Institute for the Humanities: A matchmaker

August 26, 1997

Institute for the Humanities: A matchmaker

ANN ARBOR—Each year the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities welcomes a new cadre of Fellows from various fields, disciplines and geographic locations. Encouraged to explore new territory, Fellows sometimes strike up unlikely alliances such as the recent collaboration between a dancer, artist and statistician which yielded a stunning new dance performance, “Seven Enigmas.”

“We at the Institute for the Humanities are very proud to have brought about the improbable conjuncture of Fred Bookstein, Peter Sparling and Jim Cogswell, who were Fellows of the Institute. Their splendid performance is an outstanding example of what can come out of an interdisciplinary program that is designed to produce the unexpected,” says Tom Trautmann, director of the Institute.

The unexpected culminated in a successful summer performance of “Seven Enigmas,” described as “a multimedia collaboration celebrating the capacity of the human spirit to reach beyond and within itself in the search for knowledge.” This dance performance will be repeated at U-M’s Power Center Sept. 13, sponsored in part by the Institute for the Humanities.

The matchmaking began when choreographer and dancer Peter Sparling, a 1996-97 Fellow, invited visual artist Jim Cogswell, a 1992-93 Fellow, to create a set design for “Enigmas.” Inspired by the spatial movement and gestural power of Sparling’s dances, Cogswell mapped out a multimedia sculptural installation of objects, projections, and surfaces in motion with human bodies. This duo then assembled a team for their highly experimental production celebrating the capacity of the human spirit to imaginatively explore the universe outside and within.

Amid choreographed film projections and electronic images interacting with dancers and sculptural elements on an array of screens throughout the performance, Fred Bookstein created a mesmerizing morphing grid pattern tuned to the dancers’ movements. Bookstein, a Fellow in 1992-93, is a distinguished research scientist and statistician whose research deals with morphometrics, the measurement of biological shape and shape change.

Using the Institute for the Humanities as a growing plot or seed ground, these Fellows not only have combined their talents but have widened their individual horizons with Cogswell moving from recent prints, drawings, and paintings of an anthropomorphic alphabet to set design, Bookstein migrating from brain mapping into music, and Sparling, the dancer/choreographer, now writing poetry.

Tickets for the Sept. 13 performance of “Seven Enigmas” are available at the Michigan League Ticket Office at 911 N. University in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $18, $14, and $7 for students.

U-M News and Information Services University of Michigan

Institute for the HumanitiesFred BooksteinU-M News and Information ServicesUniversity of Michigan