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It seems that they all went swimmin’

Written on June 16, 2008 at 2:29 pm  |  Comments (0)

Anthony Elms, Artist and Writer; Editor of WhiteWalls; Assistant Director of Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago; Alumnus of the University of Chicago


On my first visit, intent on watching The Rape of the Sabine Women, a chanting ghostly voice dislocates my focus. “Them a woman was sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’” from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) directed by Stanley Donen. The musical film, set in the mid-nineteenth century American West, tells the story of a man who finds love, marries, argues with his wife, and must repair his marriage, all while he directs his six brothers in how to get themselves brides. The film is based on Stephen Vincent Benét’s short story The Sobbin’ Women, which is, of course, a crude adaptation of the Sabine Women myth. “Them a woman was sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’.” I swear it was there, bubbling forth from Jonathan Bepler’s score.  …Read More »

Accommodated, Unaccommodated Man, and Daughter: Adapting Home in “Moby-Dick” and “Moby Dick”

Written on May 28, 2008 at 5:05 pm  |  Comments (0)

Jennifer Scappettone, Assistant Professor, English, Creative Writing, and the College


“Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little ones . . . . Why don’t you break your backbones, my boys? . . . Three cheers, men—all hearts alive! Easy, easy; don’t be in a hurry—don’t be in a hurry. Why don’t you snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So, so, so, then;—softly, softly! . . . The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin rapscallions; you are all asleep. Snop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull . . . . every mother’s son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the blade between his teeth. That’s it—that’s it. Now ye do something; that looks like it, my steel-bits. Start her—start her, my silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!”1

Every mother’s son on the whaleboat is thus summoned “drawlingly and soothingly” by the second mate mid-assault: maternal croons give way to patriarchal reprimands mutating into a succession of fatherly taunts. Such is the candor of domestic affections among the pied Pequod crew.  …Read More »

Flickr pics: Deinstalling Adaptation

Written on May 14, 2008 at 11:58 am  |  Comments (0)


Check out the deinstallation of the Adaptation exhibition on Flickr.

We’re sad to see it go, but happy to see it travel to some wonderful institutions including the Henry Art Gallery, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Philbrook Museum of Art. Visit the venues page for more details.

Live from the Gallery: A Fond Farewell from the Front Lines

Written on May 2, 2008 at 10:15 am  |  Comments (0)

Brenden Heiberger, Smart Museum Gallery Attendant, Student at the University of Chicago


As a gallery attendant, I am exposed to the works in the museum for a very, very, very long time. The works in Adaptation were no exception. Though I may never want to hear the voice of Jim Morrison again, I am sad to see Guy Ben-Ner’s “Wild Boy” leave the museum. From 3rd graders to the elderly, the piece seemed to illicit wonderful reactions from all the patrons and kept the experience of watching it entertaining and fresh for me (even though I have watched/heard it about 1,000 times).  …Read More »

Never Bring a Labor-Saving Device to a Labor-Saturated Place: On Catherine Sullivan’s “Triangle of Need”

Written on April 24, 2008 at 4:22 pm  |  Comments (0)

Matthew Jesse Jackson, Assistant Professor, Departments of Visual Arts and Art History, University of Chicago


Passing bodies interrupt your view. Abandoned headphones clang on the benches around you.

You try to acclimate yourself to the four video monitors and Dr. Patrick Obi’s e-mail, but it is impossible not to ignore some part of the work. You grow frustrated.  …Read More »

Gage Park High School: More adapting in the classroom

Written on April 23, 2008 at 2:24 pm  |  Comments (0)

Charlie Cooper, English Teacher, Gage Park High School, Chicago


Some interesting things have happened with the “Raisin in the Sun” Adaptation project already: first, that the more there is involvement of the students (in this case performing the play for one another) the more personal investment there is in the students. My students have been more emotional in their defense or judgment of characters because of having either “walked a mile in their shoes” or because they’ve been victims of that character’s actions. Because of this personal investment learning happens at a deeper level since students have “lived through” these experiences.  …Read More »

Live from the Gallery: the Challenge of Giving Tours of Video Installations

Written on April 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm  |  Comments (0)


Adaptation is, above all, a space that requires a significant amount of time to prepare for tours. With other art forms (i.e. painting, sculpture) it is possible to have rich, meaningful discussions about an object with a tour group even if you are not especially familiar with the piece. This is possible because the shared experience of discovery can spark wonderful insights and probing questions.  …Read More »

Through a Curtain Grayly: Arturo Herrera’s “Les Noces”

Written on April 16, 2008 at 3:48 pm  |  Comments (1)

Darby English, Associate Professor, Art History, University of Chicago


I wanted to view Arturo Herrera’s Les Noces as video art, but discovered upon arriving that I couldn’t. Answering this frustration, I devoted an inordinate amount of time puzzling that very difficulty before deciding to get over it. Why worry about what to call it? What kind of perceptual limitations did that worry betray? What possibilities and differences came into play with their overcoming? What looking isn’t also an asking? What certainty isn’t also a refusal? After all, I told myself, one enters Les Noces through a profound velvet curtain, one weighty enough to close itself behind you  …Read More »

Notes from Gage Park: What is Art?

Written on April 8, 2008 at 3:46 pm  |  Comments (0)

Charlie Cooper, English Teacher, Gage Park High School, Chicago


I am presently beginning a project with my American Literature students (sophomores), which will be modeled (loosely) after the Smart’s Adaptation exhibition. We are reading the play, “Raisin in the Sun” by Lorainne Hansberry and I’ll post soon the work we’ve done in the beginning stages of the project. I’ll also have students post commentary along the way.

High School students do not think of literature as “art” (hmm…well, that’s how this project began).  …Read More »

Lost in Play: Adapting the Zone of Imagination in the Works of Guy Ben-Ner

Written on March 31, 2008 at 3:44 pm  |  Comments (0)

Tom Gunning, Professor, Art History and Committee on Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago


Adaptation provides a key to the video work of Guy Ben-Ner, but not simply because some of his key works (such as Moby Dick and Wild Child, both included in the Smart Museum’s Adaptation exhibition) take their titles and imagery from preexisting literary and cinematic works by Herman Melville and François Truffaut. Instead of simply repackaging famous texts in a new form or medium, Ben-Ner deals with adaptation on multiple levels. Most profoundly, Ben-Ner explores the fundamental adaptations that occur as human beings construct their worlds: the creation of a habitus, a home, but also a means of living and dwelling upon the earth.  …Read More »