A Shifting of the Senses: The MFA 2012 Thesis Exhibition

The semester is over. MFAs have defended their theses, portions of which were upstairs in our gallery space and still, the memory of our most recent show seems to linger. The spring semester has ended; everything about campus is quiet. The rumble of Pete Karis’s piece Untitled (Chainfall), has left an empty space where it hung for all passersby to see. Felicia Glidden’s Divination Method, which had been displayed in an alcove which seemed as much a part of the piece as the structure and audio recording, is gone too, as are its surrounding walls.

What was interesting about this year’s annual exhibit is the range of work, not just in typical art terms—sculpture, paintings, etc.—but in the ways that we are seeing different, usually disparate fields, collide. The microbial growths that were displayed on the back wall, a series of pieces by Selin Balci, create incredible patterns and textures that are not easily identifiable as a typical medium. Not only had this year’s exhibit challenged the notion of mediums, but we are seeing a shift in the sense of what art is.

Maybe this is the question young artists have always been interested in, but, as so often has happened in the past, we are reevaluating and pushing boundaries in ways that the world has not seen. We are also seeing the collision of fields, concepts—it’s not quite interdisciplinary, one might say it’s the world being brought into art and vice versa. More precisely, tradition is being tested; artists and writers alike are engaging the atmosphere of change brought on by this digital revolution; it’s finding its way to art through many ways of thinking, seeing, and experiencing. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13), calls for this in the May 2012 ARTFORUM magazine in the interview “Common Cause”. She says: “I think that right now there is an urgent need for what I call a worldly alliance among so-called cognitive laborers of every sort, artists and scientists and fiction writers and so on” (75).

Even this blog is a testament to the merging of fields. The ways that we communicate are increasingly interdependent. In fact, this is part of the inception of dOCUMENTA, which was established in 1955. According to Christov-Bakargiev, dOCUMENTA “emerged at the juncture of where art is felt to be of the utmost importance as an international common language and a world of shared ideals and hopes (which implies that art has indeed a major role to play in social processes of reconstruction of civic society, practices of healing and recovery)” (100 Notes). Much like Tobi Kahn’s work (shown at The Art Gallery in the fall of 2011), the sense that art is not just about aesthetics seems to be setting a new-age of art. Maybe it’s premature to claim such a shift, but I think it can be seen even in small galleries like ours.

– Rachel Carstens
MFA student, Creative Writing

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