NYU Shanghai clinical arts professor Jian-Jun Zhang’s works are featured in 12th National Art Exhibition in Beijing. “Rain between mountain and river, between sky and earth, not yet touching the ground; it is the moment of a process. At this moment it is rain and will become water when touching a surface,” says Zhang. In this project, Zhang highlights the moment of transition. “The mountain and river are not visible, but only in our imagination, a poetic landscape that is between the sky and earth. The calligraphy ‘dot’ becomes rain, as well as embodying the Chinese spirit.”
In this performance, images of calligraphy “dots” and words are projected onto three translucent silk scrolls, passing through one to the next. The video images evolve and change, as Zhang selectively adds to the scrolls, painting rain dots or characters with Chinese ink. Two assistants participate in the performance. When Zhang writes on a movable silk panel, they bring it with its ink dots into the space, spreading out the ink rain to the walls.
This coming November marks the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia. How relevant is this anniversary to students who were born sevaral years after the Berlin Wall came down?
Very, according to NYU Prague, whose faculty includes many former leaders of the Velvet Revolution. Professor Jan Urban, one of the leading dissidents under the Communist regime, is dismayed by the current strength of the Communist party, which – unlike in most other former Eastern European countries – was not disbanded 25 years ago. „What’s there to celebrate today? The Communists in Parliament are in complete support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and their popularity is growing. Czechs are forgetting what the Russians did to us.“
Many NYU students are still interested in this “ancient history.” Some of NYU Prague’s most popular courses are taught by former dissidents. Last semester, one student wrote a profile for the Prague Wandering Webzine on Monika Pajerova, our professor and one of the few female student leaders during the Velvet Revolution http://praguewandering.com/2014/05/20/2578/.
NYU Prague is marking the anniversary by a number of programs that reflect upon the past and the future Particularly in light of current events in Ukraine – which have been compared to the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968- the anniversary seems especially important.
During orientation, NYU Prague students met with young Czech people at a panel discussion entitled „The Velvet Revolution 25 Years Later: Views of Current Czech University Students.“ The Czech students on the panel described the lives of their parents and grandparents under Communism and discussed how that affected – and continues to affect- them. Several of them expressed their concerns about the rising popularity of the Communist party among young people, which currently is polled at over 15% of the national vote.
In October, NYU students will have the chance to meet meet Mikhail Gorbachev, the architect of perestroika, and over 150 other global leaders at the annual Forum 2000 Conference. The conference, inspired by the legacy of the late President Václav Havel, is entitled “Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen” and will take place in Prague and other Central European cities.
NYU Prague is hosting another conference – this one focused on the media and the challenges of building the post-Communist media and communication industries over the past 25 years. NYU Prague Professor Jeremy Druker, director of the international news outlet Transitions Online, is organizing the event in cooperation with Keynote.cz and has invited other NYU faculty to speak .”The event should provide a rare opportunity for academics who have written about the media transition and journalists who actually were there to meet in person and debate the positives and negatives of what has taken place,” Jeremy said. Thanks to funding from the U.S. Embassy and the International Visegrad Fund, select participants from the U.S. and from Central/Eastern Europe will attend.
Keith Jones, a documentary film-maker and frequent lecturer at NYU Prague, will screen his new film that is focused on Generation X in Czech alternative culture. It is set for release in November, and the Velvet Revolution plays a central role in the story.
During the week of November 17 – the actual anniversary of the Velvet Revolution- students can get a feeling for what life was like under totalitarian during „Communism Week“ – part of NYU Prague’s culture program Kulturama. Students will visit a nuclear bunker, go to the KGB and the Communism Museums, and can even participate in a team-building game that puts them in the role of political dissidents „trapped“ by the KGB. We will also take them to the Czech-Austrian border where a section of the Iron Curtain has been preserved and a museum is dedicated to stories about Czech’s attempts to cross the border.
Of course students can celebrate the anniversary with locals on November 17 – a national Czech holiday – by leaving a candle at the Velvet Revolution memorial site on Narodni trida (National Street). Every year, people gather around a small, understated plaque decorated by fingers raised in the „V“ for victory sign, located at the place where brave Czech university students confronted the Communist police in 1989 and set off a series of events that led to the end of Communism.
