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This an article that covers the main themes of Taun N. Toay’s “Trumponomics” Lecture which includes his insights on polling, the working class, the appeal of Trump, the economic effect of his policies and his view on the resistance. Then the article continues with my personal experience of an anti-Trump protest that I attended and my reflections about what this type of dissent means.

Trumponomics lecture poster (Credit: Bard College Berlin)

Trumponomics lecture poster (Credit: Bard College Berlin)

On the 2nd of February, in the times of pre-judicial halts of Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Executive Order, the students and faculty of Bard College Berlin had the pleasure (and discomfort) of listening to Taun N. Toay’s lecture “Trumponomics: How the United States Accepted Authoritarian Populism”. Taun N. Toay is the Annandale-based Managing Director of Bard College Berlin and of the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College. Armed with his economic background, Toay aimed to give a crowd of concerned U.S. and non-U.S. citizens an economics-centered explanation of this political phenomenon that most of us mention at least once a day now, because, honestly, how can we not?

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Detail of Mike Kelley's Educational Complex, 1995 (Credit: Artspace)

Detail of Mike Kelley’s Educational Complex, 1995 (Credit: Artspace)

It was 19 hours in Pankow, Berlin. The cold was eating away at my extremities. But I was on a mission. My plan was to arrive at my dorm to freshen up fast enough to get to Laura López Paniagua’s lecture on the work of Mike Kelley only a modest 5 minutes late. Being an Arts and Society student here at BCB, this lecture was to be a sacred right of passage. I arrived in my dorm and applied my aromas and silks. Just steps away from my door, I realized I did not know where this lecture was being held. I looked through my email history with ferocity. I found the location: the lecture hall, naturally. But what is this “lecture hall”? I have had lectures in many rooms here at Bard Berlin. I racked my memory. This was as hard as any question on a test. I deduced it must be the structure across from the admin building. I realized I do not know the numbers of any of these buildings. They all seem to be 24, whether it be Platanenstr.,  Kuckhoffstr., the list goes on. 24, 24, 24. I arrived and ascended the staircase. I got into the building and, to my relief, there were middle aged men and women milling around, empty wine glasses, and some nice bottled water ready to fill them. I was not late after all.

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Susan Nieman on Why Grow Up (credit: BCB promotional poster)

Susan Neiman gives a presentation on her book Why Grow Up? at BCB (credit: BCB promotional poster)

In an audience consisting mostly of 20-something-year-olds, the question “why grow up?” awakens both curiosity and a deep mistrust. This mixed reaction comes as a result of wanting to know how to do it while harboring a suspicious attitude towards anyone who might try to make us do it too quickly. “Why grow up?” is the inquiry that Susan Neiman, the acclaimed moral philosopher and director of Potsdam’s Einstein Forum, delved into from behind the podium in Bard College Berlin’s lecture hall. Her book of the same name was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015 and deals with our society’s idea of adulthood.

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Dover String Quartet

Bryan Lee on second violin (Credit: Tamar Maare).

Last week at the Factory, BCB’s arts building, an attentive audience was allowed to have a small glimpse into the most private world of a creative process.

The first four notes of Beethoven’s Op. 74, No. 10 in E flat major, played in reverberating harmony by two violins, a viola, and a cello, filled the space in the factory’s dance studio. We held our breath.

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choir

Paul La Farge talking about how to build a writing career. Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016).

The first time I saw and heard speak a real, published author in flesh and blood was in August of this year as part of the Language and Thinking Program offered at BCB, when Clare Wigfall came to discuss one of her short stories. The next time was in September, when the Romanian author Norman Manea came to answer our questions on writing literature in extreme situations. Most recently, BCB was visited by Paul La Farge, author of four published novels to date and recipient of numerous accolades. Thanks to these visitations, I have become increasingly convinced that the successful writer is not a myth. La Farge came to address any questions his audience had on the topic of “building a writing career” (which to him seems “a strange conjunction of words”), and to share an excerpt from his new and yet unpublished novel, The Night Ocean.    

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Laura Kuhn 1

Laura Kuhn drawing. Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

Ten Bard College Berlin students set around the factory building tables on a Friday evening, each provided with only two dice, pen, paper, and twelve rocks they were curiously required to bring with them beforehand. As Laura Kuhn, the director of the John Cage Trust and the John Cage Ryoanji Drawings workshop leader took out a thick book with a minimalistic cover and introduced it as an old Chinese oracle used for guidance and inspiration, the cynics among us moved uncomfortably in their seats. Some of us were vaguely familiar with John Cage’s work while others knew nothing about it, but none of us knew what John Cage had to do with the I Ching. John Cage (1912-1992) was an American post-war avant-garde composer, music theorist and an artist most known for using unorthodox musical instruments and “chance operations” as he derived them from the I Ching.

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From left to right: Michael Weinman, David Hayes, Andy German, Stuart Patterson. Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

I am surprised that it took me this long to figure out just who exactly this “Plato” guy was. Growing up, I heard the names “Plato”, “Socrates”, and “Aristotle” often, usually in relation to one another, but did not understand what these names contributed to Western philosophy and science. Until recently, the mention of one of these three conjured up only imaginings of bearded faces and wise, earnest discourse in my mind. My knowledge went so far as to connect the names to Greek philosophy. Happily, my first semester of a liberal arts education has brought me further in my understanding.

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From left to right: Inasa Bibic (BA 2016), Norman Manea, David Kretz (BA 2016). Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

On the evening of Friday, September 18th, in a residential neighbourhood on the fringe of one of the world’s most vibrant cities, something odd occurred at Bard College Berlin. This is a time when one might expect the students of BCB to be out and about the city, or simply doing their best not to think too deeply for a while. And, indeed, most of the classrooms were empty: doors locked, lights off, lying in wait of Monday morning. Curiously, though, on this night, light and sound filled the school’s lecture hall. 

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