Paradise Now: A Show in ReviewPosted: October 15, 2016
When people typically think of an art gallery space, I would assume that they think of paintings, prints, sculptures, and the like. The rules are unspoken but evident: no touching, no flash photography, mindfulness of the space. A very present connection between the artist and the art piece is established, and by setting the aforementioned limitations, the exhibitors and curators reveal part of the artistic intent.
So what happens when the artwork and the experience becomes democratized, where the only boundary presented is your imagination? What happens when the visitors in the gallery are invited to not only touch the artwork, but to participate in the process? These are the questions presented to visitors as they experience Paradise Now. Over the past seven weeks, the Stamp Gallery has exhibited a show in which guests have reshaped the topography of the space, embraced the subversion of everyday life, and put themselves on display. Yet this show has meant so much more.
After activating multiple sessions of Paradise Now, I’ve seen a variety of different responses from our visitors. Some boldly push the limits of what they are allowed to do, others are paralyzed by confusion and uncertainty, and still others simply play and give themselves to the experience. Each person’s response is wholly different but equally valuable, giving them a self-understanding with which they are able to leave the space. These emotional and intellectual reactions are not traceable to a single object, but rather to the ethereal moment of experience. The visitors are invited to put themselves into the process, so the relationship is not simply art-informing-viewer, but instead self-informing-art-informing-self.
Despite my praise of the alternative Paradise Now format, I am not discounting the traditional gallery experience. By no means has the Stamp Gallery given up on exhibiting artwork in the conventional sense. Both types of exhibition engage their audiences differently, and both aim to confront the participant with some sort of thoughtful engagement. Some subjects that an art piece might reflect are love, social dissonance, artfulness, etc., but part of what Paradise Now reflects is the audience, and that aspect is the crux of why we were interested in curating this show. This exhibition has been a stark reminder to our University of Maryland viewership that art does not have to be transcendentally significant.
Art can be about you, too.
Written by Christopher Bugtong