POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Aaron Fein ’93, an artist, architect, and Vassar alumnus, will create and install his White Flags project on the Vassar campus during the fall and spring semesters as a 2010-11 Vassar Artist in Residence, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. From Monday, September 27, through Friday, October 1, Fein will demonstrate and discuss the creative process of his project, which envisions the flags of all 192 United Nations member states rendered entirely in white.
Fein noted that his project “re-imagines a world in which our national symbols have faded just enough to highlight our common bond as a single human family.” The community may watch (and help) Fein sew some of these flags from September 27 to October 1 in the College Center’s North Atrium, where they will then be on display for the rest of the semester. In the spring, Fein will return to campus and install all 192 flags in a outdoor site still to be determined.
On Friday, October 1 at 3:00pm, Fein’s wife media commentator Dahlia Lithwick will join Fein for the lecture “Political Self Expression and New Media: protest with a Little ‘p.’” They will discuss how they have created a life in their respective arts; the ways in which the Internet has transformed their work; what they do; how they do it; and the impact that it has on others. Through their work, they will explain how they protest - with a little “p” - in the name of civility and understanding as they hope to create a more egalitarian society for their children (Taylor Hall, room 203).
Fein said that his project developed from “the idea of an entire world comprised of white flags that began in the months following 9/11, as I observed how all the American flag bumper stickers—our symbol of permanence and comfort after the attacks—began to lose their color in a slow, but inevitable fade to white. I wondered whimsically with a tinge of grief, if more than just the differences in our flags could fade away, ultimately rendering a more united world.” He said he hopes that the completed installation at Vassar will be “a monumental vision of peace.”
In contrast to the utopian vision that Fein continues to stitch together, Lithwick has spent much of the post 9/11 decade involved in the public debate over the continued fraying of the American legal system. As a pioneer of Internet journalism, writing columns for Slate and Newsweek magazines, she has worked tirelessly to communicate to her readers that we are only as free as our laws, and that they inform every aspect of our lives regardless of the distinctions between us.
The educational aim of the residency is to explore the myriad ways in which different peoples have struggled to both exist and coexist since 9/11. In their own ways, Lithwick and Fein will work with students to explore how both language and symbols—our civilizations most fundamental tools—have been manipulated in recent years to either unite or divide us. They said that they hope to impress upon the students that they, regardless of their occupation or station or views, have the power to use these tools in their own way to shape our world for better or for worse.
These events are supported by funds from the Vassar Artist in Residence program, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. More information about this program and specific events may be found at blogs.vassar.edu/artistinresidence.
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.