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Unrest: Reclaiming Power, Privilege, and Purpose

Arts | November 14th, 2020

By Jill Finkelson

We’ve been hearing the word Unrest a lot lately. Unrest in the streets. Unrest in the capital. Unrest in our own homes as we struggle to hunker down in the face of the unseen pandemic. People are restless. They are angry and scared. There are scenes from across the country, from Minneapolis to Philly to Portland, of people protesting the injustices they continue to come across every day. The images of police brutality that have come out are shocking and horrific. The images of unrest pour in from around the world.

Art has always had the capacity to be used as a form of protest and the images that come out of this time will represent a troubled time. The Unrest exhibition at the Memorial Union at NDSU was up from October 20 - November 12. The juried exhibition challenged artists to portray the cause of discontent, the methods of protest, the changes that have occurred, the media coverage, and governmental response. The exhibition features 29 pieces from four countries: India, UK, Nigeria, and the US. The work from the US includes pieces from ND, AK, TN, CO, AZ, IA, KS, NC, and MN.

Images of protest, up close on the faces of defiance, fear, hope; the faces of those affected by police brutality; the dark shadow of oppression looming dominate the show. Immigration, gender identity, Delhi, India all show up. The conflicts are both internal and external. The art is sometimes crisp photography and sometimes abstract. Even in the abstract, the unrest shows starkly.

The juror Lauren Tate Baeza has made a career of supporting art as a vehicle for social change. She is an advocate for change at home and abroad. She worked in Uganda and Kenya with local nonprofits on community development and groundwater and irrigation networks.

The NDSU website has a Zoom link for remoting in at a safe distance and pictures of the show are shown in a flickr gallery. I was able to speak with the curator Anthony Faris about the exhibit.

High Plains Reader: Can you talk a little about juried exhibitions and the process that went towards bringing the show together?

Anthony Faris: Every other year, we host a juried exhibition addressing some issues relating to social justice, politics, or the human condition. This exhibition allows national and international artists to exhibit beside our local regional artists and share their interpretation of a pressing topic experienced in contemporary society. The Gallery invites an outside juror to review the work, make selections and then our student staff and Gallery Director curate the installation.

This year's Unrest exhibition was chosen because of the current climate of social, political, and economic changes happening around the world. If we look at Hong Kong, Paris, Nigeria, India, Brazil, and the United States you will notice systemic changes happening. Many of the conflicts deal with power struggle and representation within engrained systems.

HPR: How did you connect with Lauren Tate Baeza? She sounds like a very interesting person to have involved.

AF: When choosing a juror, the Gallery often researches experts in a field that have unique insights into the topic we are exploring. Lauren Tate Beaza, until recently, worked as the Director of Exhibitions at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum. She is a curator, anthropo-geographer, and Africanist based in Atlanta. Her insights as an advocate in non-governmental agencies, an educator, and curator made her a great candidate for jurying this international show. When you are choosing a juror- you are asking someone to review work and consider what themes, stories, and messages should be elevated to represent the topic- Unrest.

As the exhibition reception coincided with the election, Lauren's selections address a full range of topics that are a challenge in society but the overarching message, I feel, is representation and listening to those who need a voice. We never have to agree but we should be listening so we can understand others and maybe, ourselves, better in this larger human story. If you look at an exhibition like this from afar, you might think it's about BLM or Climate Change or Political Division but unrest is never about just one topic. You can see in the photographs and sculptures and videos a yearning for safety, consideration, and understanding by humans in an untenable situation.

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96267727@N07/albums/72157716556807906

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