Three graduate students are curating a new exhibition in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery that explores how people present themselves in different contexts. “HYPER-RESEMBLANCES”, curated by Columbia graduate students Alison Coplan, Heidi Hirschl, and Kathleen Langjahr, all GSAS '14, opens with a reception on Tuesday night.
This presentation is part of the MODA Curates series, in which the gallery explores presentations of self in critical and curatorial studies. Coplan, Hirschl, and Langjahr have been developing the show for a year, each finding roots in ideas explored in colloquium settings in their graduate courses. “HYPER-RESEMBLANCES,” which runs through June 7 and is open to the public, was constructed in three parts by the individual curators.
“We really do have three autonomous exhibitions within one,” Hirschl said. “We have sort of an overarching theme, but each of us has our own host of ideas, artists, problems, work that we want to present.”
Hirschl's section of the show, which is titled “Through the Looking Glass': Logics of Contemporary Self-Portraiture,” finds relevance in current cultural reproductions of self, especially with regard to the selfie.
“My sort of present-day relevance is very rooted in this moment of the selfie, where anyone can take their self portrait,” Hirschl said. “But there are these really interesting and deep works where people can find themselves and strands of themselves in these really sort of open and more symbolic representations.”
“Through the Looking Glass” also seeks to explore broader implications of self-portraiture.
“I'm really interested in figurative art, and my sort of whole premise was this resuscitation of portraiture, which has a reputation of being a very staid and conservative, conventional, art-historical trope,” Hirschl said. “I have a selection of works that really reinforce this idea of a multiplicity of identities, so as far as presenting the self as one specific—whether its cultural, racial, sexual, you know—thing. I'm really interested in this slippage of those ideas, and so all of the ideas that I'm presenting have a very intentional openness.”
Langjahr's section of the exhibit, called “Cut, Print: Women Dissect Culture Through Film and Collage,” provides a historical context for the show. With works spanning from the 1920s to the present, “Cut, Print” explores ideas of identity within the context of film and montage created by women.
“My goal was mainly just to establish more of a genealogy of these artists,” Langjahr said. “I was just looking at these artists and this history and saw a very coherent historical sweep that kind of went back and forth between collage and film, and there were more women artists that I noticed working in these mediums.”
The implications resulting from a female-centric body of work were essential for Langjahr.
“They all have to do with the exploration of identity and selfhood, especially as that pertains to gender. So there's, visually, there are a lot of female bodies in the show, having presented in various ways, so you can look for that,” she said.
Coplan curated the portion of the show called “REALITY FX.” With an active engagement with current technologies, the works within this section bring in ideas of societal influence on realities. One of the works featured in Coplan's section is “Abstract” by Hito Steyerl, which is a film that the artist recorded on her iPhone.
“She makes very literal the technology that's being used to record the experience—the past experience that she is recording as well as her current situation,” Coplan said. “So that idea of artists engaging technology that we all use on a daily basis, but then kind of exploiting its potential to expose different parts of reality I found really interesting.”
While the exhibit is constructed through three autonomous sections, the unified presentation of separate curatorial concepts is intended to provoke a unique consideration of the works gathered for viewers.
“We saw overlaps happening in the themes we were all exploring, and that kind of lent itself to the installation of the physical space, because as you walk through it I think that the works kind of transitioned nicely into the way you think about what's happening there,” Coplan said.
The assemblage of artists is also a point of note for the curators.
“There are so many interesting artists that aren't typically shown together,” Hirschl said. “I think it's a very unique experience for people.”
“HYPER-RESEMBLANCES” will open Tuesday in the Wallach Art Gallery, 826 Schermerhorn Hall, with a reception at 6 p.m. and a performance by artist Marisa Olson at 8 p.m. The exhibition runs through June 7 and admission is free.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Alison Coplan, Heidi Hirschl, and Kathleen Langjahr as students in Columbia's School of the Arts. They attend the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Spectator regrets the error.