Press "Enter" to skip to content

Club bends borders

Mills College Weekly

Having long known the power of collaboration, artists have historically formed groups dedicated to synergy, from salons to workshops to shared studios.

This fall, a diverse coalition of some 30 graduate and undergraduate Mills students are joining together to continue this tradition.

Aptly named Borderbend, this student-led organization is dedicated to energizing the Mills art scene through interdisciplinary collaboration.

“The campus is really segregated by department, so we want to bridge that gap,” says Kelly Vogel, president of Borderbend and first year M.A. student. Sitting on the plaza in the afternoon sun, Vogel’s green rhinestone glasses sparkle as she describes Borderbend’s mission.

“This is an organization that allows students from different disciplines to come together and share or collaborate on artistic projects. It can go in any direction that the members take it.”

With bi-weekly lunchtime meetings, Borderbend is intended to provide an opportunity for Mills artists to exchange ideas about current projects.

Although the present group primarily consists of musicians and writers, artists from all backgrounds are welcome to join.

“We’re open to all different disciplines: visual artists, photographers, sculptors,” stresses Vogel who studies English literature herself, and is a seven year veteran of the Glide Gospel Church choir in San Francisco. For her own creative work with the group, Vogel envisions a musical collaboration.

“I love to sing and I’m really interested in collaborating vocally with poets or other writers,” she says.

While a regular meeting and performance schedule remains to be finalized, initial Borderbend members are eager to spread the word and recruit as many members as possible.

Although the organization is partially sponsored by the office of graduate studies, undergraduate students are encouraged to join as well.

As president, Vogel is adamant about the importance of undergraduate participation in Borderbend.

“It’s not just a collaborative venture between the disciplines,” she says, “It’s a collaborative venture between undergrads and grads.”

As one of several freshwomen in the group, Liz Setzer agrees. “I’m really glad this organization is happening, so I know what other artists and musicians are doing,” she says. “Especially as a freshwoman, it’s a nice way to become connected.”

For Setzer, who is studying music and psychology and works at the Mills Art Museum, collaboration is important because, “it gives you an opportunity to perform in groups. As a composer, it’s nice to have a variety of ensembles to write music for.”

Pamela Serota, assistant director of graduate studies, also recognizes the importance of organizations like Borderbend.

“The college as a whole really wants to encourage inter-departmental and interdisciplinary creative projects and work,” says Serota.

“I would love to see all of these creative disciplines working together more; the arts are such a big part of the program here at Mills.”

Borderbend’s first official event will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the art museum.

According to Geoffrey Dyer, M.F.A. student in creative writing and Borderbend program coordinator, the performance will combine the talents of several Mills students in a repertoire covering improvised rock music and modern dance. The lineup will also include Dyer’s own self-described “installation performance piece.”

“The installation will consist of several pairs of stereo speakers arranged in an outward facing circle,” he says as he draws a loose sketch of the piece’s configuration. “The speakers will play the sound of BART traveling on a Sunday morning.”

Additionally, Dyer enlisted four fellow graduate students to create improvised guitar and electronic music to correspond with the taped train noise, which will be played simultaneously. To complete the piece, Dyer is soliciting two poets to recite their work in conjunction with the music and BART sounds.

While the process of artistic coalition building may sound like serious business, Borderbend’s leaders are quick to assert that their approach is welcoming and flexible.

“We’re sharing the effort,” maintains Vogel as she downplays her position as president. “There’s collaboration within the collaboration,” she jokes.

Anyone interested in additional information about Borderbend should contact Kelly directly at