Friday October 10, 2014

ArtStreet’s 'Impact'

By Kiersten Remster '17

This past week on campus, art and text have transformed our traditional philosophical ideas into tangible realities. Roesch Library opened a new exhibition titled Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress. In this collection, texts from historical periods ranging from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, up through the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species have fruitfully enticed our interest in historical documents.

ArtStreet’s White Box Gallery has offered a response to the Rare Rose Book Collection in a juxtaposing exhibit that brings the meaning of concepts and ideas explored into visible objects and installations. The exhibit, Impact: Reactions to the Rose Rare Book Collection, is especially unique to University of Dayton because the three featured artists are all UD alumni.

In this installation, Ellie Richards (’07), Joseph Hoffman (‘06), and Misty Thomas-Trout (‘11) have each selected their response to the texts in very contrasting yet complementary ways.

The main wall features Hoffman’s work- an auditory response to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Hoffman installed 32 various speakers, all unique in colors, styles, and sizes, which play a continuous loop of various voices reading the prologue of Invisible Man, blended together by the artist. Hoffman expressed that he wanted “the idea of a faceless author projecting his or her own noise into the space.” This concept of incorporating the anonymity or invisible narrator is a path that Hoffman wanted to play with because of his interest in “the physical manifestation of these nameless people.” Wires and cords fall to the floor from each individual speaker, symbolizing the countless voices and opinions that are thrust into our atmosphere. Hoffman hopes that this auditory installation will bring listeners to engage with the work rather than just hear multiple narrations of it. The audio installation is intended to engage and ignite the creative thought process.

I found this piece to be quite moving both aesthetically and the concept of the auditory projections. The arrangement of the speakers provided a sense of balance in blending together all of the different voices while reading the same script. The technology set up for this piece was also interesting to note because of the mixer which was centered on the floor, surrounded by numerous volume receivers that flashed bright blue and red lights. The blinking of this technology contributed to the overall piece because of its allusion to these performers and voices all recording through the technology and out of the speakers. It promotes a sense of modernity regardless of when these voices read the prologue.

Framing the center wall on either side, Thomas-Trout worked with all organic, handmade paper cut into hexagonal, honeycomb patterns. Suspended from a hanging structure by bright red thread, the shapes are hung vertically with excerpts from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. On the opposite wall, the same concept is repeated but instead uses the text of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as a reaction. “These pieces focus on the meta-connection dialogues between embedding human struggle, survival, and relationships,” Thomas-Trout said. When viewing these paper installations at eye level, an observer is able to connect the hexagonal patterns strung vertically to read the various cut and pasted quotes, images, and diagrams that Thomas-Trout produced. Placed on the underside of the hanging structure from which the thread is hung from, the artist utilizes two main quotes for each piece that form the foundation for the hexagons to hang from from these posts. On her Anne Frank installation, the quote reads, “I wish to go on living even after my death.” This quote acts as a tool to read the meta-connection paper pieces as they draw upon the hatred of Jews and struggle of being a Jew during this time. It sets the stage and tone off of which the honeycomb paper quotes are able to build and conceptualize.

This piece captured an interpretation of significant events in a peaceful approach. When we picture an artistic response to the Holocaust, we envision a mound of shoes touching the ceiling that once belonged to victims of the concentration camps. We picture a single torch that eternally burns in remembrance of such a tragic historical event, we think of graphic pictures that capture the life of prisoners in Auschwitz, and so on. But, Thomas-Trout took a different approach when tackling a representation of Anne Frank’s diary. She lightly touched upon the atrocity faced during this time, rather than a usual depiction of a Holocaust display. This allows for a freedom within the viewer to optionally take the exhibition as a subtle interpretation to whatever degree he or she wishes for it to be. It is subtle in the sense that it is not brash or directly confrontational to such a fatal period of history.

Featured in the center of the gallery, Richards explored Carl Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae, titling her installation When Things Collide. She takes the concept of Linnaeus’ classification of various plants, animals, and minerals and moves past his findings by bringing littered objects from our everyday lives and organizing these trinkets into classified, significant meanings as readable experiences. Richards juxtaposes both synthetic and nonsynthetic objects. Each table display represents a paragraph with each individual entity portraying a word. She considers her work to be tangible words and books displayed in front of our eyes.

This particular installation sparked my interest because of Richards’s abstract meaning of altering temporary objects that ultimately beg the question of the distributive paradigm of nonmaterial goods. Iris Young once argued in her philosophy on social justice that theorists and scholars consistently state that the institutionalized context of distribution does not apply to nonmaterial goods, or the “stuff” of society. Young’s philosophy is easily relatable to Richards’s installation of the classification of disposable objects. How are we truly able to classify what objects will bring a readable experience to humans and what is the significance of these classified goods? If we are able to universally classify various trinkets and entities could there ever be a set law that outlines a distributive paradigm for each individual item to belong?

Stop by and experience Impact at the White Box Gallery at ArtStreet, now through November 6th.

Kiersten Remster is a sophomore Art History and German student at University of Dayton. She is the new student arts writer at ArtStreet and is very excited to be a part of the ArtStreet family. Kiersten has been a competitive swimmer her whole life and is continuing her swimming career through the Dayton Master's program. She is also serving on the Academic Affairs Committee this year as vice president and is looking forward to working with faculty in order to improve Dayton's academic curriculum.

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