Friday, October 21, 2016

Day 35: "Can we hear you speak German?" "But this is an English class..."

Hi readers! I'm making sure to post on Friday today, but it's a short one because this week was definitely where the signs of me settling in are starting to show. I'm getting into my routine, balancing my teaching, exercising, napping, uni-going, researching, and socializing with my fellow Fulbrighters and teaching assistants, so I'm becoming acclimated, and things are less exciting and strange and more comfortable. 

On Saturday I went to photography show at a venue near my flat called Westlicht. The exhibition on display consisted of a selection of award-winning works of photojournalism from around the world, including the astounding image by Sergey Ponomarev of Russia which depicts a group of refugees on a raft coming to the Greek isle of Lesbos. I'm pretty sure this photo won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, and it's easy to see why. The work has been compared to Thédore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa before, and the resemblance is striking, so I'm including a side-by-side comparison in this post:


I'm not the biggest expert on photojournalism (or even any kind of expert in the remotest sense), though I've written about it before on my main site. I've also written on sports photography (wow, throwback to my first-ever review in March 2010 for I On the Arts... it's so short! I guess my verbose nature really hadn't started to crop up in my blog posts back then...), but there's something really different in the experiences of looking at environmental photojournalism, like the work J. Henry Fair does, where the disasters he documents are abstracted as as to be almost unrecognizable, versus Ponomarev's haunting photograph of the refugees, where the emphasis is inescapably on the human element. Yet the art historian in me wants to formalize that image in order to make the Géricault comparison, perhaps because it's such an affecting image that I almost don't want to get too close to it emotionally. It's almost like the tendency to do this kind of formal analysis functions as a shield and allows me to keep some sort of distance. I'm not sure, but for now, that answer is satisfying logically even if it means that I need to maybe reconsider how emotionally invested I get in the visual...

On a less-fun note, I was visiting the nearby public library for the second time when I came across a really nasty anti-Semitic flyer tucked into a library poster. I almost didn't want to touch it, but I felt like I had to at least alert the library staff, so I took some photos of the flyer and then brought it to the front desk. Honestly, I was surprised that it took me this long to find anti-Semitic sentiment expressed in this way in Vienna: there's been plenty of anti-fascist graffiti, Communist graffiti, and, unfortunately, Islamophobic graffiti, but this was the first anti-Semitic display I'd run into. It didn't really upset me that much as a result; the swastika graffiti at Swarthmore last month was--and is--much more horrifying to me. Swarthmore still kind of a home to me, since I lived there for four years, and the Vienna public library has much more foot traffic than Swarthmore's, so it's unlikely that I know the individual(s) who left the flyer in the Vienna library, while I shudder to think that I might well know the individual(s) who graffitied the swastika at Swarthmore. 

Earlier this week, I had deer shoulder stew at a great restaurant called Wratschko Gastwirtschaft 
(pronounced Vrat-ch-ko gahst-veertz-shahft) in the 7th district. The menu also included lamb liver, venison, meatballs... so plenty of options for a carnivore like me! A bunch of Fulbrighters and teaching assistants met at the restaurant, which was cozy and informal in a pub-ish way and then went for dessert at a really fancy cafe called Cafe Landtmann, where I ate an amazing slice of Nusstorte (nuhss-tor-tuh), or cake with walnuts and walnut cream. Not only was the interior decoration fancy, but if you sit down to order food, there actually aren't prices on the desserts--that's how you know it's fancy because "if you have to ask, you can't afford it"! I think that's the saying.
Have an artsy shot of this delicious cake that was an exorbitant six Euro...
I think I need to make one weird face per blog post at the bare minimum, so here y'all go.

Anyway, that's the report for this week. Next week I'm speaking with the curators of the Romane Thana exhibition at the Wien Museum, which ran before I got here but which promises to be useful in my project research. I also hope to go to the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) on Wednesday when admission is free, because the only thing better than seeing cool art is seeing cool art for FREE!

Random thoughts of the week:
  • Voting overseas is a logistical nightmare even if you do all the proper paperwork before you leave. But as a Californian, I needed to at least get my votes in on the statewide ballot initiatives, including ones to outlaw the death penalty and legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21, even if my vote in the Presidential election doesn't really matter.
  • An apparently fun activity for my students at the Graphische is to ask me to speak German so they can judge my pronunciation and lack of an accent--and not just simple German phrases I learned in school, but idiomatic Viennese/Austrian phrases that I don't even understand... as long as the kids and teacher like me, I guess?
  • I've now developed the habit of referring to the US as "the States" when I'm talking about it, even when I'm talking to my American flatmates. I'm already so European!--But it'll be hard to break when I get home...
  • Unrelated to anything Fulbright or Vienna, but Lady Gaga's Joanne came out this morning and I'm really enjoying it, at least much more than I enjoyed Artpop or The Fame. Standouts include "A-YO," which is just a fun beat, "Angel Down," which reminds me of a Bruce Springsteen song, and "Just Another Day," which is Lady Gaga basically doing Billy Joel, all jangly piano and thoughtful lyrics about love. 
(As always, if you want to express your love for me with material goods, my Amazon wishlist is here, my main site is here, and if you want to see many, many photographs of me and of Vienna, my Instagram is here.)

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