There’s a moment in “Call Me By Your Name” which has been running through my mind since I read the book. Elio, heartbroken at the end of his relationship with Oliver, sits with his father, the air tense as both struggle to address the romance to each other. After a prolonged silence, his father says: “Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spots.” A sentence as disarming as it is poignantly honest, it is a hard line to swallow.
As students, we see our weaknesses exposed throughout our four years in college. My time at Northwestern has been a constant race to overcome insecurities as I dealt with my identity and my purpose in life. As an international student, it can be an isolating experience studying here. One which tears you apart from what you know and throws you into a storm of ideas and norms which challenge who you are.
Scene + Heard has always been the space where I could process these issues. It’s been the comforting hand on my shoulder, allowing me to express myself and explore cultures in a non-judgemental, creatively-stirring environment. I’ve met musicians who’ve blended their identities into cross-cultural works of art, writers who have used poetry to explore queer theory and artists who have put together shows in defiance of systemic racism in America. Never before has the artistic community been so keen to create spaces that innovate and enlighten while also making a community for those in need of one.
So I hope, in this culture guide, that the NU community can see that there are many other spaces for them to do the same by escaping the bubbles of normality we exist in. The University and the incredible city of Chicago should never be seen through a lens of homogeneity, because there’s too much culture and beauty to find out there. Our job has always been to identify and celebrate these sides of life and hopefully show students and others alike that even in the darkest of moments, when we feel weak and worthless, that frustration, anger or tension can be turned into glorious art.
This guide also happens to be my last stint as Editor-In-Chief of Scene + Heard. Our design chair, Alyssa, and I have steered the publication through thick and thin and in many ways are the ‘last ones standing’ from our first year on the team. Therefore, leaving a publication that has been a major part of the last four years of my life will be a rough separation. As a foreign student who has found a home here in the Windy City, I feel a satisfying yet bittersweet sensation in leaving Scene + Heard with the launch of our “Borders” issue.
This online magazine is more than just a presentation of the best Northwestern and Chicago has to offer; it’s a challenge. Go out and find your own culture, and if you can’t find it, make it. The world is a crazy place right now, filled with lots of noise and passion. The only way to move forward is to channel this into something meaningful. Doubting human nature seems to be the norm in the current status quo, but in this confusing vacuum, art and culture can restore some much needed faith. Regardless of the direction of the world, our generation has an incredible moment in which we can flourish. Don’t let it pass you by.
For thousands of years, humanity has been erecting walls and boundaries in an effort to find stability and comfort in a world of confusion. We usually claim that these borders are created with the intention of protecting ourselves from outside threats, but this has never really been their aim. As much as borders are created to protect us from outsiders, they also protect us from ourselves, from our own anxieties and fears.
And while a border might afford those within it a sense of security, this sense of security comes at a cost. Borders separate us—that’s their job. They obstruct the movement of people and ideas, legitimizing our differences and reinforcing our divisions. This is not only true in a geopolitical sense, as we have seen all too clearly over the past couple of years, but also in a cultural one. The lines between genres in the music world or movements in art history, for instance, often serve to separate works that have more commonalities than dissimilarities. “Country” and “Soul” are labels invented by music advertisers to sell more records; “Impressionism” and “Pop Art” are designations invented by art critics to ease academic discourse. And while these modes of classification are frequently rooted in legitimate trends and artistic similarities, they often hinder cultural development more than they help it, just as the boundaries that delineate our planet often result in more chaos than peace. The human urge to divide and categorize often obscures our appreciation of art, muddies our conception of humanity, and distorts our understanding of ourselves.
That’s why we, at Scene+Heard, want to celebrate those who confront boundaries and cross borders. We want to highlight those who are redefining the way we think about art, culture, and the world around us. As we profiled groundbreaking artists, explored cutting edge student groups, and investigated the boundaries between Chicago’s diverse array of vibrant neighborhoods, we were inspired by the fresh ways in which borders were being challenged both on Northwestern’s campus and off. With this Spring’s Culture Guide, we hope to share that inspiration with you.
Scene+Heard’s Borders Culture Guide touches upon an idea that affects us every day. However, the concept of borders can be quite nebulous. How they are defined, overlapped, and broken is constantly in flux. On the design team, we sought to communicate the notion of borders both visually and interactively. An immediately salient part of our visual theme is the use of outline geometries, which reinforce our mental model of lines and edges separating this from that. To counterbalance the sharpness and sparsity of those lines, we incorporated rich textures such as maps and outside imagery, which evoke the spaces we exist in. Overall, soft, muted colors were utilized to keep the graphics grounded. Ultimately, borders can be a very personal experience. Hand-drawn glyphs are meant to give the publication a more personal sensibility while its interactivity give readers the opportunity to have agency in their exploration of Borders.