Since the early 2000’s, I’ve been fascinated with artist James Turrell. You might even call me a fangirl. While some look at art like his–art that makes use of so much empty space–and see the Emperor’s new clothes and a whole lot of nothing, I get ecstatically stoked about it. I was pretty damn ecstatic recently when I learned that my visit to Boston last month would allow me time to visit “Into The Light” – the current Turrell exhibition at the Mass MoCA.
Since the 1960’s, Turrell has been exploring the realms of the untouchable: light. Enlisting architecture and LEDs, enclosed and open spaces, negative space and the sky itself, Turrell has sought to take intangible natural forces and make them physical. His works vary in medium, size and shape, yet the impact of a Turrell is an identifiable phenomenon that becomes familiar once you’ve been in their presence. That impact is all-consuming, enveloping and awe-inspiring.
On Thursday, September 14th, 2017, the San Francisco chapter of the Columbia Venture Community will host CVC’s biggest West Coast event of the year: Columbia Startup Demo Night! We always look forward to this opportunity to meet, mingle and shine the spotlight on innovative startups from the Bay Area. This time, six startups, all with at least one founder who graduated from Columbia, will take the stage to demo their startup and compete for a cash prize in front of a panel of experienced judges.
As we gear up for the event, we’re speaking with all our Demo Night founding teams so that we can share their diverse, inspiring stories with the CVC community.
We all learn about the Holocaust when we’re children. I learned about it when I was quite young, in grade school. Childhood lessons on the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Germany often center on the most gruesome atrocities, the concentration camps and the ovens and the torture of people.
It is understandable why that is so. These things are so terrible to imagine, they seem to bear repeating to make sure that future generations know they happened.
But they are not the entirety of the horrors of the Holocaust. And there is a danger to the way these atrocities are so often taught to school children. They’re taught in such as way as to isolate them from our current reality, and that is dangerous because when we hear about them, we might believe that we live in a different time, where such things are the product of a madman’s racism, and being so singular, would never happen again.
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In 2017, I worked with FIGMENT Oakland interns and our communications team to brainstorm and produce a series of longform articles featuring outstanding FIGMENT artists. Together, we developed a content strategy and a plan for interviewing participating artists and creating some in-depth content.
The goal? To build excitement for the 2017 FIGMENT event, and raise awareness in the local community about these San Francisco Bay Area artists.
Since I was a child, growing up in the 1980’s, I have admiringly followed the work and career of Rei Kawakubo. When I was too young to know what, precisely, avant-garde fashion was, I sensed that this designer was doing something special, unique, and somehow, important.
From the pages of W and Vogue, I pieced together an education in the adornment and presentation of the female body as idealized and imagined, often by male designers creating for the pleasure of male gazes. Kawakubo was starkly different in every way: female, Japanese, trained in fine art but not in fashion, and wholly original in her rejection of simplistic prettiness and conventional beauty. Her work lit a fire of possibility in my mind.
The founding fathers did something special when they designed the United States of America, with its branches of government designed to keep one another in check and protect the personal freedoms of individual citizens. For many Americans, though, the Constitution is something of a magical document, and the ideals of freedom and justice amount to some mighty magical thinking. For many Americans, oppression, corruption, human rights atrocities and war are things faced by other people in other countries — here in the USA, we’re protected by that magical document. We’re exceptional. We’re safe.
Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, would like you to consider that this magical notion of safety is nonsense, which you may entertain at your extreme peril. On November 15, 2016, Snyder wrote on Facebook, “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.”
The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.
In his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Snyder presents the expanded and fleshed-out versions of the 20-point list (from that much-circulated Facebook post) of ways free citizens can protect their liberty and each other in politically unstable and frightening times. This slim volume is packed with ample reasons why we should care about doing so, and chilling, cautionary illustrations from 20th century history.
This 4th of July, as we take a day off to meditate on what makes our country special, let’s also consider how we can keep it. On Tyranny offers grim warning alongside essential hope.