The events of 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain may seem like ancient history to young people today. “Events that happened 25 years ago may seem like an old story to students who weren’t even alive at the time,” acknowledges NYU Prague Director (and former dissident) Jiri Pehe. “But when we see what is happening in the contemporary world and watch efforts in various countries to achieve democracy, it is clear that many lessons can be learned from this history.”
This past weekend, Dubai’s XVA Gallery hosted a group of NYU Abu Dhabi student artists — senior Nikolai Kozak, juniors Nino Cricco and Shakhbout Al Kaabi, and sophomores Agustina Zegers and Charlotte de Bekker — whose work is currently on display in an exhibition entitled “I H8 My FRNDZ.” Addressing the notion of conceptual art and challenging the conventions of a typical art gallery experience, the exhibition — curated by NYU Abu Dhabi senior Grace Hauser — explores the intricate relationship between memory and identity.
The semester is off to an exciting start at NYU Buenos Aires. Our fall lecture series commenced with a lively workshop on rhythm and percussion. The workshop students participated in an original group improvisation technique involving hand signals and everyday objects and movements. The inventor of this technique is a prize-winning musician and bandleader, Santiago Vazquez. NYU Buenos Aires Professor of Latin American Music, Juan Raffo, has performed with him and arranged for him to lead this workshop. Here NYU Buenos Aires students are making music with this renowned artist:
NYU Buenos Aries Professor Martin Sivak who teaches the Global Media Seminar is on leave this semester because his book on Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is being launched in translation in Beijing. It’s already been translated into several other languages around the world, but this is a significant first foray into Asia for his work. While in China, he also plans to stop in at NYU Shanghai.
In another exciting Fall-only activity, NYU Buenos Aires is participating in a multi-sport tournament (soccer, basketball, volleyball) – a fun-filled weekend event in which our students will compete against Argentine university students at the Universidad de San Andres later this semester. It will be nice to see the violet NYU Buenos Aires jerseys out on the field amid the magical springtime weather in October and November.
We ran two special additions in our Global Orientations course this term:
First, we had a workshop on Learning a Foreign Language called “Switching Hats” where we talked about specific “untranslatable” terms that are fun and that show how learning another language is also exploring another way of seeing life. Our goal was to take the fear out of making mistakes when you are a second-language user, no matter the level. The Language Coordinator was on hand to verify how in language class “perfect” isn’t the goal, but rather the non-native speaker’s “authentic” progress. Our Wellness coordinator joined us for this workshop as well, to create a space to acknowledge the frustration involved in learning a new language. We ended with a letter-writing activity where the students wrote to their future selves about their expectations, fears, hopes, and goals for the semester. We’ll have them open their messages to themselves around Thanksgiving to add a P.S. and then they’ll get them back to take home at end of semester.
Second, we hosted a dynamic and interactive talk with the students about “Academic Interculturality.” The talk’s title comes from an academic article by NYU Buenos Aires language instructor Vera Cerqueiras who led the discussion. The focus was on specific ways in which academic culture is different in the US and Argentina. The talk was designed to prepare students to engage with Argentine professors in the classroom, and for this reason we will now offer a similar workshop to our faculty. A variety of examples of the cultural differences came up during the conversation. Some were anecdotal – US students leaving at the end of class time, and the Argentine professor worrying they didn’t have a good class because no one said goodbye. Some were more illustrative of how learning may be more of a collective endeavor and less about the experience of a private individual in competition with other individuals. To highlight this, Vera Cerqueiras showed a clip of an Argentine university class where the professor returned papers giving feedback / evaluations out loud so that “the advice could help all in the course” and where final grades are posted publicly.
We will continue these new additions to Global Orientations moving forward. Happily oriented, the students are busy with classes, activities, and discovering vibrant Buenos Aires.
In early 2014, when Khalifa Niasse landed in Australia for a semester at NYU Sydney, he probably foresaw sunshine, surfing and sightseeing. He probably foresaw a bit of study too. But he probably didn’t foresee an appearance on live TV, in which he would have the chance to interrogate one of the nation’s pre-eminent politicians before a potential audience of 1 million viewers.
Each semester, the Global Media students at NYU Sydney go on a field trip to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to be in the studio audience of Q&A, a popular panel show that bills itself as a form of democracy in action. Hosted by journalist Tony Jones, the program invites its audience members to ask questions of panelists including politicians, academics, artists and musicians. And in February, on live TV, Niasse asked Jamie Briggs – Australia’s assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development – about whether the government planned to cut taxes, and how that might affect jobs growth. A good question, as revealed by the fact that the answer wasn’t nearly as interesting as the query.
