Joshua Daul: Viewing the Exhibition
I had heard a lot, in the weeks leading up to the Ann Hamilton and Cynthia Schira exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art, about what the show could, or might, be; but it wasn’t until I entered the space that I was truly able to grasp and understand what the artists wanted to communicate. No matter how much you hear about the show, be it reviews or firsthand accounts, you can’t really come to terms with the installation without experiencing it.
At the gallery opening, the Museum was full.The Central Court was teeming with people talking and enjoying themselves. The sound of the people mixed with the playing of the piano created an electric environment. It felt as if the images of the presepio figures in the central court were activated by the presence and noise of the crowd below. The images were expressive, as if waiting to engage in dialogue. They seemed alive, through movement, gesture, or eye contact. I imagined that the images enjoyed the party just as much as those who were there to participate.
Returning to the show days later, the feelings the images evoked within me had changed. In the absence of the crowd, now surrounded by contemplative silence, the images that had appeared so lively, so animate, now seemed like ideas or moments trapped in time. No longer were they celebrating with me; rather, they felt ghostly, like echoes of a previous experience: trapped, waiting for the viewer to activate them again.
They are beautiful and can be appreciated for their aesthetic qualities, but without the conditions present at the gallery opening the images feel lost, unsure of themselves. It is an event that one must experience to appreciate both ways: with the mass of celebratory people and alone in silence.
Joshua Daul, History of Art graduate student, University of Kansas