Doing and Undergoing: Art Installations Unveiled At Last ☆
Does it seem as if art is pleasantly hanging above, protruding towards, and enveloping you lately? This
semester the college has been temporarily transformed into a gallery as part of Teachers College’s 125th anniversary! Amongst the hidden stairwells, basement corners, and foyer walls, 22 art sites have been installed across 4 buildings to showcase TC’s history through artistic means. For the past year co-curators Richard Jochum and Robert Gero have dedicated their attention to designing the exhibition to properly reflect the TC principle that acting or doing alone is not enough. A principle instilled through the teachings of John Dewey, American philosopher and TC professor from 1904-1930, this concept is frequently revisited and thriving in courses today. Each art installation was individually selected by the co-curators which epitomizes a sense of true engagement, of undergoing. The opening reception for the Doing and Undergoing exhibition was then held on Tuesday, October 15th in Grace Dodge Hall, a vibrant evening attended by Columbia University staff, students, alumni, and friends.
During opening speeches given at the reception, Dr. Judith Burton remarked that if anyone had perused the college halls in the preceding weeks, they “would think the artist Banksy had been at work in TC.” Though unique to our school setting, Dr. Burton related how this exhibition is similar to the work currently being conducted by student artists in Harlem, Miami, and even African schools, where art is used as a medium for philosophical engagement. In striving to do and undergo ourselves, she emphasized that “we have to see the world in which we live as a broader canvas for the arts,” as art enriches life and “teaches us to see things through new eyes.”
A brief teaser trailer for the exhibition followed the speeches of Dr. Burton and Dr. Jochum, and even included an interview with Professor Emeritus Dr. Maxine Greene, as she was recently led on a preview tour. Greatly touched by the insight of the installations, Dr. Greene expressed Doing and Undergoing as breaking “with the taken-for-granted view or perception of what college is like,” her remarks filling the room with heightened excitement for the tours to begin. Yet the teaser trailer also served as an introduction to the audio-video guide created to lead visitors through the labyrinth of the school. The guide was presented as a narrative experience far more engaging than tracing your route with the aid of a campus map could be. Use of the guide was greatly encouraged for to receive a more enriching experience.
After being led on a tour by the audio-visual guide myself, I can now whole-heartedly concur with Dr. Greene, as this exhibition strips away the boundaries and expectations of a traditional museum outing. As you follow the fictitious persona of a school girl dressed as if from the days when Teachers College’s was founded, tracing her footsteps to observe her reactions to the art installations as you experience them in person, you are immersed in a real time academic setting. Streams of students emerging from class pass by as you view the installations, catching snippets of lectures through open classroom doors that juxtapose the present of TC academia with the past being explored in your audio guide. Directions are whispered in your ear, telling you which staircase to climb next or which corner to turn. For around nearly every turn is an unexpected sight meant to challenge your perceptions.
Several of the installations directly challenge your physical senses, while others ask you to review personal
intellectual institutions. Katherine Daniels’ installation SNAFU, for instance, laces rainbow strips of vinyl through the retired elevator shaft in Thompson Hall. An imitation of the stained glass panes found throughout the college, the elevator shaft is transformed from a metal cage to a playful prism. On the southern landing between the second and third floors of Horace Mann, Gina Ruggori’s trumpe l’oeil painting, titled Tunnel Plume, similarly engages our visual receptiveness. Do you see the dual illusion created by her imitation of the natural world? Does the illusion evoke deeper connotations or unearth old memories?
In contrast, other installations ask us to reflect on our engagement with our society and environment. Vikki Michalios’s Beanstalk Garden, located in the basement between Zankel and Macy Hall, is a collection of terrariums nestled within the college’s infrastructure. Blending art with horticulture and sustainable technology, her installation prompts us to consider how natural resources and agriculture are managed in the modern world. Moving from the basement of Zankel to the rafters of Thompson Hall, Monika Wuhrer’s “Your Presence Leads to Conflict” installation atop the former running track of what is now the third floor office space simultaneously evokes images of violence and the prospect of peace. Three punching bags suspended above the retired foot path bear quotations questioning the prospect of resolution when facing aggression. What does the stillness of the immobilized bags signify to you? You can personally investigate these questions and many more by taking a tour of the exhibition yourself!
Doing and Undergoing will be open daily from 10 AM to 8 PM, now through December 15th with the exception of Thanksgiving weekend. The audio-video guides are available for borrowing from the Gottesman Library circulation desk, which serves as the starting and concluding point for the exhibition. The audio-video guide can also be downloaded to any mobile device via this link. Those who dare to brave the winding basement passages of TC via their own navigational intuition can find a map of the exhibition here, or may borrow one from Gottesman library. The Art and Arts Education department is also offering guided tours led by graduate students, which can be booked, free of charge, via this link. This collaborative exhibition was made possible by the Provost Investment Fund, a seed fund for the realization of faculty dreams.
By Alyssa Foster
Arts & Humanities Writer