Last Book Club Post

Book club has been going very well this past week, however, I am sad to say that it is coming to an end. This is the one of the last projects that we are all doing together. We are all writing reviews of All the Light We Cannot See to summarize our thoughts on the book before moving on to our final project together. If you want to check out some other blogs that have reviews of All the Light We Cannot See look at the blogs of Sydney, Kaliegh, Vanessa, and Racheal. If you plan on reading the book in the future and do not want to spoil it for yourself, then reading my blog or the blogs of others may not be the best idea, however, here are some reviews with less spoilers if you are considering reading the book.

In this review, I will be looking at all components of the book including plot, character, setting/mood, symbolism, style/voice, and theme to come to a conclusion at the end where I will rate the book on a five-star scale. This post is similar to my first, however, I have a lot more insight on the book now and can draw better conclusions than I could have in my First Impressions blog. I hope that you find this review helpful, if you have any questions about my opinions on the book, comment below!

The plot of the book was very simple but told in great detail. I liked that the action was spread out over the course of many years, it made the story feel like it could have been real. I think that though the story does romanticize war, it does try to show how people on all sides of the war are capable of good and evil. I liked that the story did not just involve the French and German but also the Russian to show that everyone was right and wrong at the same time. The examples used in the story to illustrate theme were used sparingly but powerfully. Werner’s point of view was pretty dark as it followed him going to a Nazi school where his strong sense of morality was broken down and built back up again. He then was forced into the war to track down terrorist broadcasts. Werner is always with other people in his plot, but is very independent from them. He forgets to write his sister. Soon Werner finds out about Marie-Laure through the radio broadcasts she sends and one day he follows her through Saint Malo. The radio broadcasts she sends after the bombing of Saint Malo motivate Volkehmier and Werner to escape from under the rubble and fight to live. Though the meeting between Werner and Marie-Laure is brief it has a big impact on the both of them. Werner dies close to the end of the book by a landmine which was laid out by German soldiers. His death was foreshadowed earlier in the book and it showed that war kills not the enemy, but a fellow human. I liked that Werner’s death had a reason behind it in the book, but it made the end of the book much darker. Soon the plot follows Jutta who is raped by Russian soldiers when they occupy Berlin. She later gets notice that Werner is dead and years later she is given his belongings. Werner’s belongings lead her to find Marie-Laure and they talk, it is a very profound moment in the book where two plots come together again. In Marie-Laure’s plot is more relatable for me and I like that she continues to live life as normally as she can leading up to the war. Marie-Laure flees Paris with her father and ends up in Saint Malo with her uncle Etienne and Madam Manec. Here Marie-Laure learns the wonders of the world around her when she walks the town, goes to the beach, or has imaginary adventures with her uncle. However, throughout her plot, we see her become more independent as she helps in the resistance movement broadcasting information and as the people around her leave. Her father is arrested never to be seen again but for the few letters her writes. Madam Manec dies. Etienne is also arrested but later reunited with Marie-Laure after the siege is over. Soon Marie-Laure finds herself all alone during the war with Von Rumple looking through the house for the Sea of Flames. Werner shots Von Rumple and saves Marie-Laure. They share the last can of peaches madam Manec ever made and talked about their lives. Werner suggested that he hadn’t lived his own life for a long time up until that day. He Admired that Marie-Laure lived life as regularly as she could. Later on Marie-Laure returns to Paris with Etienne in her old home and decides to go to school and soon she works at the museum. She meets with Jutta and finds the key to the grotto where she hid the sea of flames in Werner’s belongings. She hints that she knows it is still where she left it. The book than fast forwards all the way to 2014 the year of its publishing and shows Marie-Laure talking to her grandson imagining all the worlds with in worlds around them as he plays a video game. The plot overall is very poetic, delicate, and intricate. I have deep appreciation for the execution of this book and its success of telling such a brilliantly simple story with such great detail and wonder.

