Thursday, March 13, 2014

Offense and Dissent

Have I mentioned that one of the fruits of our New School history class will be an exhibition about moments when displayed art rubbed up against political and community questions at The New School? Yes indeedy - going up at the end of the semester in the main university gallery, and remaining up through Orientation, under the (working) title "Offense and Dissent: Image, Conflict and Belonging at The New School."

New research is being done on three resonant episodes (all of which we discussed in our course last semester - though I guess I haven't shared images from the third with you: see below): the curtaining of the part of the Orozco murals depicting Lenin and Stalin in the early 1950s in what was then the school cafeteria; Parsons students' replacing their scheduled senior showings with an anti-war exhibit in May of 1970; and the furor over a racist image included in an exhibition of Japanese graphic design in 1989 in the university's central gallery. Exploring and analyzing these will be a large part of the exhibit; we're supplementing display of artifacts, archival materials, news reports, etc. with timelines commissioned from illustrators working in interestingly different styles tailored to the moments and genres at play.

But that's only part of it. The other part will be generated by The New School of 2104. We've sent out a lot of invitations, and received enthusiastic signmeups in almost all cases! Here's the invite:

In addition to the three incidents, we would like to have a fourth exploration that is a present-day investigation by faculty, staff and students at The New School in dialogue with an image/installation or an element of design that they regularly encounter at the university.

We ask that you

1.     Select either ­an artwork or an aspect of design that you regularly encounter at the university to which you have a strong reaction, positive or negative, that you may not necessarily share with others.  The work should be either an image or installation from The New School Art Collection that is in the hallways, offices, courtyards and hallways of the university OR it should be an element of design—graphic, interior or architecture—on campus. 

2.     Describe briefly why you are provoked or disturbed by the image/design: How do you encounter this work?  Why does it disturb or delight you? How do others feel? Does it exclude some people in its address?  Are you left out, drawn in, disgusted, bored, taken aback?  If you could effect a change with regard to the display, design or reception of this piece of work, how might you begin? 

3.     Suggest three questions that you would use to initiate a conversation with your colleagues to make such a change possible.

We are interested in all three aspects of your response – selection, disagreement and dialogue – and will include these texts with questions and the corresponding artwork/designs, as appropriate, as part of the exhibition.

The range of excited responses suggests that we've hit a nerve.

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