The Q&A field trip is often listed as a highlight by students – even those who don’t get to ask a question. As part of a studio audience, students get to see the inner workings of one of Australia’s biggest media networks: the ABC, a government broadcaster in the mould of the UK’s BBC that operates radio stations and TV stations and has an ever-expanding online presence. They also get to see a bunch of well-known figures, including international guests such as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, having to answer questions without notice. For the Fall 2014 Global Media students, the Q&A field trip happens on September 22, and by complete coincidence Jamie Briggs had been booked to be on the panel again. He had been due to return for a session dedicated to the topic of Liveable Cities, alongside Elizabeth Farrelly, a onetime colleague of lecturer Sacha Molitorisz.
However, at late notice, following the anti-terrorist raids in Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday, September 18, a new panel is hastily being assembled to discuss terrorism and the Middle East. Whoever the panellists turn out to be, it should be a stimulating discussion, of equal relevance for Americans and Australians, given the shared involvement in these issues. Afterwards, let’s see if these NYU Sydney students echo previous attendees, who often say upon attending, “America needs a show like this”, before adding, “American politicians would never go on a show like this.” And let’s see if another NYU Sydney student has the chance to ask a question on live TV – and in the process perhaps prompt a solution for the turmoil in the Middle East.
September 17 is Constitution Day. To mark the occasion, NYU Washington, DC is hosting a panel discussion tonight to examine how the Constitutional process laid out by the founders successfully tackled a crisis at the heart of American democracy, and lessons for today’s dysfunctional Washington; with former Congresswoman Liz Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate; former Nixon Presidential Library Director and Head of the Tamiment Library Tim Naftali; and historian Marilyn Young of NYU. Introduction and welcome by Dean Gabrielle Starr, College of Arts and Science of NYU. The event is entitled Watergate 40 Years Later: How Congress Confronted a Constitutional Crisis and the Lessons for Today. The video will be available after the event.
The summer at NTY Tel Aviv started with a lot of promise. I was very excited to take over the directorship of NTY Tel Aviv. I am coming from Emory University where I spent many years as a Professor of Hebrew, Arabic and Linguistics and I also served as the Director of the Linguistics Program there. My academic specialties are Judeo-Arabic, the Arabic of the Jews in the Islamic world; Hebrew linguistics; sociolinguistics and dialectology. I also led Emory students in many study abroad academic tours.
In the summer we had 15 wonderful students from NYU-Shanghai taking courses at Tel Aviv University and hosted by us. When hostilities started, we needed to evacuate them and we created a great course for them, which we ran in Istanbul, Turkey for a week: The Ottoman Empire and the Holy Land.
After the decision to postpone coursework for the Fall, we began working on long-overdue infrastructure projects at the site. We made our offices look more professional; created a beautiful Faculty Lounge (which we did not have before); ordered new signs for NYU Tel Aviv and completed many other necessary minor projects. We are also teaching three courses from here on line (via Real Presence and Google Hangouts) to students in London and Berlin who could not come to Tel Aviv because of the situation.
We are also in the process of scheduling special events for the academic year. On October 21 we will host Professor of Physics and Mathematics, Dr. Daniel Stein, who will speak to NYU alumni in Israel on Order, Disorder, Symmetry, and Complexity, followed by a reception. Later in the semester we will host A Night of Comedy and Reflection, parodying the Middle-East peace process through farce, mockumentary and autobiographical monologue and presented by Jeremie Bracka. In January we will host Orly Ramihiyan who will discuss the image of the Jew in Iranian culture. Later in the Spring semester our noted Israeli film director and faculty member of NYU Tel Aviv, Eytan Fox (Yossi and Jagger; Walk on Water) will lead an evening of Film and the Arts in Israel where he will host an Israeli actress and following her career. We are planning more events for the Spring.
Things are much quieter in Tel Aviv these days and you can see people enjoying themselves at cafés in the city and along the Mediterranean. We are planning to start as usual the J-term with courses from the Silver School of Social Work and of course we are all excited to see students again in the Spring in a vibrant intellectual environment.
