We are a generation born of intangible boundaries. In our twenty-odd years on Earth we have witnessed the breakdown of spatial spheres: political, geographical, technological, and personal. Over the past ten years we have learned to navigate the alteration and confluence of familiar and unfamiliar social terrain. Post–9/11 society demands that we attempt to construct tangible spaces of comfort despite the ever-changing nature of our world. In [space]: Constructing the Intangible we seek to answer questions that trouble us on a daily basis. Through the works selected we ask you, the viewer, to engage in the following dialogue: “What is space today? What are the effects of space and place in society? How do we behave in space? How does one maintain autonomy over their presence in an increasingly technologized world?”
Much of our thinking about this topic has been informed by Michel Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias.” Foucault’s text developed from his 1967 lecture that posited the nineteenth century as an era focused on history and the past while the twentieth century “will perhaps be above all the epoch of space.” Through a careful selection of works we investigate new contrasts and negations of space in the modern, abstract, and less tangible world we live in. We have analyzed and redefined space and place through a variety of dichotomies—private versus public, presence versus absence—with respect to spaces of instability such as reflection, utopias, and presence. It is our hope that these themes will culminate in a challenging of spatial boundaries. Ultimately, we are looking to bring forth new visual cues and understandings of the world around us. Space can be chaotic, orderly, defined, and undefined, and with [space]: Constructing the Intangible, we aim to suggest alternate ways of seeing.
As a generation, we have had to negotiate undefinable boundaries of surveillance, remembrance, and privacy. The areas of focus in our argument include the definition of utopia and dystopias, sacred and profane space across cultural boundaries, and the production and perception of space. We have derived a nuanced understanding of how culture has represented its history through the manipulation of space and how the past and current conception redefines space today. The exhibition uses a wide array of artistic media—painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video—to illustrate the ways in which different artistic processes alter the viewer’s perception of space. In conjunction with our exhibition, Michael Arad, who designed the National September 11 Memorial, will deliver a lecture that will seek to place our show within a spatial context of national remembrance.
It is in the absence of clearly delineated spatial boundaries that our generation has grown to adulthood. We see this exhibition and catalogue as a means of mediating our concerns about the world around us. We ask that as you move through the galleries, consciously consider your relationship to the works presented and question the ways in which we engage with the world around us. Although many of the works are thematically paired, we encourage you to question, confront, and challenge the way you perceive the works in front of you. Such interaction heightens the purpose of our exhibit, which is to negotiate the tangibility of space. By using works of different sizes and media we are truly involving you in our exhibition, asking you to interact with the works on a much deeper level. It is our wish that the works selected will initiate a dialogue that extends beyond the Johnson Museum and into your daily life.
This exhibition is funded in part by grants from the Student Assembly Finance Commission and the Cornell Council for the Arts, along with a generous gift from Betsey and Alan Harris.
2011–2012 History of Art Majors’
Calla Di Pietro