A (Very) Belated Ode to Finals Season
February 18, 2023
Sean Norton ’25
Perhaps this is but a lukewarm take, but I actually like finals week. Reading period into finals week during the fall semester is one of my favorite times of the year! Now being swamped with work is an acutely stressful experience to be sure, but I always find the finality–haha–of finals work to be almost comforting. Being able to lay out everything I need to do, and knowing that that’s it, that’s all I’ve got to do, offers a double edged stress-into-relief feeling. Once I’ve done that layout, it feels terrible! Dear god I have to do all that?? And by 9 days from now?? But as soon as I finish one task on my list, that rather crushing feeling of a coverall-clad maintenance man expertly wielding a jackhammer on the inside of my sternum is quickly replaced by a sense that ‘oh this is so manageable,’ and I start to really enjoy myself. No classes to wake up for, a general air of frantic working everywhere on campus, getting to finish big projects, and the best part, all the interesting things going on!
For your consideration as prospies, here are the highlights from this semester’s end:
Throwing some light around!
I ended my classes with a weekend unexpectedly full of generative projection art, which is a practice I’ve been working on over the past 6 months or so. I started messing around with a software called TouchDesigner back in June of last year, and it’s been my central medium for all the digital performance art I’ve made. TD is an incredibly versatile–dare I say a little too versatile–tool that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of, but I’ve been using it to, ahem, design, create and deploy generative multimedia installations for use in live contexts. What that actually means is I’ve been standing in the corner of my friends’ house shows with my laptop and a projector propped on whatever I can find–or failing that, duck-taped to the ceiling–throwing funny little patterns all over the band while they play. But despite having to constantly fend off sweaty people from jostling my setup, it’s a blast!
So, the weekend before the last two days of classes, I got a request from a dear sweet banjo-playing friend of mine to project for his Folkstep show that weekend. And yes Folkstep is in fact a banjo and fiddle duo playing reels over edm backing tracks. Pretty banging stuff I gotta say. So, I set them up with, among some other goodies, a rainbow flashing kaleidoscope view of cows in the mountains in Montana. A Cowleidoscope, if you will.
Later that same evening, I did a little incredibly low-budget projection mapping for a party at Harkness, and applied the unmistakable rotating mug of Northeast Ohio’s sweetheart Tim Misney to a variety of surfaces. Really added to the atmosphere I think.
Here he is for reference:
And perhaps the project that was giving me the most sternum-crunching feelings, that next Monday I got to perform a live piece for a Timara class I was taking. The piece was a collaboration with a very talented Saxophonist, and took place in a blacked out Stull Recital Hall in the Con, who’s myriad angled surfaces provided a great canvas for some slightly higher-budget projection mapping, to accompany heavily modified live sax. It was the first projected-visual centric piece of performance art I’d ever made, and needless to say I was a little worried about it, but it went off without a hitch! And once that was off my plate, the whole rest of finals seemed like a great time.
On the note of avant-garde performances, I attended an incredible performance and an equally incredible accompanying workshop, both led by the delightful Eddy Kwon. I definitely can’t describe her artistic theory and practice better than she does here. Give it a look to get a better sense of her work!
Brought in by the Modern Music Guild–Oberlin’s student organization promoting and performing experimental music of all flavors–Kwon led a workshop entitled The Ceremony is You. I went to this workshop partially because I was quite interested in it, and partially because my partner, afflicted by an unfortunate series of injuries last semester, had to make up a few missed dance classes, and this workshop counted as one. Now the posters had been very vague and I really had no idea what to expect, and neither did anyone I talked to about it, even a friend of mine in the MMG.