An exciting fall season of La Pietra Dialogues commences today at NYU Florence. Today’s conversation is entitled, The EU in Focus: What is the EU? Why does it Matter?. This is part of broader initiative at NYU Florence, The EU on the Ground. Through this initiative a select group of students will develop a deeper understanding of how EU policy making works through the study of two policy areas – immigration and environment – and will further their knowledge through a trip to Brussels to visit the institutions of the European Union. The series of dialogues affiliated with The EU on the Ground is coordinated by NYU Florence student, Claudia Cereceda.
What is Kulturama? A complete guide to cultural life in Prague for our students, and a semester full of carefully-planned cultural programming created by NYU Prague Student Life Conselor Sarah Coffey.
From opera to cooking classes to puppets to politics to films – NYU Prague wants to introduce students to as many aspects of Czech culture as possible. Our goal is to immerse students in the cultural life of the city during their 3 months here and to help them see Prague in way that they, perhaps, couldn’t on their own.
NYU Prague has always offered rich cultural programming in Prague. Kulturama Praha will bring all of the diverse events under one umbrella, guiding students towards a better understanding of the events‘ relevance in European and Czech culture. It will include several theme weeks: Communism Week, which will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Culinary Week will include sessions on cooking Czech cuisine plus a visit to a gastronomy museum, and Alchemy Week will explore all aspects of mysticism in Prague and the legacy of Rudolf II, emperor during Renaissance times.
Already eighteen Kulturama Praha events are planned for this semester and more are in the pipeline. “Prague has a such a rich cultural life for the taking; here, culture is all around you,“ explained Sarah Coffey. “But it can be hard to find out about. I hope that students try things they’ve never been to before.“
So far, it seems like the sign-ups for events are filling up fast. What’s coming up in September? A staged reading of Vaclav Havel’s play Audience at the Vaclav Havel Library with well known Czech actors, a concert by little-known Czech composter Zelenka, lessons on how to make Czech dumplings, a concert by one of the best Czech Gypsy bands, a visit to an exhibition commemorating the 100-year anniversary of WWI. Some events are presented by NYU professors or leading Czech intellectuals.
Some Kulturama posters:
Dr. Anna Westbrook is NYU Sydney’s lecturer in Creative Writing. Anna was shortlisted for the prestigious Australian/Vogel Literary Award for unpublished manuscripts by writers under the age of 35, and next year will publish a novel, The Quiet Noise. She shares a recent experience below.
‘If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.’
– Emily Dickinson
This past semester, in the first week of April, NYU Sydney Creative Writing students heard guest lecturer Dr. Tamryn Bennett, Education Manager for the Red Room Company, talk about comics poetry and her innovative work that spans Australia, Mexico, and the United States. Tamryn gave us a vivid introduction to our fortnight’s focus on poetry. She explored the concrete and haptic tradition of the line from its Futurist origins to its current playful and irreverent incarnation in zines, comics, and street art. Tamryn appeared with a Mary Poppins bag of treats: visual and tactile examples of the ‘aliveness’ of poetry, represented by both commercial and DIY published morsels and anthologies from around the world.
In this class students explored a variety of poetic form. We experimented with cento, haiku and letter poems, and watched clips of spoken word. We talked about poetry’s power to evoke the personal and the political, as well as the aesthetic sublime. Tamryn’s organisation, The Red Room, made and updates a free-to-download app called ‘The Disappearing’ that “maps Australia to things lost or being lost”, which features Australia’s best known and emerging poets writing poems about places in flux that resonate to them, mapped out with drop pins and cartographically navigable. Students went on a field trip in the Rocks (Australia’s site of British colonisation), near NYU Sydney’s campus, and there discovered the significance of the area through poetic imagining – historic and contemporary. Students were tasked to write their own site-specific poem in response to their surroundings.
Before we left the classroom, Tamryn provided every student with a flat stone on which to write something, and leave in a place of their choosing (conspicuous or inconspicuous), to augment or disrupt peoples’ experience of the corporate, urban, central business district of Sydney. Through this activity students learnt about the power of the word, the significance of poetry to cultural efficacy, and became more aware of and practiced in their own tools of expression. Witnessing the ways in which words can be activated and invigorated, on and off the page, we learnt about how words may take our scalps off; the turns of words that are the axe for the frozen sea within us.