Archive for August, 2009

Re: ekphrasis

Monday, August 31st, 2009 | Katie Sadow

Purple flowers not
All violets should be called
Research oft yields truth

In the hopes of starting this visuo-literary journey on the best foot possible, I thought it prudent to mention that the purple flowers growing on the chain link fence are – to the best of my knowledge – not actually violets. They are lovely, however, and if my horticultural knowledge was as well developed as my knowledge of say, baking, or the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (please, look it up!), I’d definitely share their proper name.

As for “the squalor of modern life (if you will)”, Mr. Sweeney, I won’t. Modern life is an exemplification of many things: resource misuse, overzealous politicians, satellite television, and the Apple takeover (cause for celebration!), to name a few. On the other hand, if you asked me where to find squalor, I’d probably point you many hundreds of years into the past to the Dark Ages. Any life in which technicolored vines grow on rusty metal fences is not one I would call squalid (“foul and repulsive, as from lack of care or cleanliness; neglected and filthy,” likely from the Latin squalere, “be rough or dirty”). Perhaps this fence is lacking in care, and very possibly it is tremendously unclean, but it is eye candy nonetheless. This flowered fence is modern life: an unlikely marriage of man and nature. And it’s probably worth noting that when this fence has rusted into a pile of oxidized metal flakes and is blown about the alleyway by a passing wind, those purple flowers or some descendent of those purple flowers will likely still be around. Chew on that for a while, if you will.

I’m also not sure that this blog is around because “Seeing takes effort.” Actually, I’m pretty sure that seeing takes very little effort; if one is not blind and one has one’s eyes open, one basically can’t help but see. I’d say that noticing takes a bit more effort, though. Appreciating takes a handful more still. That’s certainly why I’m around. If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you can see. But you might not notice the natural phenomena growing next to the dumpster behind your apartment, and you might not notice the fluttering flags of your university peeking around the trees at Forest Park, and you might not appreciate how tremendously inspiring it is that beauty can trump practicality in the unlikeliest of places.

If some of that sounds intriguing, however, or
if you’re a noticing/appreciating connoisseur and you’d like some company, or
if you think that the discussion/bickering of (sometimes) semi-pretentious university students over the world around them sounds like dessert,
feel free to stick around.

Bear’s Grill

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Kate Gaertner

How do you feel about the new Bear’s Grill in South 40 House?

Do you love the vegetables in your pasta? Hate the lack of seating? How do you feel about the Henry Ford-esque assembly line? Love the fancy new menu items? Miss pretending to bond with any of your favorite employees? Comment!


Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Dennis Sweeney

ekphrasis: “the graphic, often dramatic description of a visual work of art. In ancient times it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The word comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, verb ekphrazein, to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name.”

This is a blog about the visual.


It is a blog about violets on a chain link fence.  About the color and light that can infuse the squalor of modern life (if you will). About the cage, and about its adornments.

The visual is not merely decorative. Optical aesthetics embody the most potent natural art there is; and we all know that art functions as a way to reformulate subjectivity, to enhance our understanding of the world, to allow us to categorize the categorizable and acknowledge the un-. By seeing (literally seeing) the art in everyday life, we become again and again better human beings.

Seeing takes effort. That’s why this blog is here.

Of course, I’m not the only one who likes art, the visual. One Katie Sadow does the same. She might feel differently. And in order to level the playingfield, to harness the prodigiousness, she holds the other mouse in the blog relationship. Perhaps she is more sensible than I. Perhaps not.


Brookings Hall, here (it’s tiny tiny), peaks over a ridge, framed by a blue sky, Forest Park trees, and an early sunset. If Washington University knew this shot existed, I feel they’d take it, with million megapixel cameras and a clear conscience. That’s quite all right, perhaps, for most of us.

But the kid standing there who suddenly realizes that he can see his school a mile away among this giant oasis thrives on the absence of such a capturing. Its previous presence in an ArtSci viewbook would disqualify the scene; the idyllic would be commodified; the discovery of the image would bear the smear of its earlier misuse.

Allow us to not smear our images; to allow the moment of discovery to remain fresh. Ekphrasis, we hope, is nonperishable. Might it forever renew our souls.

From the Sidelines

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Johann Qua Hiansen

With another school year, comes several new seasons. The action starts September 1st with Women’s and Men’s Soccer against Illinois Wesleyan while Volleyball takes on Harris-Stowe State University and Greenville College.

The Sports section continues experimenting with ways to provide the best coverage of Wash. U. athletics. We’re on Twitter @studlifesports.  We’re also figuring out the best way to use this blog.

One idea was to attend practices, share our observations and make our own predictions.

In the past week, I’ve seen small portions of the volleyball and women’s soccer practice. There’s a palpable air of excitement. Here are my observations:

Women’s soccer- The team looks to be in shape. Despite less than 10 days of practice, the team already has a team chemistry. The squad is taking things one at a time. Illinois Wesleyan will be a good test considering the penalty shootout in last year’s Regionals.

Volleyball- The Bears may have graduated three All-Americans but they look ready. Practice was spirited with an energy that’s tough to describe in words. It seems that the team has also developed the team mentality but only game time will tell. The big question is Who will emerge as the right-side attacker?

We would love to hear from you. Email the senior sports editor at [email protected] with your comments and concerns.