In this inaugural edition of Professor’s Corner, developmental writing professor Charles Warnberg critiques visual communications professor Giraud Polite’s recent photography exhibit.
Giraud Polite’s exhibit, “The Crawfish Circut,” demonstrates his interest in the dynamic tension between the studium and the punctum, to use Roland Barthes’ terms, on multiple levels. He pushes the interplay beyond the traditional boundaries of the physical media. Polite forces us to confront the elusive crossroads between transience and permanence, experience and memory, the signifier and the significance.
Music is the most ephemeral of art forms because it can only be experienced through time, with each note disappearing to be replaced by the next, relying on memory to provide the continuity that gives meaning to the whole. In Polite’s show, however, the music is on five-minute loops, meaning the sound comes back around in a kind of caricature of permanence.
Photography, at one level, is the attempt to give permanence to fleeting visual impressions. Abandoning paper in favor of aluminum, wood and Plexiglass, Polite uses his materials both to comment on the significance of his subject and to challenge our ideas of the permanence of images, for the materials themselves affect our perception of the image .
This is one of those shows where the installation is as much a work of art as the material that arrives on the truck. As we move from thematic center to thematic center, the music gradually morphs into the new theme. Only gradually do we see the cohesiveness of the image groups. Balance is paramount; one experience bleeds into another. We realize that the fundamental conflict Polite is exploring is constantly occurring on multiple fronts, in our lives as well as in our experience of Polite’s show.
This multi-dimensionality is what makes any meaningful comment on the themes Polite explores – race, cultural ritual, memory and social justice –hopelessly banal the moment it is uttered. In his show, Polite avoids the banal by layering meaning upon meaning and challenging traditional views of the permanence and the significance of reality, memory, and art.
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