’s a remote recap of last Thursday’s Housing Day (pre-posted as I’ll be in Italy while you read this - again, stories for another day).

As always, the Thursday before spring break marks one of the favored “Harvard Holidays.” A day full of tears: mostly joyful, many dread-induced-by-The-Quad. As a hot ticket river house, presenting the freshman with their official welcome letter is always a pleasant experience. Despite us jokingly chanting Quad house names before we reveal ourselves…

Given that it has entered countdown mode for senior spring, I’m very intent on saying yes and buying into quirky things with full force. Cue the 7am wake up and mimosa fueled enthusiasm in 40 degree weather.

This year, already feeling nostalgic for college traditions that haven’t even ended yet, I decided to document the day in the most retro way: HUJI film, the digital answer to disposable cameras. And yes, I know I’m very late to the HUJI game. But without further ado, here are some Housing Day highlights, featuring clever posters no matter how lackluster the house ;)

Oh, and here’s one freshman girl’s ingenious usage of her overflowing CVS receipts.

Goodbye housing days, your deafening enthusiasm will be missed.

Xx, Maia

 

A Taste of Curation: Neuroaesthetics at HAM

 

The Harvard Art Museums, affectionately referred to as “HAM”, places students at the forefront. From affording them research and work opportunities, to hosting lectures of all subjects in the museum, to allowing us to use the Art Study Center to sit alone with original works of art, HAM truly operates with students at the helm.

As a member of HAM’s Student Board, I have had the great fortune of hearing from different museum faculty about their work within the museum and how, often times, students can get involved. During one particular meeting last Spring, Laura Muir (Research Curator for Academic and Public Programs) spoke to us about the University Teaching Gallery: a space for Harvard courses to select objects from the museum to accompany their syllabus and encourage students to apply what they’re learning in class to objects that they encounter outside the classroom. In concluding this discussion, Laura mentioned she was in the process of selecting the courses to participate in this gallery for the Fall semester.

Since I’ve always been curious about how exhibitions are put together (everything from the narrative arc to the politics of acquiring desired pieces), I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I immediately thought of working with my Neuroaesthetics Professor, Dr. Nancy Etcoff, to propose objects that would add a visual element to her already robust course design.

So, with the guidance from collaborating with Dr. Etcoff and the help of Laura in synthesizing our ideas, Harvard’s first ever class focused exhibit on Neuroaesthetics was unveiled in this Fall of 2018. Here’s a bit about what you’ll see if you visit, and how this opportunity has changed the way I experience museums for the better:

In looking at the course syllabus and teasing out the topics that would benefit most from visual counterparts, we structured the 9 objects in the exhibit to follow the themes of The Face / Gaze, What is Beauty / Art, Synesthesia / The Sublime, Longing / Melancholy, and The Uncanny.

The Face / Gaze

Paul Citroen “Self Portrait.” & Zhang Xiaogang “Portrait.” (Images from HAM Website)

For this portion, we were inspired by studies we’d read in the course that discussed how people perceive others’ affects based on how we interpret their gaze. In one particular study, it was explained that a portrait of a man was perceived as affable when told the man was looking at a scene of a family, but his look instantly became lecherous when told he was gazing at a swimsuit model. With this disparity, we want viewers to wonder about the affect of these sitters, and, how (if at all) that changes when positioned looking at I’m With Stupid (info below) in the gallery space.


What is Beauty / Art?

Unknown Artist, “Katar Dagger.” & Unknown Artist, “Priming Flask in the Form of a Fish.” (Images from HAM Website)

The course opens with a discussion about what is art and what is beauty. Can tools be aesthetic objects? And, if so, why? These two objects meld functionality and ornamentation. The left dagger doubling as protective, yet decorative, arm wear, and the right flask being designed to emulate the body of a fish. The latter example even ties in with the current special exhibition on view in the museum, Animal Shaped Vessels!

Synesthesia / The Sublime

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Harmony in Blue and Silver: Beaching the Boat, Étretat.” & Albert Bierstadt, “In the Sierras.” (Images from HAM Website)

When people hear of “neuroaesthetics” the topic of synesthesia often comes to mind as it’s neurological cross-wiring has had well documented impact on the arts. Think Kandinsky and his desire to visualize music. While, there wasn’t a perfect example of Kandinsky to pull for the exhibition, we turned to Whistler and his similar motivation to combine music and visual art. Similar to the awe-inspiring underpinnings of synesthesia, the concept of the sublime comes into neuroaesthetics as being an extreme example of sensory overload. Here, we chose a classic, sublime landscape example by Bierstadt.

