Just Curious [About This] Collection
Thursday, April 8th saw the opening reception and performance date of many senior theses exhibitions on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus, and one exciting one in particular is the, “Just Curious Collection.”
The project, which has been ongoing for the last few months, is an archive of life. As they explained on their Facebook page, the exhibit is a “collection of objects to be displayed anonymously that tell us something about the sender.” The objects are intended to highlight a source of either pride or embarrassment for their submitter. This could be an object, video, photo, writing sample, or anything the sender wishes. [See figures 1-3] And all items were then put on display at the Meyers Gallery, in heart of UC’s campus until April 9th.
Left to right: Untitled Submission, Untitled Submission, Submission Boxes
The submissions began in February with requests for entries made via fliers posted all around UC’s campus as well as submission requests though social media, Craig’s List, URL stickers, and deposit boxes all soliciting for items from students and the general public. The Exhibition and Design Committee received a multitude objects and photos, as well as a few video projects that were included in the final installation.
Each item was displayed on a wall or platform in the Meyers Gallery. The intention of the Exhibition and Design committee, the masterminds behind the project, was to blur the meanings of the pieces entered and force the viewer to make assumptions about their significance to the submitter.
As one would expect, the open nature of the submissions led to a menagerie of images, objects, and videos submitted. Some of these include: old yearbook photos, screenshots of videogame progress, a pack of expired condoms, old writing assignments, and so much more. Each person who submitted an item did so for a different reason, but the main motivation seemed to be the moments of great pride and the occasional comedic or embarrassing entry.
One important characteristic of the archive is its anonymity. While a handful of objects entered had brief descriptions or hints as to their meaning, the overwhelming majority bore no obvious history. This makes the archive a difficult collection to understand, thanks to its obscured nature. However, this is also a great quality of the collection, allowing viewers the chance to ponder over what stories these objects could contain.
This is, in many ways, the intent of the exhibition: to provoke an internal questioning over the content of the archive. The organizers were able to tell the stories of countless students and strangers via solitary objects and memories.
These images and objects tell the tales of the struggles and successes of these unnamed individuals. Proudly hung sports medals are placed alongside failed essays, and expired condoms now hung beside old underwear. The juxtaposition of success and failure is what makes the collection so endearing and mysterious.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that at times it is impossible to tell which is which. Because there are no clear explanations, the audience is forced to assume whether each object recalls a proud memory or an embarrassing one.
One major issue with the collection, however, is its lack of cohesiveness. The objects have no clear relationship to each other, and it is not apparently obvious what we, the audience, are looking at. There are no pamphlets to explain the exhibit to us, the only assistance we receive is from the curatorial statement and exhibition thesis printed on the gallery wall opposite the collection. The text is informative, but still moderately cryptic. With any such collection, it is critical to explain fully what the purpose of the archive is and why it is being shown. Unless the collector makes the decision to deliberately obscure any decisive meaning, it should be clearly expressed for the public.
Seeing as how this was clearly not the intention of the Exhibition and Design committee, it could have been better explained what the purpose of the archive was. In its current state it can be difficult to walk away with any real opinion about the nature of the exhibition. Better signage and some pamphlets would have done a great measure to promote the true significance of the work being shown.
That said, this is still an amazing exhibition that should not be missed. Its fascinating glimpses into the lives of the submitters and the curatorially diverse display of such provides an interesting platform for further discussion and pondering as to the purpose and meaning of each of the objects entered.
Even if there could be some confusion as to its nature and intent, the exhibit is well organized and certainly worth viewing. The archive was on display at the Meyers Gallery through April 9th.
Written by Eric Shell