The Vigilant Robot

a watchful eye of creative complexity

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Discussing Borders with “Green Line” at Fulton Street Collective

Green Line Image

Art Exhibition and Theatre Performance
This past month of December, a friend and I collaborated with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble to put on an art exhibition to accompany some performances, all centered around a theme of transcending borders and boundaries in our lives and society. The performance was called “All the Shows I’ve Ever Wanted to Do But Was Told I Couldn’t” and included excerpts from three plays where the characters’ rolls were filled by those who would normally not be casted as such in mainstream professional plays.

Here is Chicago Danztheatre’s text about the performance:

“All The Shows I’ve Ever Wanted to Do But Was Told I Couldn’t” invites directors, writers, performers, and the like to creatively re-stage their favorite productions with an unlikely cast. Gender, racial, and sexual barriers are sure to be broken by some of the most talented voices in Chicago. Performed throughout the Fulton Street Collective’s gallery against backdrop of boundary-breaking music and visual art, each show will be followed by a discussion with the artists and curators.

Victoria Alvarez-Chacon, David Besky, Laura A. Harrison, Maria Margaglione, Maren Rosenberg, & Vahashti Vafadari
in scenes from
Sweet Bird of Youth, directed by Alex St. John
True West, directed by Jude Hansen
The Pillowman, directed by Lavina Jadhwani
Danny & the Deep Blue Sea, directed by Tara Branham
With additional Scenes written by Dana Lynn Formby

“Green Line,” the exhibition my friend Leila and I curated, was the background of every performance, working with and against the scenes and breaking boundaries in different ways. We solicited artwork from a variety of artists, mostly women and local artists, to showcases voices and artistic content that is not normally exposed in the mainstream Chicago arts community. We wanted to take the specificity of “Green Line” away and make it a broader concept of demarcations; Chicago is one of the most segregated cities and we wanted to fit the injustice and politics within that in our exhibition. The is the text about the exhibition:

Green lines are various forms of demarcations that have historically existed within certain geographical areas, separating societies from each other. From explicit territorial boundaries which impede upon freedom of movement to lines that denote areas in urban cities going through gentrification, what unifies these lines is the impact they have on how we perceive ourselves, others and the world around us. These lines are often invisible, but noticeable in the interaction, or lack thereof, between people and embedded into our views and social structures; sometimes, they are self-imposed. “Green Line” is an exhibition which intends to examine these different forms of borders existing within our society through a variety of mediums. From conceptual paintings and objects to photography and collage, the artwork encompasses a variety of interpretations about the borders we see, and sometimes do not see, in and outside our communities.

Artists Include:

Aaron King
Alma Elaine Shoaf
Annan Shehadi
Art J Olson
Ben Salus
Elsie Lopez
Francesca Lolli
Ian Macleod
Jennifer Mannebach
Mondana Jazara
Nina Lawrin
Ryan Till
Sam Kirk
Shirien Damra
Waldek Dynerman

Here are some photos of the artwork and performances:


















My Contribution to the Exhibition: “Process of Assimilation, 1967–”
My piece, “Process of Assimilation, 1967–,” was on display. I exhibited the piece a bit differently than I have before. Instead of hanging the photo on the wall, I had it tucked inside the “dictionary” to make it more realistic and slightly less nostalgic, not that the nostalgia could ever disappear. It is more tangible and less precious, because the value and respect with which I esteem this object is embedded into itself and the stand on which it sits.

The only object my father was able to bring to the United States after his family left Palestine in 1967 was an Arabic-English dictionary. It is not only a remnant of his displacement, but it is representative of a necessity to learn another language, a foreign language that is to become a refugee’s or “displaced person’s” new dialect. I recreated the dictionary to exist in the state after immigration and during “assimilation,” complete with traces of the specific process including my father’s simple marks, handwritten notes, and the inscription of the  Americanized name given to my father by teachers and schoolmates.

The only other artifact that my father has from his home is a photograph.

A photo of a home to which he cannot return and a book representing the language of his new home, the past and the present recreated to exist simultaneously, as it often does in the reality of a Palestinian.




The Future of Artist Collaboration
Discussions after each show revealed that collaborative events such as this one, where multiple artforms come together for a purpose, a cause, need to happen more often. Boundaries need to be challenged even further—art can be shown differently, not framed or on walls and non-actors can become actors. There is so much that can be done and challenged through art and I am excited to take part of more of this work in 2014.