The characters in this book were all very well developed and had a humanity that made them seem very real. The changes of the characters were as subtle as could be, yet all of these small changes added up and it is only now reflecting back on the novel as a whole that I can appreciate the development of the characters. I liked that the book showed characters from all ages, genders, and genders on different sides of the war. Even when describing the Russian soldier who raped Jutta, he is described as he had been mourning for his friends who were fallen soldiers. Doerr was not afraid to show the darkness with in his characters, and I liked that. Werner seems to struggle throughout the book with his morals and the morals imposed on him by the army and by the Nazi school. He seems to have an internal struggle with this throughout the novel and cycles between his own morals and the morals of others. Werner becomes a much smarter character but with new knowledge he seems to loose more of his curiosity and child-like wonder. He becomes a lot more hardened through out the book, but when he is with Marie-Laure and even with Volkehmier in the rubble, he begins to open up. In the scene where Werner is near the ocean, we see he and Marie-Laure both have a fascination with the ocean showing his child-like side again. I found it hard to relate on a personal level with the character as we did not have a lot in common, but it was easy to see his perspective on life through his actions and dialogue. Marie-Laure starts as a very innocent young girl, and though she begins to learn more and faces unthinkable hardships, she continues to have that innocent young girl inside of her. Though Marie-Laure becomes much more mature, wise and self-aware through the book, she stays true to herself and continues to be curious about the world around her. I personally related to Marie-Laure’s better because we both seem to be interested by everything. In the scene where Marie-Laure and Werner talk, it is easy to see that they are both still children at heart. Though the character changes happen slowly and subtly, I now appreciate it looking back at how much the characters have truly changed.

The setting for this book change very often but there were three main time periods, pre-war, war, and post-war. This setting made for a lot of anticipation continuously. The settings were always described very well. The setting was very important to the plot, theme, symbolism, and character. I think that the setting obviously motivates the plot a lot of the time because it is a historical fiction book at a time of war. The setting helped move plot as when the settings changed, the mood of the book did too, changing the characters ever so slightly. For example, when Werner first went to Nazi school, he became more hardened moving the character and plot development forward. All of the different settings showed that people who are different in nationality, gender, culture, class, or whatever else are actually similar as we all have a humanity that unites us. Showing such a wide variety of characters from such different places really emphasized that theme. The mood varied greatly throughout the plot and from character. I don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, but I did enjoy this book a lot and I think I enjoy it partially because of the setting, not in spite of it.

The symbolism in this book was less explicit than I am used to, but I enjoyed that I had to think twice about it. Radios and music, especially ‘Clair de Lune,’ are both symbols of hope in this. An example of this is when Werner and Jutta first listen to the radio as a children and think about a world beyond their own where everything will be okay. Another example was when Werner and Volkehmier listen to the radio underneath the rubble they are buried in, the music from the radio gives them hope and the attempt to and succeed in escaping from underneath the building. Shells, Jules Vern adventure novels, and locks with keys represent the theme of worlds with in worlds. This is shown by the way Marie-Laure lines up shells on her windowsill at home in Paris and in Saint Malo in both of her ‘worlds’. The lock and key represents the pathway to other worlds, for example, in the very beginning when the safe to the Sea of Flames is described in the novel. The Sea of Flames is the last symbol that I discerned from the book and it represents that all that is beautiful may not be good and all that is good may not be beautiful. The diamond has a ‘curse’ on it and it shows the dark sides of the characters as well as the good once they let go of the diamond. This is especially clear in Von Rumple who through his search of the diamond becomes very ill. I liked that throughout the book the symbols stayed the same but had different meanings at different points in the novel; the true importance of the symbols emphasized further into the novel. I liked that I had to look harder for the symbols, it made me appreciate them a lot more.

