Hashtags Unplugged, Caelum Gallery 2016
Every artist burns to create something true from their own peculiar trove of impressions, beliefs, disappointments and dreams. As artists we share in this passion. What we perceive and how we express it is our own.
I look at a face and I see the skeleton behind it. For someone else it’s the wrinkles and asymmetries that stand out, the weird details of shadow and light. And for another it’s not features at all but expression, the tilt of the head or an unexpected blush of color pared with a shrug. We may regard the same being but what we heed is entirely subjective - completely unique and slightly mad.
I say mad because our perceptions, any constructions, come from a present so fleeting that it hardly exists. Life is nothing but a collection of slipping-away seconds, heartbeats, twinklings that are here and then gone. The future is unknowable and the past is behind us.
The immediacy of living is part of the reason it can be so hard to connect. We have to catch each other in that exact millisecond of experience. Our sense of presence is so challenging. But that flash is the sweet spot. It is a point of convergence, a place where diversity and similarity collide.
In social media, Hashtags are the sweet spot. Hashtags give us a way to share in a singular stream of content from our own points of view. #LoveWins on Twitter was the most viral hashtag of the same-sex marriage ruling. #BlackLivesMatter is a rallying cry against racist police violence. Kim Goulbourne’s genius was to bring to life an art exhibition, Hashtags Unplugged, that externally visualized 10 of the most memorable and viral hashtags. Twenty-five artists were selected for Hashtags Unplugged to display their diverse interpretations of one of the ten: #LoveWins. #BlackLivesMatter. #TheDress. #GenderEquality. #100HappyDays. #WhyIStayed. #LookLikeAnEngineer. #BreaktheInternet. #NotOneMore. and #PlutoFlyBy. (See http://hashtagsunplugged.com/catalog )
My contribution to the exhibit (#BlackLivesMatter) was a mixed media piece, 'Crosshairs', a sculpture of etched glass, stainless steel, copper, solder, acrylic and paper. The inspiration for the piece came when, in 2015, Miami police were discovered using the mugsshots of black men for target practice. 'Crosshairs' considers the dehumanizing impact of racial profiling where individual existence is devalued and human life is equated with shooting targets. This piece is a reaction to the numerous deaths of African Americans due to police actions. It confronts the violent flesh and blood reality of ongoing racial inequality, specifically referencing the shooting and autopsy report of Michael Brown.
'Crosshairs' (Leigh W. Jerome)
Goulbourne’s Hashtags Unplugged was a great success. The art itself drew many people in; and the location was a draw, a Thursday night show at Caelum Gallery in Chelsea. But, each of the hashtags also brought in their own community and there is a strong community around the # as well. Two hundred people came to the opening for Hashtags Unplugged and the (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc) posts and reposts from the show were abundant. The exhibit fully inhabited the sweet spot where unity and diversity overlap.
Hashtags Unplugged created a totally new space to view art for the exchange of aesthetic, social and political impressions. This is an revolutionary construct because rather than a curated show that is a passive intake of art and information, this exhibition was designed to create a new space for social change, a place to think in a truly unique way - together.
We share a collective “yes” because for a moment when we see an idea through a unique but shared lens. We have a “moment” that draws on the best parts of ourselves – even when the art itself is exposing what is worst. We say yes – and we rally against injustice (#BlackLivesMatter). We say yes – and we challenge ourselves to be the author of our own destinies (#100HappyDays). We say yes – and we celebrate love and social justice (#LoveWins). We say yes – and we laugh (#TheDress) or learn (#PlutoFlyBy) and we make new connections - between people as well as within our own neural pathways - connections that are rich spaces where art, coupled with community, help us to build a better world.