The Truman State University Art Gallery
I’m having an adventure in the Midwest. More specifically, in Kirksville, Missouri at Truman State University. Why would a Southern California girl be in Missouri? For an exhibit called Voyeur-Repositioning the Gaze which includes nine artists, one of them being me. This exhibit was curated by Brandelyn Dillaway. She addresses the issue of privacy (or rather, lack of it) in our society, and how the gaze throughout art history has shifted. Her goal is to question the extent we are willing to subject ourselves to the voyeurism of others.
The artists are Deedra Baker, Wafaa Bilal, Daniel Coburn, Robert Ladislas Derr, Gina Genis, Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman (who collaborated on a project), Freja Mitchell, and Thinh Nguyen. Derr and Bilal are showing video work, and the rest are photographers.
I have to say, Brandelyn Dillaway did a remarkable job bringing artists from different parts of America together for a powerful statement about contemporary society. What is privacy? Does it even exist anymore? Do our laws need to be rewritten? All of the artists present work that makes us think about how often we are photographed without our permission in daily life. Some examine how we want others to perceive us. Side note #1: as I write this on January 18, 2012, the internet is experiencing a self-imposed black out to protest proposed laws that, if passed would impose censorship on Americans. It is all so intertwined.
Guests at the opening reception of Voyeur - Repositioning the Gaze
I am particularly intrigued with the work of Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman. Geolocation: Tributes to the Data Stream, is a series that uses geotagging to find the physical origin of random tweets. The artists visit and photograph the location. When the images are printed, the twitter post serves as a caption. This scares me. When you read some of the tweets and see exactly where they were posted from, you realize that anyone, anywhere can inspect your life whether you want them to or not. Cyper spying and cyperstalking become frighteningly real. One image depicts the exterior of a home, the corresponding tweet says Amy is dying @ HighlandHospital. Reading the caption drug me inside the house and into the unpleasant personal affairs of a stranger. It was as uncomfortable as if I was in a restaurant and the couple at the next table were having a very loud and angry fight. My own life has plenty to deal with. I am too empathetic to ignore this tweet, so being exposed to it forces me care. Side note #2: I have been told this is the experience others have when viewing my Window Peeping work, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. In another image, an employee wonders if s/he can cut out of work early because the boss is not there. If you were an employer, would you hire this person? It is common knowledge that employers check Facebook and Twitter before deciding if a person would be a good hire.
- © Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman
Artist Statement by Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman
Wafaa Bilil has surgically implanted a camera into the back of his head which “spontaneously and objectively captures the images -one per minute- that make up my daily life and transmits them to a website for public consumption.” This work poses the desire for his life to be viewed, discovered, and even validated. But if you happen to be behind him, you may be placed on public display without even knowing it. Are we as a society ok with this? If you feel like being a voyeur yourself right now, click on 3rdi.me to see his image stream.
Wafaa Bilil Artist Statement
My own work examines the private lives of senior citizens in a retirement community. The series, Window Peeping, documents the loneliness and isolation I witnessed when passing by their windows at night. I wanted to give them a voice. Dave Barton, Senior Art Critic at OC Weekly, writes: “The Pack Rat and Lives Lived In Cubes, Gina Genis’ voyeuristic photos of isolated senior citizens seen through their kitchen and balcony windows, are at once chillingly immediate and distancing, forcing us to acknowledge the subjects’ solitude.”Window Peeping has been exhibited at Cypress College, Laguna Art Museum, Gallery 825, and now at Truman State University. It is scheduled for Biola University in March. Here is my artist statement:
The series “Window Peeping” was born when I had to move into my mother’s house in a retirement community to provide care as her dementia progresses. To get some peace of mind, I began taking walks at night. Open windows display lives in cubicles of warped time. I have become a fascinated voyeur of how these senior citizens spend their evenings. In many cases, you can actually see where time has stopped. Their homes are decorated in the style of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Their TVs are tuned in to game shows of decades past. Some still have rotary dial phones. The most glaring factor is that they are so alone. In a large community of duplexes, three story apartments, and shared-wall condos, rarely did I see more than one person living in a home. Neighbors separated by just inches of drywall do not know each other.
Questions arise. When does a person stop living in the present? When do you start living on only your past memories? Are your memories interesting enough to carry you through your old age? What can we do now to make someone else’s life more pleasant? How will we be remembered, if we are remembered at all? And most important, how is America dealing with the challenges of an aging population?
The Pack Rat, from the series Window Peeping by Gina Genis © 2008
My two day experience at Truman State University has been quite pleasant. I am impressed with the gallery space and faculty. The hospitality from Aaron Fine, gallery director, is so much more than I imagined. The reception and artist discussion panel were catered. A rarity, thanks to our dismal economy. Brandelyn and I were also treated to lunches and dinners while we were there. I recommend sushi at Bonzai on the town square.
On Tuesday, January 17, I spoke with two of the photography classes. The students were sensitive and interested in knowing about the big bad world of professional photography. On Wednesday, Jan 18, an artist discussion panel consisting of Dan Coburn, Deedra Baker, and myself answered detailed questions about our work. The questions ranged from technique to developing concepts for a series.
Truman State University Art Gallery is located in Ophelia Parrish Hall. It use to be an gymnasium, so it has high ceilings and beautiful arched windows that let in natural light. I had photos and video of the gallery space, the artist lecture, and the curator’s lecture to share with you. Unfortunately, my computer had a heart attach and died in the St. Louis airport and everything was lost with the exception of the few images here that I had already uploaded.
Voyeur – Repositioning the Gaze opened on January 17, 2012 and continues through February 17, 2012. This show is worth the drive to Kirksville. If you can possibly make it, I think you will be pleased with what you see. If you are conservative, you may take issue with some of the work. That’s ok. Opening a dialog about our concerns regarding privacy is what this is all about. Many visitors told me they responded strongly to the work in the show. So go, look, be fascinated, appalled, amazed, and get angry. Then tell me your reactions. I will post them here.
Truman State University Art Gallery:
100 E. Normal | Ophelia Parrish 1109 | Kirksville, Missouri 63501