Politically charged works of multimedia art by 20 undergraduate students will decorate the interior of the coed fraternity Fence Club’s house on Saturday in an avant-garde art exhibition that aims to explore and challenge notions of society’s default sociopolitical context by questioning the dynamics of identity and power within social spaces.
“SAP: Cynicism and Sincerity in Sync”, a yearlong project curated by Casey Odesser ’20, argues that ideas of modernity have led to a legacy of cynicism as a mode of thinking and highlights the alternate subjectivity constructions that emerge within a social space. The exhibition, which features work by several minority and non-normative artists, is based in Fence Club’s house rather than a traditional art gallery in an effort to make it a more sociopolitically immersive experience.
“Politics of joy and politics of sincerity are the main underpinnings [of the exhibit],” Odesser said. “Art is the most natural thing to human beings. Being sincere and truthful is very difficult. I think that all art is truthful more so than other disciplines, and if it’s not truthful then it’s because it’s not making a social point.”
Odesser said that they have been in contact with the artists since September, and that the process has been “very personal,” with a focus on “putting voices that are often excluded from the frat narrative, or at the expense of them, back into the conversation.”
Odesser noted that what drew them to curating was their passion for “communicating stories and visions not just through [their] own work, but through a process of arrangement.”
In the process of their creative curation, Odesser intended to send an intentionally political message that was critical of social spaces. They said they want the exhibition “to look like a party space of sorts” and engaged with the building’s interior architecture and design to reflect that vision by using wall corners and rugged stair railings.
“The main thing that I want is for you to come in here and say ‘Wow, I am literally surrounded by art,’ as if you walk into a party space and you’re surrounded by bodies,” Odesser explained.
By including many portraiture works on the walls but intentionally omitting labels on the work, Odesser intends to emulate the experience of being at a party and not “[knowing] who you’re looking at, but still giving them the benefit of the doubt that what they’re doing is real and worth engaging with.”
Part of the reason why Odesser wanted the exhibition to take place in a socially performative space as opposed to a traditional art gallery is that they want to “take the performance out and put it on the walls instead.”
“People have an inherent validity that I think people forget when our social life is based off a social ladder, where we always have to be on our guard and be performative in some way.”
The exhibition was not always meant to take place in a coed social house, though.
Odesser had coordinated with the fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, to host the exhibition. While the agreement was introduced and informally approved by the fraternity’s president in the fall, SigEp ultimately declined to let Odesser use the space in its final weeks of fruition.
“In speaking with the SigEp National Staff, it became apparent to us that we would be violating chapter house policies instituted to ensure the safety of guests in the house,” the SigEp executive board said in a statement to the News.
In the end, Odesser called the last-minute location change “a blessing in disguise” because of all the support they’ve received from Fence Club and because of the creative possibilities of the new space.
“I think it will be refreshing to see art in an uncommon, residential setting, and I’m excited to see the talent of these artists showcased,” said President of Fence Club Katherine Hong ’19.
Odesser wants their viewers’ experience to be joyful. But she also wants viewers to feel disoriented: She doesn’t want viewers to feel fully comfortable looking at every piece. She hopes attendees “stay and work through what about that piece makes [them] feel uncomfortable.”
The event will be open to the public on Saturday, April 21 at Fence Club on 380 Crown St. from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Alison Park | firstname.lastname@example.org .