The style and voice in this novel was my favourite part. It was easy to read because the chapters were so short. I liked that the perspective switched between characters, it helped emphasize the theme that people who are different are actually similar. I liked that the story followed not just Marie-Laure and Werner, but also Daniel LeBlanc, Etienne LeBlanc, Madame Manec, Jutta Pfennig, Frau Elena, Frank Volkheimer, Frederick, Dr. Hauptmann, Reinhold von Rumpel, and Madame Ruelle. The voice changed character to character which made for a diverse pool of characters. The writing was very descriptive but used simple words which made for a very interesting combination. The dialogue was used sparingly, but it was used well. Doerr really showed character traits through action and used dialogue to more explicitly state character motivation. The pacing of the book made it feel very realistic.

All the Light we Cannot See explores the tragedies of war, the idea of worlds with in worlds, free will versus predetermination, moral relativism, and the significance of seemingly insignificant actions. I like how well all of these themes were woven together throughout the book. I thought that the themes were introduced subtly and slowly culminating in the end in scenes that more explicitly explored the themes of the book. I really liked the meeting between Werner and Marie-Laure because the characters talked more explicitly about the themes of moral relativism, free will versus predetermination, and hinted towards the theme of significance of insignificant actions. Werner and Marie-Laure talked about their lives and philosophies while sharing a can of peaches. I think that the tragedies of war was shown very obviously in Jutta’s perspective when she is forced to work from a young age and is raped at a young age because of the war. The idea of worlds within worlds is beautifully showcased through the diamond which is hidden in the city model in Etienne’s house by the small house with in the large house. The whole book is a series of small insignificant events that soon lead to significant changes and I really liked that this theme was gradually shown throughout the book. The themes were incorporated into the book very well and some of the themes are very unique to this book. Many historical fiction novels have similar themes, but All the Light We Cannot See is ingenious in the way the themes are so easily applicable to this day and age.

Considering all of the parts of the book I would give All the Light We Cannot See a 4.5/5 stars because though I really enjoyed the characters, theme, symbolism, and especially the style of the book I sometimes found the plot to be a little slow and even dark towards the end. I also thought that the book did romanticize war but I liked that the writing style was still very realistic in its description and mostly in its pacing. I think that this is a great read for anyone who likes poetic writing, thinking deeply about the meaning behind the book, and historical fiction. I don’t usually like historical fiction, but the setting really adds to the themes, plot, characters, style, and symbolism in this book. It’s a good book to read by the fire in winter as it is a heavier read. Over all I really enjoyed this book and I am very happy that I had the opportunity to read and study All the Light We Cannot See as a part of our book club. I hope that you found this review helpful and that you consider reading All the Light We Cannot See in the future as it is a true delight.

Biblography

I have listed all of my sources below. I find that this year I researched a lot more in-depth and it was really helpful to understanding my person. I really enjoyed the documentary and book. If anyone wants to know more about Ai Weiwei, watching the documentary is really fun, even if you just want to know more about political issues. It was difficult to find information on Ai himself as he is still a rather current person, but the Wikipedia page was surprisingly helpful, it was the biography listed by his official website. I had a great time researching and probably spent a bit too much time researching, but I really enjoyed it.

http://aiweiwei.com/ good source for current information on art installations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ai_Weiwei good source for personal history

https://www.artsy.net/artist/ai-weiwei good source for past art pieces

http://www.aiweiweineversorry.com/ good source for information on the “Citizens Arrest”

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-ai-weiwei.htm  good source for information on art installations

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-ai-weiwei-chinas-most-dangerous-man-17989316/ good source for information on current politics around Ai Weiwei

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/05/24/its-not-beautiful good source for information on current politics around Ai Weiwei

http://www.lissongallery.com/artists/ai-weiwei good source for pictures of art work

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series-ai-weiwei-sunflower-seeds good source for learning about ‘sunflower seeds’ installation

Never Sorry documentary good source for observing Ai’s daily life and understanding his arrest.

Ai Weiwei-isms by Ai Weiwei 2015 good source for Ai Weiwei philosophies on life.

