Res Publica Ann Arbor

Arriving in the Midwest in the middle of winter needs a special kind of courage. Leaving Detroit Metropolitan Wayne Airport one experiences the definition of the romantic notion of sublime: man against nature. It’s been a week since Ann Arbor defeated the North Pole’s first place in lowest temperatures. But the sublime exists more than this nature above human stamina to that expression of the great spirit that follows the ruins of Detroit on the one hand, and Ann Arbor a few miles away which, in my enthusiasm, looks like a contemporary Res Publica.

I am considered by all I know as a person made for the summer.  In the Mediterranean I spent my childhood in long summertimes that lasted more than half a year and when winter finally approached all I had to do was add a jacket to my wardrobe. Now I am wearing ALL the Jackets I’ve brought with me at the same time, Ι take small, slow steps in order not to slip on the snowy, icy ground. I close my eyes and the memory of the orange heat of the long summer comforts me, but it is the refreshing dry wind coming straight away from North Pole that brings me back to reality. I open my eyes. This is where I am:

A door closes beside me, locking out the minus 18 Celsius degrees. The comfortable heat of the huge block of the North Campus at the University of Ann Arbor and a soundscape made of various near and distant conversations on all possible subjects shape the flair of a US University. High ceilings. Demonstrations of innovative projects all over the place. Students from all corners of the world are doing research here – each one does something magnificent and serious. I understand not even the half of what they demonstrate; I just retain the air of excitement, high expectations and dreams of youth.

I am entering the door of 3d lab for modeling and animation. At Prof. Sile O’Modhrain’s lab a book expands its pages. It is a haptic diary, and every day its pages flourish with music, concepts, and new ideas. This is my place for now, a place manifesting that haunted cities can be rebuilt and communication patterns can be expanded. I am a small part here of a world that tries to protect knowledge and give the opportunity to the whole world to achieve the obvious. Knowledge available to everybody.

— Esthir Lemi-Petropoulou