The death of my cousin changed the dynamic of my family in relation to his father, my uncle. In listening to him talk about his children I was able to overcome a very limiting construction of what is was to be a man. In him I found the virtue of sensitivity, honesty, and the acceptance of life in a very real way.
I have no memories of my cousin and little evidence of his life. I do have a picture, which I have studied for information about him and through him an insight into my past self. By stretching him in this animated video many things happen.
He grows to be, in proportion, what he would be in height as an adult. His eyes are multiplied as a symbol of gaining greater consciousness. and every color in the photograph is stretched,the red/blue/green registers separated. The result is an epic, moving, painting of great height.
I projected this video in a stairwell where a time-streched Arvo Part choral piece, Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem, is transmitted via radio through cement walls to a radio receiver outside of the structure. The receiver plays the sound for the audience at a vantage point where they can still see the projection through large windows. Like radio waves are able to overcome physical boundaries because of their nature, his memory is able to break through to affect my family to this day.
School building turned art show
Graduate students entertain with obscure art
By Amber Fijolek
Issue date: 5/10/07 Section: Arts
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The strangers stood next to each other, motionless and silent, listening to the distorted tones of native Haitian choral music, their eyes glued to a wall under a staircase.
“It’s beautiful,” said Greg Albrecht, a sophomore studying radio and television from Downer’s Grove.
The artistic projection that was presented before his eyes created a new memory for him. Little did he know, the image was no stranger to the stranger he had been standing next to. While the piece also held the infatuation of the stranger, he, unlike Albrecht, wasn’t making a memory.
As the creator of the showcased piece, he was just building on a memory that was already his. The sheer vibrancy of the experimental film illustrated emotion to visitors, as magentas, greens, blues, oranges, and the brightest of rainbow tones moved slowly within the virtual rectangular box of light cast on the wall. Most raved as Albrecht did, telling of the display’s sensationalism.
For Ramah Malebranche, however, it was just another look at one of his favorite images. As the image – one of the last pictures taken of his late cousin – arranged graffiti-like hues onto the colorless, unfinished walls of Faner hall, Malebranche remembered the short life of one of his dearest relatives in his piece entitled “Ascension” at the “Recollection” exhibit in the “Staircase to Nowhere” at the north-end of the building.
To host the attraction, a memo went out. Its message was “Re: Collection” – and, like the fliers suggested, recollection is what took place. Whether it was the first time they had seen the pieces, or it had been their primary focus during the previous months – as the artists have been preparing since January – exhibitors and guests alike observed to resonate with others’ nostalgia.
The exhibit was a project of several students from a graduate class as part of the mass communication and media arts department’s master’s of fine arts program, which takes an average of three years to complete. The students said their professor had recommended that they each do a piece, and all were eager to participate.
Malebranche, a student in the program born in Haiti, hasn’t been back in six years, but he said he keeps images of his family to remember the life he left behind.
The image that he filtered, stretched, and skewed for the art film he showcased was his favorite picture, and one of the few pictures of family here in his new home. The photo is one of the last taken of his cousin, who died of heart conditions when the two were young.
“All of the colors were already in there,” he said of a piece of his cousin’s hair that transcended diagonally and slowly across the wall that illuminated colors that
manifested colors more like those found in a bag of skittles than the body.
“I didn’t add anything.” Malebranche said the effects were made by cutting up and softening segments of time for the images and the sound, too.
In titling the piece”Ascension”, it symbolized his cousin’s journey in death towards a higher place, and was played in opposition on a reel from the same projector with a piece by a fellow student called “Descension”.
The music, that could be heard both inside and outside – as exhibitors could also view the piece through a glass window opposite the wall – was concurrent with the images: loud, slow, and distorted. The “Descension” piece entertained distorted sound clips from the Danube Waltz to match the nostalgic film’s plot which his family’s polish roots and their immigration to the United States. Like “Ascension”, “Descension” was as morphed as a water-damaged glossy print.
Malebranche was willing to give explanations to those that wanted them, but he said it was not required, and felt it true for all the pieces at the exhibit.
“You don’t have to understand all the details to take meaning to it,” he said.
Even strangers like Albrecht left inspired. “I felt a little out of my element, but it was interesting,” he said.
The unusual art, as described by another graduate student in the program,
Brian Wilson, as a form of guerilla art, transformed the rustic-looking venue into a bizarre gallery through the 7-work student-compiled collection.
“People died for this type of art,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s exhibit, a collaboration with another classmate, was an arrangement of irregular objects, shapes, and shades that shined on the building’s outside wall adjacent to the campus woods; the piece illuminated the lofty vegetation illuminated, casting wavering shadows onto trees and anguishing memories onto onlookers. Wilson said that after months of conceptualizing, the project came together in about 8 hours.
“It started out as a collaboration of our memories, like real memories, and it turned out totally different.”
The unusual venue for the exhibit was Ramah’s idea. He said that it being an odd venue went along with the night’s atypical motif – nostalgia. Apart from distorted documentaries, of which there were 5 that played consecutively as a popcorn grazing and soda sipping public enjoyed them throughout the three levels of the multifarious foyer, other displays of normally private emotions were even more unconventional.
Small, round, jewel-resembling globs of glass stuck to the walls of the staircase in formative arrangements, that when followed, lead you up to the top. At a closer look, it could be seen that there were images within the glass bubbles – mainly words and small pictures from newspaper and magazine clippings.
The bulk of the bubbles, which lay on the upper-most level of the triangle-shaped climb, were congregated around a fishbowl atop a shelf housing piles of the paper scraps, the fishbowl pondering the words “choose me? stick me keep me?”.
In the largest area of the foyer, scripted slides yielded the broadcasting of stray thoughts in a less aesthetic yet more interactive manner.
A couch, sitting opposite a projection screen hosted a rendezvous of watchers -smirking and chuckling following the sound of the projector machine, equivalent to the pump-action of a revolver that signaled the cue to read the next memory. Heather Lose teamed up with another student to type out specific memories of their lives onto black slides and trade them as keepsakes to those who jotted down a memory of their own with a pencil onto a blank one. Their freshly erected memories then became part of the show.
“We’re sharing memories,” Lose said.
After sharing such intimate things as memories, the artists and the spectators became less of strangers that night. For Malebranche, sharing such nostalgia was personal.
“That’s, like, basically all the memories I have of him.”
However, despite the risk these artists run in exploiting their feelings, they say they’re determined to finish their graduate studies in an art form that is not typically supported economically by the public. The unusual art is part of them.
“It’s very soothing,” said graduate student Zoya Honarmand.
When asked what he will do with his graduate degree in creating the form of art his project embodied, underground experimental cinema, he expressed little intention to make a career out the hobby.
“Wait tables,” he said, jokingly. But he entertained a more likely effect to maintain the flow of creativity and said, “I’ll probably teach.”
Daily Egyptian Press
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale