Reactions and ConversationsPosted: November 20, 2013
Since Queer Objectivity first opened its doors to the public, I have been fascinated not only with the artwork itself, but with the powerful and revealing reactions of various visitors to the exhibit. The exhibit space is provocative and bold, and unsurprisingly elicits a wide spectrum of emotions (and comments) that I am lucky enough to witness firsthand. I want to reflect for a moment on these often visceral (and occasionally hilarious) reactions.
A common reaction to the exhibit is simply surprise: ‘what am I looking at?’ ‘what does it mean?’ or ‘is this really art?’ are often the first comments or thoughts that seem to be running through a visitor’s head. Many people have asked me regarding Cupid Ojala’s prominent wall painting, “What is that supposed to be?” One of my favorite answers is that “It’s whatever you want it to be.” Visitors have told me after examining the piece that they see nothing, or they see the face of an animal – sometimes they will stare for several minutes until they proclaim “Those are legs! I get it!.” I find it interesting that the painting has an intended depiction, but that it is frequently hidden or sometimes completely lost on a viewer. I think this reflects the overall interpretive aspect of the exhibit. Many of the pieces have multiple meanings, or interpretations, and I think that is the point. This is what starts conversation, and discussion, and promotes an environment where people can be free to think what they want and say what they want. And what better place to foster such an environment than in a public gallery on a college campus?
Achieving such a wide spectrum of reactions is no easy feat, and I must commend the exhibit, and all those people that brought it to life, for this achievement. I have seen students walk into the exhibit, and within ten seconds turn around and hurry out. And I have seen visitors stay for almost an hour, taking time to experience each piece separately, and then the entire space as one piece. Often these people will come up to me and start a dialogue – about the work, about themselves, or about the society or times in which we live. For me, these conversations are invaluable – it is rare to gain so much insight, experience, and knowledge, and share a connection with another human being, in such a short and spontaneous burst of dialogue. As long as these conversations keep happening, I think the exhibit is serving its purpose fully. You can never expect everyone to connect to the space, or the work, but if you manage to inspire a connection, or a conversation that never would have happened otherwise, then you’ve created something special . And Queer Objectivity has managed it beautifully.
Written by Nick Freas