Artist Write-Up

From February 23rd through March 23rd, there is an exhibition for Alysia Kaplan called (In)Voluntary Memories.  According to her website, Alysia Kaplan is an interdisciplinary artist from Rochester currently working at Hobart and William Smith Colleges as a professor.  In her exhibition, there is a video made up of found footage and a series of 6 still images lined up on the wall, among 4 other pieces.  During her artist talk, she expressed how she doesn’t come up with a narrative for her works until after they are completed.  She wants the viewer to look at her work and come up with a meaning for themselves.


In this piece, a series of still photographs are lined up onto a wall.  Although she didn’t give a narrative for her work to follow, one can be derived by looking at and examining the photos.  To me, they are reminiscent of a funeral and the aftermath of someone’s death.  The top two photos of what appears to be a bow and a silhouette remind me of a funeral home and the mementos that are placed for the deceased and the darkness that falls over people in such a setting.  Underneath these two are photos of flowers on top of a casket and a man underwater in a pool.  These make me think of a when the casket is about to be placed into the ground and the people who are ‘drowning in tears’ as they come to the final realization that this is the ending of the end of their loved one’s life.  To the right of these photographs are two photographs that are reflected opposite to each other.  This suggests that the person thinks or wants others to believe that they are clean from their bad deeds, but the absence of the viewing of the opposite hand gives the impression that they are hiding something.  This was very effective in that although there was not a narrative given to me, I was forced to dredge up ‘involuntary memories’ and create my own unique meaning from this based on my experiences.


In this piece, a film strip is being projected onto a wall that has its audio track through the middle of it.  The imagery of the faces in what appears to be in a pained state being engulfed by a bright white light.  Although this to me recalls images from the Holocaust, the fact that it’s blatantly being projected by a camera suggests that the only way people to view something so horrific is through pictures and audio tapes.  Most of the people who will view this will never experience something like this, so how can we relate to it except through memories that we receive from the memory of watching videos of other people’s suffering?  In that sense, I believe this work to be effective.

This work is Postmodernist in the fact that the meaning and interpretations of the piece take precedence over the visuals of the work.  People who look at her work will often find themselves reinterpreting what they thought they believed about the piece.  Kaplan even says herself that her interpretation changed when she walked in for her artist talk.  It’s not something that people can control.  It’s an involuntary reaction to bring up memories and show people that things can change over time.  This reliance on reactions is something that draws heavy from the Postmodern movement.


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