The Beginning of the End

 

First of all, I wanted to congratulate everyone on Night of the Notables! Everyone did so well with speeches and learning centers, it feels like every year the bar is raised! The night itself was also set up so well, so thank you to the nines for organizing it! Everyone should be very proud of their individual work and the work that we did together as a group. I want to give a special thanks to all the TALONS teachers who guided us and made NotN a reality. It was all of that work that made Night of the Notables such a success this year.

This is my final Eminent post and though I feel sad, I also feel very relieved that I can now reflect back on speeches, learning center, and the overall flow of the night without having to begin thinking about next years’ eminent project.

I feel very good about how my speech went, though it was not the best run through, it wasn’t the worst either. I feel very grateful that I remembered all of my lines. I think that my content was very relevant to my person and showed how he made an impact in his field. By explaining his road to jail I showed his eminence but by doing the speech as if Ai were talking to his son it made the speech more personal and relatable. I think that my presentation of the speech went well, I tried to use my nervous energy and turn it into anger as my speech was very heated. Anger is not an emotion I exhibit a lot so it was interesting to try show that through my speech. Though there were a few moments where I hesitated, I think it was okay over all. This year we did transitions between speeches and I really liked that. I thought that the speeches flowed much better, showed a story, and kept everyone more engaged. I think that all of the speeches were very well done and everyone had a lot of confidence on stage. Speeches were my favourite part of the night because I really enjoyed watching everyone and encouraging people backstage.
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Learning centers were pretty fun, but it was the hardest part of the night for me because I had to talk to people in an unstructured way. However, I think that having the interactive component really helped. I had made my learning center to look like Ai Weiwei’s studio with paint, cut outs, and art strewn about. I laid down canvas and sheets everywhere to make sure that nothing got dirty. I pre-painted vases from value village white and I asked people to help me paint them with colours. This was supposed to represent Ai Weiwei’s ongoing piece where he would paint and destroy Han Dynasty urns to show that sometimes we have to disregard tradition to make way for new ideas. I think that this component of my learning center was successful. Many people young and old came to my station and painted their urns, some people even took their master pieces’ home! However, I did struggle to stay in character the whole night, it was hard to talk about my person from his perspective and still remain somewhat objective about his hardships. I think that all of the learning centers were really great this year and I think that they flowed really well, I liked that all the artists were together in a corner. It was especially cool because some of our eminent people knew each other and had visited each others studios and exhibitions. I think that looking at all the learning centers just before they were all taken down was a lot of fun. Though I missed out on the interactive components of most learning centers, I am very happy that I got to see them.
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The overall flow of the night was very good. I think that the fact that the speeches had transitions and that some learning centers were organized by theme made for a more integrated experience. The set up of the event was very quick and we all had plenty of time to set up learning centers, look at each others learning centers and practice our speeches on the main stage. We also had enough time backstage before the speeches started for a quick pep talk which was very nice. The cleanup was not as smooth as it could have been. We mostly began cleaning after the first announcement and though we were all quick in taking down our learning centers, not everyone did their designated cleanup jobs and we ran out of recycling/ garbage space. However, we were still pretty fast with cleanup managing to finish before 10:30. The circle that we had at the end was very nice and I liked that a grade nine and a grade ten counted down to the shooting stars. It was a strong note to end of on.

The closing circle was a really nice way to wrap up a long day and the last Night of the Notables I would ever have to present at. Though I was a little bit sad that it was the beginning of the end of our journey through TALONS, I was mostly relieved that I wouldn’t have to go through the same stress again next year. I feel very satisfied with how Night of the Notables ended up this year, I think that it was very successful in the speeches, the learning centers, and the flow of the night. NotN made me feel happy and excited and sad and relieved all at once, and I am very glad that I had this experience with all of you!

Congratulations to all of the grade tens who have finished their last eminent project, good luck to the grade nines on their projects next year, and thank you to everyone who supported the TALONS learners in this time of stress, especially Ms. Mulder, Mr. Salisbury, Ms. Dingle, and Mr. Jackson!

