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Student curators speak about Rose collection

By Cheshta Singh

Section: Arts

March 13, 2015

On Thursday, Brandeis students and other guests gathered in the Farber Library Mezzanine to celebrate “Disrupted Spaces: Photographs from the Carey Schwartz ’87 Collection of the Rose Art Museum,” which is the first curation exhibition of the Carey Schwartz ’87 Collection of the Rose Art Museum. Curators Sofía Retta ’15 and Sarah McCarty ’15 discussed the process behind the exhibition and answered some questions.

According to the program description, “Disrupted Spaces” presents photographs that challenge the boundaries of physical and theoretical structures. The artists featured in this exhibition harness photography’s role in determining how and what we remember, while simultaneously undermining the notion of photographs as reliable records of reality. Carey Schwartz ’87, gifted the works to the Rose Art Museum. There are 15 piece in total, all of which were donated specifically to be shown outside of the Rose Art Museum.

One person asked a question about the process of curating, and how the final project managed to look so well done in an effortless way. McCarty explained that there were many components to be considered and said that it was wonderful for everything to come together. One issue was the lighting. Farber Mezzanine has two types of lights—natural and fluorescent—so depending on the time of the day, the space can look completely different. Furthermore, they needed to consider how large each work was physically as well as think about the photographs in a conceptual way. Sarah pointed out that there is a certain irony in disrupting the library space, by pushing expectations and physical boundaries in an unconventional space for displaying art.

Both curators discussed how writing the photo labels was one of the most challenging parts of the process. They needed to provide some analysis but keep it open enough so that people could come up with their own opinions. There was a lot of editing involved.

McCarty and Retta devoted a significant amount of time to express their genuine gratitude for everybody that helped them along the way. A great number of people were involved in the process. They needed to contact artists, the press, museum workers, facilities and library employees. Everybody pitched in to work; it was really a team process. Both curators recognized that they could not have done the exhibition without help.

The two curators, who are also interns at the Rose Art Museum, have been very involved with the Rose Art Museum, where they worked as gallery guards and gradually moved up to the head guard position. As a guard, some of their tasks included greeting people, informing them of museum rules, supervising events and opening and closing the museum. Retta also was a gallery guide and gave people tours of the museum. Both have learned a lot about the museum, including what it takes to run a museum, and made a lot of valuable relationships with the rest of the museum staff. This knowledge was applied to this event. They have learned a lot about catering, donor relations, budgeting and planning this event where they were given freedom to create it how they wished.

One of the more intense photographs was called “Trace IV” from the series “Liquidation.” Taken by Ori Gersht, the photo was taken on a train moving through forests. These forests are where his father-in-law’s family concealed themselves from the Nazis. The photo label says: “Trace IV echoes his family’s connection to the land while speaking to the erasure of human lives and the memories the Ukrainian forests carry.” The photos capture haunting, mesmerizing and soulful moments. I found it baffling to believe that I was looking at photographs because all of them were so deep and looked more like paintings. The works have definitely fulfilled their purpose as they broke the traditional rules of photography.

The photographs are an excellent addition to the library, and brighten up the walls. The works can provide a great study break and may help to provide perspective while doing school work.

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