The workshop itself was roughly divided into two parts, and consisted of some ritualistic activities, or possible components of a longer ceremony, led by Kwon, along with some exposition about the use of ritual to define the self and connect with elements of family and broader queer lineage. The second portion was the communal creation of a ceremony, to be performed by all of us. Working from those components we already had and creating some of our own, the final ritual went like this:
First, we all stood and began to walk briskly around the space, a very lovely Stull Recital Hall filled with afternoon sun, while at the same time intoning a plethora of different notes, which we attempted to slowly, organically converge onto a single tone. As we gradually converged acoustically, we converged physically, into a circle round a pair of porcelain Minnie Mouse bowls filled with flower petals. We then began to pull from ourselves everything of our life experiences outside the room, employing a movement technique built upon repetition and the gradual expansion of a small initial action. With each cycle of motion, we pulled a bit more of ourselves out and threw them into the gaping maw of Minnie Mouse. Once we had summarily dispatched those aspects of ourselves that existed outside of the space, and our movements had grown sufficiently large and complex, we began to relax and once again sing the same tone. After some moments of standing in a harmonious ring, we began to diverge both physically and acoustically, and as agreed upon before the start of the ritual, continued to hold our now-separate tones as we slowly donned our coats and boots, packed up our things, and left. We traveled out of the building in an unconnected group, and left the space with an ambiguous ending to our ritual, if it could be said to have ended at all. I say it’s still going, but that’s just me.
The next night, Kwon led an incredible performance consisting of what I think to have been an improvised ensemble section featuring Kwon on violin, along with a piano, trumpet, drums, vocalists, a Daxohpone and, my personal favorite, Gabe on the corrugated tube. Followed by a piece of solo performance art that saw Kwon striding around the concert space, combining violin music–discordant and not–with vocalizations, dance and ritualistic interactions with the aforementioned Minnie Mouse bowls. It was insanely captivating!
A guided massage!
Of a very different flavor than experimental performance art, but perhaps the most relaxing event of my finals week, was when I agreed–so self-sacrificially–to attend a guided thai massage workshop in another bid to help my partner not fail their dance class. The workshop was split into 45-minute halves, with each person being walked through how to massage someone for half the session, and being massaged for the other. Really rough time lemme tell ya.
Consumed, and Made! Some art
Still hopped up on post-massage relaxation, I headed to what was maybe my favorite event of this period, the annual Art Walk, where Studio-Art students get to show off what they’ve been working on all semester. Spanning 5 buildings on and off campus, people set up a huge variety of works in an equally large variety of settings, from basement studios to cavernous white-walled gallery spaces to a grungy cinder block doorway alcove. It’s a blast to walk through the crowded galleries and the heavily-decorated studios and see so much fun artwork! Not to mention the free food and wine.
And what fun works they were! Good Art, Bad Art, Great Art, Questionable Art, Weird Art, Art? All manner of things were on display, including a large concrete tooth full of blood.
I think my personal favorites this year were a flock of people in sheep costumes crawling around on the floor of the Senior Studio’s main gallery space while a large painting on the wall declared “Help! I’ve Lost My Sheep!” Along with some stained glass windows by the very talented Clea and Cy.
Those windows hold a special place in my heart for being the first two finished during the very first round of stained glass lessons ever offered through the Oberlin Glass Club, founded last year by yours truly. I’ll discuss the glass club in greater detail in a future post, but it aims to provide access to spaces, tools and materials for students to work with glass!
Anywho, I too made a stained glass window this semester! It was the largest stained glass piece I had ever attempted up to that point, a pretty traditional art-nouveau panel with a central tulip plant and lots of curly frames that ended up being 136 individual pieces. Although I started working on this project back in October, it proved to be wayyy more labor intensive than I thought, and it was actually the very last thing I finished during finals week, completed the morning before I skipped town. Although it was a source of added stress entirely unrelated to my academic work to be sure, it was a great feeling to be able to work on something like that throughout the semester, and an even better feeling to finish it! Here’s a picture if you’re curious:
I’ll close this post as I closed finals week–with a stained glass window–and leave you with the central thread of this piece. I like finals season!
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Responses to this Entry
so excited to be a part of this!!
Posted by: Stephanie Yakubu on February 21, 2023 1:37 AM
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