 

 

Eminent Interview, A Learning Process

I think that the interview aspect of eminent is the hardest for me personally. I sent out more than ten e-mails and got very few responses. However, the interviews that I did end up getting were very helpful and gave me a lot of insight. In the end, I think that it was worth putting in all the work of sending out so many e-mails because I did get three good interviews that really helped shape my project.

Image result for uno langmann limited fine art vancouver bc
Uno Langmann Limited Fine Art http://www.hellobc.com/activitylisting/100413/uno-langmann-limited-fine-art.aspx

I interviewed Jeanette Langmann the curator of the Uno Langmann Limited Fine Art, Adair Harper a curatorial assistant from the Vancouver Art Gallery and Kathrine Dennis the adult programs coordinator also from the Vancouver Art Gallery. All of the people that I interviewed are around art on a daily basis and are often the people making the decisions around what is inside of their gallery. These people are very well informed and I feel very lucky to have had the chance to sit down with them.

Image result for vancouver art gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery http://www.insidevancouver.ca/2014/01/08/free-sunday-admission-for-kids-at-the-vancouver-art-gallery/

Going in to these interviews my goal was to gain more insight into the art world now and in the recent past and put my eminent person into the context of the global art scene. I may not have reached my goals exactly, but I did learn a lot from the experience that I could not have learned any other way.

Before even starting the interviews, I asked how they would first define that art that we would be discussing. The answers that I got were pretty similar in that all of them described art as a mindset or a perspective of looking at things. Katherine told me a story about young children coming into the art gallery. They viewed a piece that was a pile of rocks and were asked, “Why is this art?” and they answered “Its art because its meant to be art,” (as in the artist had intent to make a piece). I think that the small anecdote Katherine told describes the kind of answers I got to my question on the definition of art.

Image result for pile of rocks
http://normazf.deviantart.com/art/Pile-of-rocks-209202278

To get a better idea of art in context, I asked them about what are pieces inspire them and about what makes a provocative piece. I learned that curators pick pieces that start a conversation or grab attention (good or bad) over pieces that are visually pleasing. This was an interesting revelation for me as an observer because I usually think of art in the aesthetic sense first. This helps me better understand the context of Ai’s art in galleries around the world. I also learned that a piece is provocative only if it allows for it. Adair helped explain this idea using a narrative around Duchamp’s fountain piece. When the urinal was first displayed on its side in a fancy gallery, it was shocking, and it made people question why it was art. It was provocative because no one had done anything like that at the time and because it started a conversation around art. Yet, if the same piece were to be displayed now, it would not be as shocking because it has already been done and we are used to seeing more unconventional art now.

Image result for fountain duchamp
Duchamps Fountain http://www.beatmuseum.org/duchamp/fountain.html

To get a better idea of the influence of art and influences on art I asked about arts effect on society, the implication of mass media, arts effect on modern philosophies and the societal issues that are common in art today. At these questions there was pause. They are all rather broad questions, and I got an array of answers. However, what I got out of it was that art doesn’t always affect societies directly but can impact individual people. With mass media art is now seen in the public eye more often and is more accessible to people. I learned that common societal issues in art are ever changing and very different from place to place and time to time. Many artists right now are currently focused on politics, in Canada Aboriginal themes are very common. Though these questions were rather vague, I think that I got some good information and it helped me better understand the vastness of the art world.

At the end of the interview, I simply asked if there was anything else that I should know based on the questions I had been asking. I am now very glad that I took the time to ask this question because I got some very helpful answers. All three of the people I interviewed recommended that I continue to pursue researching art, pursue experiencing art, and pursue making art. Katherine said that the best way to learn about art is to get immersed in it. I found this advice very helpful. Though I am currently very busy, this made me pause and think about visiting a local art gallery as a learning experience. I hope that I find the time soon to go to a local art gallery, I think it would be very beneficial for my project and would challenge me mentally.

