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May 2, 2023

UMMA’s SLAM: An Exclusive Interview with Pretzel

By Emma Cordova

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Student Blog

In an attempt to survey how our events have been doing this past year, and evaluate their general inclusivity, accessibility, and shortcomings, we decided to randomly select an attendee of UMMA’s SLAM event, and for the sake of transparency, release this interview (along with photos for evidence).

SAB Member: So, what brought you to SLAM?

P: Honestly, it was more of a peer pressure type thing. All of my friends wanted to come and I got roped into it, but they did mention Luna Pier was performing, and anyone could tell you I’m a groupie. Anyway, I ended up tagging along and remained in my bowl before being plucked by you guys, which, may I add, was a bit scary.

SAB: Yeah, I actually wanted to apologize for that…sorry, I’ll approach this type of encounter differently moving forward.

P: yeah, thanks for that acknowledgment. You should go paint me that apology!

[P-SAB member exchange retracted for sake of article length]

7:34 PM: The Plucking

SAB: Glad we have come back around.  So…do tell, where did you go first?

P: Ok yeah, so right off the bat I darted to the table where everyone else was, which led me to a very daunting, heated iron. It looked eerily similar to an iron I saw in South Quad? Didn’t know the dorms were so generous!

SAB: Yes! I’m guessing you are talking about our tote bag-making station! That table remained very popular for the bulk of the night.

[For those who weren’t there, students were able to cut out different prints and iron them onto provided UMMA tote bags! We thought it would be a great way to provide an opportunity for a creative, easy craft that students could take home.]

I’m glad you had the chance to participate!

P: For sure.  It was definitely one of my favorite activities that night. With the help of a SAB member, I was able to make and take home a tote bag. Being surrounded by other’s making their tote bags with their own creative visions definitely added to my enjoyment. I didn’t even notice, but I started bopping to the live music as I was ironing…I was having such a grand time – barely noticed that you were shoving a camera in my face!

7:36 PM: Tote Making

SAB: Pipe down, I know you were posing. Anyway, you mentioned the music. If I recall correctly, you dashed over there pretty quickly.

P: Of course I dashed–I wanted to secure a front-row seat. I doubt you would understand – too busy interrogating people and watching others have a good time it seems.

SAB: Sure, I have no fun ever. But let’s move on — so, what did you think about the live music experience?

P: It was rockin, the bands were great, and let me say, the sound in the Apse is INSANE. Watching students dance was a fun sight to see given how serious I feel the Apse usually is during the daytime. It really helped establish the informal nature that SLAM was going for. Placement 10/10, music 10/10.

7:42 PM: P’s Front-Row View

SAB: I’m glad you enjoyed it! So, I don’t know if this is on the table, so feel free to request this be off the record, but I couldn’t help but notice a change in your demeanor at this point in time. You seemed to become more solemn, or was it pensive maybe?

P: Hmm, I’m not so sure I know what you are referring to.

SAB: Well, I don’t know, I feel like you started to melt a little? Let me know if I‘m getting too personal –

P: Yeah, I was melting. Because the UMMA was ungodly hot that day…And well,

[P stared at wall for approximately 3 minutes]

P: As I watched my favorite band perform, I began getting caught up in the rhythm and their voices, and I began losing myself in the music. I didn’t know where my body ended (or started tbh) or where the music began. And as my appreciation grew, the music and the gratitude seemed to be pulsing inside of me, effectively melting all of this hard milk chocolate I had previously remained sheltered in…I mean, I felt like I was, well, did you know, at my origin, I materialized as just a simple pretzel?

SAB: P, you are a pretzel.

P: No no no, you don’t understand me. This chocolate shell came later, much later, and eventually, I accepted it as myself, as a more mature identity. My sweet-shelled self existed under the guise of a mature pretzel which was far from the truth.

So here I was, alone–

SAB: I was literally holding you but–

P: Metaphorically! Don’t you understand anything? Anyway, I was alone in these feelings and it felt good. At this point I wasn’t even worried about my friends. If they had been plucked or eaten…to hell with them! I was having fun. I began to see new beauty in UMMA. During SLAM there was obviously a sense of community, but in a weird way the colorful nature of the event also helped me look past the activities and at the space around me. There are numerous voices, perspectives, and lives, hanging on these walls, all there to take you somewhere new, where you can expand your understanding of all of the moving, often intertwined, narratives around you. A certain momentum rose inside of me, and so I ran with it and set off to discover the rest of the museum.

SAB: Yes! So take us there!

P: I began at the first exhibit I saw, the Unsettling Histories exhibition in the Davidson Gallery. I was especially transfixed on Ayana Jackson’s Cascading Celestial Giant I and II, from the Take Me to the Water series.

SAB: Yes, one of our own, Kayla Turner, wrote about Jackson’s work in her article Reflecting on the Women of UMMA’s Galleries for those interested.

7:48 PM: P Admiring Art

P: On my way out, I ran into another one of your board members, and we had a great conversation about the success of SLAM, my hometown drama, and a local crush.

7:52 PM: Secrets Being Shared

P: Following my conversation, I left to explore the wonders of UMMA with a fresh motivation. It was like time did not exist, and there was nowhere to be but here. I felt fully present in every footstep. Present while feeling the edges and divots in Yoshiko Takahashi’s ceramic bowl in the Clay as Soft Power exhibition, and present while staring into Monet’s La Débacle tucked away on the second balcony. These pieces, some of which I consider timeless, sent me into a whirlwind of thought…how many places had I been where I had simply existed while being somewhere else? How many hours in the day am I truly present? And there, at that moment, I came to the liberating conclusion that I was not stagnant in a bowl with other pretzels, and I was not on Zoom with other pretzels either, but rather I was wholeheartedly here, looking at the walls and the people, listening to the music, and happy.

SAB: Wow, that’s so profound! Actually, that sounds kind of familiar…Do you think UMMA’s “YOU ARE HERE” signage on the Apse ground and its repeated large print on the wall in four different colors helped you come to this conclusion?

P: Did you just discount my revelation? I literally just took you through all of the steps of my enlightenment and now you accuse me of falling prey to a simple exposure effect?

SAB: No, not at all! Well, I’ll be the first to say that I have enjoyed speaking with you, and maybe after another UMMA event, we can follow up!

P: Yeah, it’s been tolerable, I’ll definitely be at the next event given all are welcome and it’s always free.

SAB: Thanks for that promotion

P: What promotion?

8:30 PM: When Seeing is Not Believing: P Claims They Weren’t in this Photo, but the Camera Begs to Differ