The Best—My Favorites—of 2013: Music, T.V., Films, & More

At the end of every year I like to think about the best music I’ve heard, the best movies and television shows I’ve seen, and the best books I’ve read. Granted, I’m not the biggest movie or television show watcher, but it’s about what I have seen and what has been my favorite. Below are my favorites of 2013.

Best Album: Glaciers by Blue Sky Black Death


Best Concert: Active Child at Lincoln Hall, Chicago; it was so overwhelmingly beautiful and much too short.


There were about 16 people crammed on this little stage. There were violinists, a cellist, keyboard players, a choir, and so much more. His harp playing and voice are simply magnificent.

Other favorites include Nils Frahm at Chopin Theater and Slow Magic at Township

Worst Concert: Tricky. Technically not the worst concert, because it didn’t happen; he was cancelled twice due to the U.S. not giving him a VISA. I was really upset because I was so excited to hear him live. It’s not his fault or anything and I’m sure it would have been a fantastic show. I didn’t see any bad shows this year; they were all pretty great.

Best Music Video: 3D’s Battle Box collaboration “Jupiter”

I’m not sure that this is the best, but definitely the most intriguing that I have seen lately.

Best Music Artist Discovery: Deniro Farrar; I love Cliff of Death.

Best Video: “What Kind of Asian are You?”

Best T.V. Show: “Hannibal”; this new show on NBC is the most amazing show I have ever seen on local television. It is beautifully made and seems like a lot of thought was put into the details. The dialogue is excellent and quite philosophical at times and the imagery is artistic, albeit quite grotesque. The actors are really good and it is definitely one of the most underrated shows. I have never felt this way about a T.V. show before. I can’t wait until Season 2.

Best Movie: “Fruitvale Station”

Other favorites include “12 Years a Slave” and “Now You See Me”

Worst Movie: “Fast & Furious 6”; it was so unrealistic, even more so than it ever was, that I wish the franchise would end already.
R.I.P. Paul Walker

Best Book: Cities of Salt

Worst Book: A Confederacy of Dunces; it is probably unfair to rate it as the worst because I did not finish it yet, but I am just having the hardest time doing so because I find Ignatius too annoying and the content too uninteresting to trudge through. I hear it gets better, but for now, it is the worst. I have been reading this for months and I still have not finished half the book.

Most Overrated Song: “Get Lucky”; it’s a good song, but it definitely isn’t the best thing I have ever heard, contrary to what music blogs and magazines suggest. I think music magazines need to stop rating music based on the popularity of the musicians and start analyzing the music itself.

Worst T.V. Show: “Revolution”; it seems like every episode is the same thing over and over: new enemies and more fighting. I gave up watching after the first two episodes of Season 2.

Funniest News Story: “Cookie Monster Shoves Boy in Times Square
“Cookie Monster…he give me boo boo.” Maybe he had low blood sugar…not enough cookies.

Best Artist Discovery: Kelli Anderson, because she recreated book covers from paper and they look awesome!

Worst Artist Discovery: Clayton Pettet, because simply performing an act for the first time in front of a crowd is not art.

Tired of Seeing: Infographics

Would Like to See More: Street art in Chicago

Design a page for a Chicago-based Radical Coloring Book!

chicago childcare collective

Artists, Illustrators, Conspirators, and Pencil-wielders!this is an open call for submissions!

The Chicago Childcare Collective, with the help of AREA Chicago, is looking for YOU to collaborate with us in creating a Chicago-based Radical Coloring Book!

We need artists to design individual pages for us!  We want to highlight the on the on-the-ground organizing that’s going on in Chicago (and places close-by).  We’re excited about featuring work that we’ve supported as a collective over the past 5 years. That includes education justice, migrant justice, folks fighting the school to prison pipeline, restorative and transformative justice, mental health movement, home liberations, eviction blockades, anti-militarism, food justice, and queer and trans liberation.

We’re also really excited about what folks are doing with the anti-coloring book series, and will welcome designs that encourage and foster creativity, rather than strict obedience to line-filling-in.

Our Vision:

The Chicago Childcare Collective (ChiChiCo)…

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Happy Holidays! Hoot!

Happy Holidays!

May your 2014 be filled with nothing but greatness and a sound mind. If you had a rough 2013 or even struggled just a little bit, pick yourself up, put yourself back together and barge into the new year with a smile, a positive attitude, and some time to enjoy the things that you love.

Relax, Reflect, Reenergize. Go!

Heart Attack

I thought this was cute and clever.


heart attack

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