I think that these interviews helped me look at Ai Weiwei from a broader perspective. The interviews shed light on the opinions many people in the art world hold about influence, inspiration, society and controversy. These interviews helped me put my eminent person in to context to better understand the influence of his work and what it means today. However, I think the most important thing that I learned from my series of interviews is that art has big roles in the lives of many and is something that should be held dear to our hearts. Art can convey deep emotions and we should not take our freedom of expression for granted. This interview helped me better appreciate the career path not just of my eminent person, but of all the artists, and curators out there. The passion of Jeanette, Adair, and Katherine really moved me and made me think about trying to pursue some form of art in the future.

Eminent D.O.L.: Speeches are coming up!

If you have not already checked out the small Ai Weiwei biography I wrote in my intro post, you should!

Eminent has been a very good experience so far. Though I expected to be very stressed and worried at this point, I feel surprisingly calm. I think that everything is going very well, and though my posts are a little late, I still feel okay about the work I have done so far.

I am now very glad that I took so much time to pick my person as this project has been a lot more fun. I have decided to really take my time with all the steps of this project and I think that it has helped me to gain everything that I can from this experience. I think that though there is less we have to do this year; I have learned more because we really have to synthesize this project as we embody the person.

Image result for ai weiwei
We look like twins! Right?! http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Tub97RiVTX/Ai+Wei+Wei+Sorry+Exhibition+Opening/WrEOUJwXIr1/Ai+Weiwei

In the beginning I really struggled to even imagine embodying Ai Weiwei simply because we look so different; but as I began to write my speech I found ways to connect with him through philosophies and history. I think that his fight for freedom of expression and transparency is very important and I agree that he is doing right by standing up for himself and for others. I have never gone through what he has, and I don’t think that I ever will in this day and age in Canada. However, my family has had similar experiences to Ai. Both of my parents grew up in a communist country and experienced first hand the oppression of their government when they were restricted to express themselves, to read certain books, and to travel anywhere. Media at the time was limited and heavily controlled by the government. My parents went through similar hardships that Ai is still facing today, and this connection has really helped me better understand him and relate to him.

Image result for ai weiwei and son
Weiwei and his son Lao http://friendsofaiweiwei.tumblr.com/post/54872152918/ai-weiwei-and-his-son-during-a-visit-to-the-park

For my speech, I chose the perspective of Ai talking to his son Lao as he is being taken away to jail. This viewpoint reminds me of my parents telling me about the hardships they faced as young people. I picked this angle because I think it will make for the most impactful stage presence and overall speech. I have inserted my speech below, it is a rough draft and I am sure it will change a few times before NotN. If you have any suggestions for my speech, please comment below, I really appreciate it!

You ask why the police are putting me in jail? Why your father is being taken away? Why I am being forced into to prison?

I’m not sure what to tell you son.

This is not the first time I have been sent away, I was in exile for the first 18 years of my life. My father was an artist, like me, and we were all sent away because he spoke his mind.

He did not do anything wrong, I did not do anything wrong, my mother did not do anything wrong.

Nothing has changed; and I have not done anything wrong now.

I am being silenced, censored, suppressed.

I spoke out when I saw wrong in the world, the way my father taught me and the way I will soon teach you.

Let me tell you son, in Sichuan, 5,192 young students died; because of the crumbling school infrastructures. And they did nothing. The government launched no investigation, they released no names, and they laid no blame.

But I knew who was to blame for the 5,192 deaths of children. The deaths of children like you Lao. My investigation was only meant to bring peace to the families of the departed. They deserved to know that their child is truly gone.

This injustice should not be silenced, censored, suppressed. We have the right to know and we have the right to speak. I want change and I will fight for change so that you will not have to.

I know now what to tell you son.

I am being taken away in chains because…

(I will get dragged off stage at this part)

Thanks so much for checking out my speech. Just a few more days until we go on!

I also wanted to highlight somebodies work, because they have worked very hard. Rachael has had quite a difficult time with her interview and she has kept a very level head about it all; I really admire her or that. If you want to read more of her work and learn about her interesting eminent interview, you should head on over to her blog! I think that she really deserves the recognition for her hard work.