Longing / Memory

Edvard Munch, “The Sick Girl I.” & Johannes Wierix After Albrecht Dürer, “Melancholia.” (Images from HAM Website)

Depictions of sad affects are often the most easily recognizable for viewers, as the somber tone quickly resonates with past emotional experiences. For this phenomenon, we chose two depictions of melancholy and positioned them to be looking at one another. The left figure leaning more towards the realm of longing, and the right figure being a personification of melancholy herself.

The Uncanny

Rachel Harrison, “I'm With Stupid.” (Image from HAM Website)

harrison.jpeg

My favorite inclusion in the exhibit has to be I’m With Stupid, as it challenges viewers to think about almost all of the above categories. Is it art? Or just a mishmash of cacophonous objects? What are the faces telling you? Can you even see them, or are they even human faces? Does it tantalize your senses? How so? And, ultimately, who is the ‘stupid’ that the title refers to? One of the two figures, or you?

For a museum who prioritizes student engagement and involvement, co-curating this exhibit had to be one of my favorite experiences here and best manifestations of the museum’s mission. I even talk a little bit about the experience in an article about another great museum moment: The Student Late Night.

Moral of the story: if you’re curious about something, go after it. Especially here at Harvard, a playground I’m fortunate to have access to, the resources are what you make of them.

Xx, Maia


 

There's No Story Like a Love Story

 

For the past three years, I have braved the August heat with 70 of my closest friends to dress up in full on 70's garb and put on a show for Harvard's incoming freshman class. And by put on a show, I'm quite serious. Every year, for the past 30 years, the Crimson Key Society has put on a "Rocky Horror Style" screening of the last movie ever to be filmed on Harvard's historic campus: Love Story. And while many of my friends (outside the closest 70 previously mentioned), know about this tradition quite well, I figured that on the dusk of my last Love Story, I should whip up a little homage - I sure have recorded enough institutional memory of this event, for Phil's sake!

The Key-valleri Family <3

The Key-valleri Family <3

While us CKS'ers are responsible for much more during freshmen "Opening Days" than just yelling at a movie screen during our Love Story performance, it's safe to say that this event is a favorite for all of us yellers and for our deafened audience too. For the unsuspecting first year students arrive in Science Center C probably to escape the heat of their AC-less dorm rooms, and end up spending two hours with us as we scream odd things at a movie we've collectively seen 30+ times. 

While everyone involved has a hilarious time, the movie itself is quite tragic. Right off the bat it's revealed that our beloved Jenny dies, yet CKS proceeds to mercilessly tease her up until her dying breaths. This year, our freshmen audience showed far more remorse for Jenny than we've ever seen, and while I still didn't tear up when she died, I did tear up realizing that this was one of the first of my lasts - a pattern bound for repetition throughout my senior year of school. 

For the Class of 2019, this was our last year spending money at the Garment District to perfect our "Preppie Millionaire meets Social Zero" ensemble. Our last year of congregating at Widener Steps to take enough photos with each other to clog the feeds of our still-summering classmates. Our last year of parading into Annenberg Dining Hall and dancing on the tables (or being prohibited from doing so) to promote that night's screening while the freshmen ate their dinner in shock. Our last year ending up on the Snapchat Stories of countless onlookers (tourists included) as we unabashedly shook our booties to the tune of Abba's Dancing Queen. Our last year dancing on the Science Center Plaza at sunset. Our last year rallying our audience with a Science Center C-wide YMCA sing-along. And our last year belting, "DON'T MAKE FUN OF PHIL!" while simultaneously butchering his dying daughter with fevered insults. 

While I, personally, missed my freshman year showing of Love Story and thus will never know what it feels like to be pseudo-yelled at by a bunch of upperclassmen, I do know how invigorating it is to memorize a ludicrous script filled with quirky jokes that I'll remember for a lifetime. I'll be plagued with commenting, "Where's her other hand?" during countless real life scenarios. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Cranston, Rhode Island. And my post-college friends will never understand why I insist on referring to Paris as "Sirap." But me, and those aforementioned 70 friends, will share a fond chuckle every time we hear the word "midyear" or think about Bozo the Clown. 

This last year of Love Story concluded with an actual love story: while we took our sunset by the river pictures, a genuine couple actually popped the question and invited us to join in their engagement photoshoot! So to whichever couple is out there cherishing the photo by the Charles River surrounded by 70, 70's clad college kids, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Whatever that's supposed to mean!

"Is the lady alright?" "I will be when he carries me over the g*ddamn threshold!"&nbsp;

"Is the lady alright?" "I will be when he carries me over the g*ddamn threshold!" 

So cheers to the first of the last, and to lifelong friendships with some of the quirkiest people on campus <3 

Xx, Maia