Campus News

Crabapple to deliver ‘Humanities to the Rescue’ keynote address

sideview of Molly Crabapple working on a painting.

Artist Molly Crabapple will present the keynote address to open this year's "Humanities to the Rescue."

By BERT GAMBINI

Published March 5, 2019

headshot of David Castillo.
“When we say ‘Humanities to the Rescue,’ we mean it; it’s not just a metaphor. We are in peril.”
David Castillo, director
UB Humanities Institute

Molly Crabapple, an internationally acclaimed author, journalist and artist, will deliver the keynote address to open this year’s installment of “Humanities to the Rescue,” an ongoing public humanities project sponsored by UB’s Humanities Institute (HI).

Crabapple, the HI’s 2018-19 Eileen Silvers Visiting Professor in the Arts and Humanities, will speak at 8 p.m. March 8 in 147 Diefendorf Hall, South Campus

A contributing editor at Vice, Crabapple’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Paris Review, CNN and The Guardian, as well as in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the New-York Historical Society.

Her address, which is free and open to the public, is the first of a two-pronged event schedule that also includes a book signing following her keynote and a symposium next month celebrating composer Kurt Weill. That symposium, organized by HI’s Modernisms Research Workshop, is titled “Sounds: Avant-Garde, Fascism, Modernism.” It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April 8 in 215 Baird Hall, North Campus.

“Sounds” is among the events included in the “Kurt Weill Festival: A Story of Immigration,” a creative partnership that joins the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the College of Arts Sciences’ Arts Collaboratory in celebration of Weill’s legacy. It includes cabaret performances, exhibits, lectures, masterclasses and concerts through May.

“Humanities to the Rescue” is a carefully conceived programming vehicle that shifts concern for the humanities as a collective of disciplines in need of rescue to recognizing that the disciplines within the humanities provide the tools, insights and analysis necessary “to rescue us,” according to David Castillo, HI director and professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

“We need the humanities more than ever with the recent re-emergence of authoritarianism, demagoguery, hate speech, xenophobia and misogyny fueled by the silo effect of the 24-hour news cycle, where people choose their news based on their own sense of reality — constantly reinforcing their own view of the world,” says Castillo.

This “reality entitlement,” as Castillo calls it, can create and perpetuate dangerous untruths, like climate change denialism.

“It’s a planetary threat,” says Castillo. “When we say ‘Humanities to the Rescue,’ we mean it; it’s not just a metaphor. We are in peril.”

The HI wants to create a forum for constructive conversation, and this year’s focus explores how art can help shape the public discourse.

“Molly Crabapple is perfect for this,” he says.

Crabapple, who was shortlisted for a 2013 Frontline Print Journalism award for her reporting on Guantanamo Bay, has more than a decade of experience working at the intersection of art and politics with an incredible talent for placing herself at the center — geographically, culturally and politically — of the very problems “Humanities to the Rescue” aims to address.

“It’s not only that she’s creating art that calls attention to issues like Syria, Guantanamo, Puerto Rico and the Mexican border, it’s that she’s putting herself there,” says Castillo. “Her art and creative process literally inhabit the planet’s hot spots.”

The month following Crabapple’s keynote, the HI will present the concluding segment of this year’s “Humanities to the Rescue” program with its Weill symposium, “Sounds.”

The intersection between aesthetic experimentation, critical theory and political upheaval that has historically been associated with the first decades of the 20th century has undeniable echoes in today’s world.

“Modernism refers to the time period between the 1890s and the 1960s when political upheaval, technological invention and drastic changes in social life coincided with innovative aesthetics in the fields of literature, theater, music, dance, the visual arts and architecture,” says Laura Chiesa, associate professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the symposium’s organizer. “The symposium uses Weill’s musical work at its hinge to explore music and sound, and performance and spectatorship.”

Three featured speakers will discuss that intersection of aesthetic experimentation and critical theory in connection to music in general and Weill in particular: Kim Kowalke, professor of musicology at the Eastman School of Music, and professor of music and chair of the College Department of Music at the University of Rochester; Peter Szendy, David Herlihy Professor of Humanities and Comparative Literature at Brown University; and Jacques Lezra, professor and chair of the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

UB faculty from the departments of Romance Languages and Literatures, Music, English and Comparative Literature will also make presentations.

A complete symposium schedule is available online.

The event is free and open to the public, but guests are asked to register and can do so by clicking on the schedule link.

“Our guests for ‘Humanities to the Rescue’ are great collaborators, something I admire,” says Castillo. “Crabapple’s newest book, ‘Brothers of the Gun,’ is an illustrated collaboration with Syrian war journalist Marwan Hisham. She’s also worked with Matt Taibbi, a journalist and author of the book ‘Insane Clown President’ who will be at UB later in the year to anchor our Humanities Festival in September with its 2019 theme of democracy.”

The Arts Collaboratory in action

A creative partnership between UB's Arts Collaboratory and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kurt Weill Festival is a celebration of Weill's music including a symposium, an art gallery exhibit, chamber concert, special course curricula, and a performance of "The Threepenny Opera" by Theatre and Dance students.

Click here to learn more about the festival.