I hope that everyone is having a good eminent experience this year! I know that though it may be a struggle now, everyone will be more than great on the night of with their speeches and learning centers. Good luck everyone!

Book Club Letter Assignment

For our second book club assignment, we were supposed to write a letter between two characters in the book. I have chosen to write from the perspective of Werner writing to Jutta. If you want to look at previous posts and refresh on the plot of the book, here is the link.  Since the last post however, there have been new developments in the book. To understand these letters it is important to know that Werner has now joined the army and is using his radio skills to pin-point enemy broadcasts. Werner has also become more aware of himself and his surroundings; he is less susceptible to the ideas the Reich is promoting and has disregarded many of the values of the Reich. Werner is beginning to see the similarities between people on both sides of the war effort, and is once again softening up. I hope that you enjoy the small exchange I created; the first letter from Jutta is from the book and I wrote the second one from Werner.

Jutta’s letter to Werner

Dear Werner,

Why don’t you write. Things seem to be getting worse and worse every day here. The factories run day and night and the stacks never stop smoking and its been cold here so everyone burns everything to stay warm. Sawdust, hard coal, lime, garbage. War widows cry on the streets. So many soldiers have died at war and every day there are more. I’m working at the laundry with the twins, Hannah and Susanne, and Claudia Forster, you remember her, we’re mending tunics and trousers mostly. I am getting better with a needle so at least I’m not pricking myself all the time. Right now I just finished my homework. Do you have homework? There are fabric shortages and people bring slip covers, curtains, old coats. Anything that can be used they say must be used. Just like all of us here. Ha. I found this under your cot. Seems like you could use it.

Love, Jutta

Werner’s letter to Jutta

Dear Jutta,

Sorry I have not written in a long time; I have been very busy. I have left school, they put me in the front lines. A commander called me into his office one night, and said that I had been pretending to be 16 so I would not have to go to war. He said that Dr. Hauptman brought it to his attention. I left very soon after. I am 18 now according to all legal documents. I got a haircut and I met some interesting people here; Neumann and Neumann two, they are nice enough. I miss Fredrick though. He left school when he was beat badly by some boys. I recently visited him and he did not even remember me, it was too sad to bare. Yet I miss you more than anyone else, but I wouldn’t want you to be here. I can’t say where I am, but its very cold here. I’m sorry to hear that it is cold at home as well, but I am happy to know that you are safe with Frau Elena.

I got sick a few weeks ago and I thought of Frau Elena’s stews. Does Frau Elena still make stews for everyone at the orphanage? Are there still enough supplies still for you all to live well? It seems like we too are running out of resources here.

I have found out why they wanted me to learn trigonometry. To triangulate broadcasts. All these triangles, all these numbers, they mean more to me now. They are places, people, lives at stake in the war. They are people like you and me living in places like Schulpforta and Zollverein, struggling to make it through this war. We have both been put into use in this war, like you said in your last letter, but I wonder if it is worth anything.

They want me to look for terrorist broadcasts. Don’t the people we are fighting want the same thing as us; peace?

I know that this letter probably will not reach you, and if it does, I think most of it will be censored. I hope that you understand that it has been hard for me to write to you; it is hard to be truthful. Sometimes writing feels hopeless, but then I remember that you are my hope. The only thing that helps get through this is the thought that one day soon I will see you again. Stay safe, Jutta.

Thank you for sending my journal. It means a lot. It reminds me of when we used to listen to the radio together.

Love, Werner

I really wanted to do the censored letter as well to draw contrast and show the gap  between what is said and what is meant. If you want to check out some more letters, go to these blogs: Sydney, Vanessa, Rachael, Kaleigh!

Finding My Eminent Person

I have really struggled to pick someone for eminent this year. There were so many great people that I wanted to study that it was hard to pick just one person! I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone again this year by picking someone in a field I don’t plan on actively pursuing in the future but am very passionate and curious about. I thought about picking someone in the field of science research, but I feel that I already learn about this in my own time; I really wanted to take advantage of this learning opportunity and get as much out of this experience as possible.

