WORDS: BENJAMIN VELAISE ('18), CULTURE EDITOR
PHOTOS: BENJAMIN VELAISE ('18) & OWEN CHRISTOPH ('18)
This past Saturday, descending from the ceiling of Eclectic, a massive red cloth hung down the entrance to the society. Works sporadically lined the walls: up, down, sideways. Two back-to-back couches centered the intimate space, as DJs played a mix of deep house and electronic, as well as originals from Jakob Shaw ('18) and Method’s own DJ BDraghi ('18).
Curated by Owen Christoph (‘18) and Kafilah Muhammad (‘18), the Eclectic Society put on a multi-medium art show called CHRYSALIS. The aim was to capture the “evolutions of ourselves,” as “we live, experience, and transform ourselves accordingly.”
Appropriately named, chrysalis is a preparatory state of transition. It refers to the process or state in which a butterfly or moth discards of the hard outer case, to grow and evolve into adulthood.
Owen and Kafilah called on the Wesleyan community to contribute works that express this notion of transition— “create (or dig something up) that you feel embodies chrysalis,”as the Facebook event read.
The aim of the show was to “explore the ways in which the transitory state, chrysalis, is continuous and cyclical,” to see the notion of “growing up” as a persisting process that extends beyond what is restricted to childhood. “It’s something we’re always doing,” Owen explains...
All the works reflected this concept of transition—of Chrysalis. Pieces contributed to the show came in many mediums—installation pieces, visual projections, paintings, poems, short stories, photographs, prints, collages, and a so much more.
The first piece I came upon was by Rowan Hyland (‘17). She contributed six photo collages that she had made this past summer. Playing with the spatiality of objects and their depths, while employing a diverse and assertive color palette, Rowan explained to Method how her works reflected Chrysalis: “I was spending a lot of time by myself after having been in a relationship for a while,” she says. “Essentially I was remembering how to be a person, alone, and learning to love my own company again.” She made the prints out of vintage National Geographic magazines from the 60’s and 70’s. Rowan explains, “I felt like I was creating something entirely new from something old.” Below are two out of the four collages she contributed.
Across the corridor, a GIF projected on the wall. Austin Dhillon (‘18) created a visual installation of three opposing masks surrounded by dripping neon visuals, opposed against manipulated scans of what seemed to be a textbook page. Method asked Austin what Chrysalis meant for him, “[It’s] about transitions and personal growth which people typically think of as occurring over the course of one's life/maturation,” he said, “I wanted my work to explore personality transformations on a day to day basis—thinking about the fluidity with which identity can sometimes operate.” His work is about the latter, the notion of “[giving] off a multiplicity of distinct personas based on our episodic interactions with one another,” as he explains it. The fact that the GIF was projected, Austin told Method, “imbued the image with an ephemeral quality for a more intangible encounter, by which you could interact with the fluidity and cyclicality of the animated GIF image. Overall I just made this piece over fall break and thought people may enjoy it; it ended up being lots of wine drunk moms which was also great.”
Nestled in between a corner of the room, Owen’s two works engulf the viewer, forcing eyes to bounce from one wall to the other. The portraits, Owen says, were part of a larger series that he made during the summer after high school. Both contain qualities of queer youth, as they reflect a personal “exploration of being queer and being Catholic.” Owen further explains, “my mom is quite religious and Catholic. I went to church nearly every Sunday of my life until I was in my junior year. Although I never really connected to Catholicism, I felt I had to negotiate with religion, as well as my mom, as a queer man-- it was also meant to be playful and silly.”
Owen’s works, however, further maintain qualities relevant to Chrysalis in a broader context regarding the Society.
“I wanted to recognize the institution of Eclectic and the way it has come to represent an unsafe/uncomfortable space for many on campus—to transform it into an intimate and safe space for self-expression. To achieve that I wanted there to be an immediate sense that one was entering a different kind of space at Eclectic, which is why I built the fabric installation that was meant to make the space smaller and more intimate. I provided strips of textured fabric wrapped/held together with lace and rope that were in a box at the entrance with a sign that said, ‘take one and feel,’ as a reminder to feel , not be apathetic, but to really connect with the work on a real level. Additionally, I tried to create softer lighting by having ground lighting and pink lights to make the space more intimate.”
After spending roughly an hour regarding the works, a performance piece by Wyatt Krutsch ‘18 and Ames Ward ‘18 was scheduled to take place at 7 o’clock. The performance was entrancing (for lack of a better word). “It was the first performance piece we’ve done,” Wyatt told Method, “and with that, it really was a learning experience of how to feel what works with people.” The multi-dimensional work also incorporated a wide range of mediums—projection, paint, dance, and words. For Wyatt, “just the act of doing it was more of a state of transition than anything—moving towards a medium that’s new but still expressive in the ways I know and love.”
The show was clearly an all-around success. Owen talked to Method on what he believes can be improved for the next—“thinking about transforming the space in much less artificial ways, because despite trying to make the space more intimate and safe, it can certainly be seen as very ‘surface level’.”
Any space will undoubtedly take time to transform and change so that all people can feel comfortable while within. For Owen, and for Eclectic, this goal is beginning to manifest, “I think the simple act of having events outside of concerts and huge parties at Eclectic is a major change in and of itself… I want people who have previously felt unsafe or uncomfortable to come, but again, I know it takes time to transform the space to truly feel that.”
Owen invites all students, student groups, program houses, and societies to reach out to him about collaborating and inclusively restructuring the space to make it accessible and available to all.