Photo by: Charlie Martin
Marilyn I. Walker’s Museum in the Hallway hosted an exhibit entitled What I want you to see is this…. from Nov. 21 until Jan. 15. While the exhibit — which was produced by students from SOCI/CRIM/LABR 2971, Social Class and Social Conflict — was conceptually strong, the exhibit itself left much to be desired, primarily due to a lack of upkeep in maintaining the exhibit for the duration of its showcasing.
The exhibit’s official description outlines that students in the sociology course were instructed to compile photos and provide accompanying audio recordings, reflecting on their individual experience as it pertains to their social environment. The prompt, which is relatively open ended, is stated as, “if you had 2-3 minutes, and you wanted an audience to know what it was like, in 2022, to be you, as a student, what would you say/display? What demands does the academic institution place on you?”
Students seemingly worked together to respond to the prompt, with the final product being three tablets showing photos accompanied by headphones for listening. It felt incomplete as only one of the three tablets were working, with one being replaced by a “temporarily unavailable” sign, and another being turned off. Based on the signage, these missing pieces were produced primarily by students Meera and Isha Brar, and it’s unfortunate that they weren’t given justice by being consistently shown. Of course, this could be because of the day that I went — closer to the end of the exhibit — but it nonetheless was disappointing, especially considering students produced the work.
The one remaining part of the exhibit centres on shoes, with a woman’s voice playing over a series of photos like that of five pairs of worn, white shoes. The audio recording details the shoes that we live in and how they represent the different roles we have to confine ourselves to, with some pairs being uncomfortable and forcing us to change ourselves to fit into them, and others being more appropriately fitting. The images shown are real and relatable, and should be reminiscent of the messes that befits the life of any busy student. The voice recording was slightly quiet, which added to the intimate feeling of the story being told and ultimately made it feel like a close friend was sharing their struggles of fitting in, which I think is quite impressive considering the concept of the display itself is overdone in mainstream media.
The form of the exhibit is quite unique in itself, with it being a part of the Museum in the Hallway exhibit that the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture puts on, with new exhibits being implemented on a rotating basis that can be changed anywhere between four weeks to four months. This idea of a rotating hallway dedicated primarily to student work is one that is strong in that it allows student artists’ work to be showcased in a relatively high-foot-traffic area and in nice display cases. This strength is also applicable to the What I want you to see is this… exhibit considering the videos are short in duration (around two minutes long) and the hallway is quiet for listening. Something that takes away from the strength of the exhibit is the lack of surrounding displays and an empty case right beside it, which draws away from the ambience of the area.
It may have just been a matter of unfortunate timing, but the fact that two-thirds of the exhibit was missing as well as the small add-on of an empty case disrupting the environment left much to be desired. At least with the one tablet that was available, the student work was of high quality; however, the rest of the exhibit being playable would have resulted in a much higher rating.
A full list of contributors to the exhibit can be found here.