This year I decided that I really wanted to study an artist, and at first I looked into the “classic” artists that I could study. For a week I pursued studying Salvador Dali, but after researching him further I realized that he wasn’t a good fit for me as my values didn’t seem to line up with his. I also struggled to relate to him as he was a rather privileged person. This seemed to be the case with many of the “classic” artists (Vermeer, Rembrandt, Monet) I pursued. Most of them were white men who came from privileged families, though not all were.

Image result for ai weiwei
https://c9e2175da161f40140e5-aa0d32f8a22e15794b262b38ea14b77e.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/index.html

So, I decided to look into contemporary artists and I found so many wonderful artists with similar values and backgrounds. However, China based artist, architect, curator, and filmmaker Ai Weiwei stood out to me because he is also heavily involved in activism. You may know him best from the “Bird’s Nest” building he created for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, yet I soon found out he has done so much more. I began to research Ai Weiwei’s biography, then his art installations, then his activism, then I watched some of his documentaries. I wanted to pick someone for eminent that I was not just intrigued by, but captivated by; and I think that I found that in Ai Weiwei.

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5.12 citizens investigation, http://teachernina.weebly.com/journal-entry-five—ai-weiwei—personal.html

I think that Ai Weiwei is eminent in his field because he really evokes thought through his projects and has shed light on many important issues. An example of this is through his “5.12 Citizens’ Investigation” project. At 14:28 on May 12, 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake happened in Sichuan, China where over 5,000 students in primary and secondary schools perished in the earthquake, yet their names went unannounced by the government and press. In reaction to the government’s lack of transparency, a citizen’s investigation was initiated to find out their names and details about their schools and families. This project had political implications, but more importantly this project brought peace to the friends and families who had lost loved ones in the Sichuan earthquake.

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Painted Han Dynasty Urns, http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/70/AiWeiweiDroppingTheUrnCeramicWorks5000BCE2010CE

This is just one of his monumental works. Ai Weiwei has been sparking conversations and controversy through some of his other projects which include painting and breaking Han Dynasty urns. However, my personal favourite work of his is “Sunflower Seeds” which was an installation at Tate Modern where he scattered 100 million porcelain “seeds” hand painted by 1,600 Chinese artisans—a commentary on mass consumption and the loss of individuality. The effect is amazing.

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Sunflower Seeds, http://www.juxtapoz.com/news/ai-weiwei-sunflower-seeds-mary-boone-gallery-nyc/

However, his road to success in the art world was very rocky up until very recently. In 1958 at the age of one, Ai and his family was sent to a concentration camp in Beidahuang, Heilongjiang. They were exiled to Shihezi, Xinjiang in 1961, where they lived for 16 years. Upon the end of the Cultural Revolution, the family returned to Beijing in 1976. In 1978, Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy and studied animation. Later, Ai moved to New York to pursue art and lived there in the 80’s and 90’s where he had a few art pieces and installations showcased. However, in the 2000’s he began to really take off. He had his art showcased, books published, and he founded his own architecture firm, FAKE, and made a studio for himself. His messages of freedom of expression spread all around the world. However, his messages often clashed with the philosophies of the Chinese government. After years of harassment and physical abuse from the government he was arrested and held by the police for 81 days, with no charge. After being released, Ai Weiwei continued to work on his art and continued sparking dialogue between the contemporary world and traditional Chinese modes of thought and production.

The Black Cover BookThe White Cover Book [PW07]The Grey Book Cover [PW12]

Images of publications sourced from: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/printout/works/the-grey-book-cover-pw12/index.html#

Ai Weiwei is now one of the most influential Chinese artists and political activists today. I am very excited to try portray him, though I am nervous to impersonate him as we don’t look alike. I hope that through this eminent project I can learn more about the art world and political activism and develop my passion for these topics.