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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, February 29, 2024

‘Untitled’ gives life to mundanity

The University of Wisconsin Photography Department exhibition ran from Monday, Nov. 13 to Friday, Nov. 17 at the Art Lofts Gallery

The exhibit, hosted by the UW-Madison Photography Department from Nov. 13-17 to showcase the work of undergraduate and graduate students, derived its title from the format of the exhibition itself. 

Artists’ unnamed contributions were assigned a number, with a wall in the middle of the exhibition room displaying cards containing poems and reflections on what the particular photograph represents. Each card was unlabeled, leaving observers to piece together which photograph corresponds to the card. 

The disconnected nature allowed observers to imprint their feelings onto the photographs and attempt to understand the emotion behind it from the viewpoint of whatever card they felt fit best.

One especially striking photograph was from Riley Ganther, who photographed a copy of The Wall Street Journal leaning discarded against the corner of a brick wall. What stood out about the paper was its headline, which was about the Israel-Hamas war.

The choice of black-and-white photography, along with the abandonment of the paper, conveyed a hopelessness about the decades of blood being spilled over claims of divine right to the land and the unwillingness of major Western governments to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. The slaughter of innocents is publicized, yet the information is thrown away, leaving more to suffer.

Another striking set of photographs came from Sophia McGaff, who photographed a wallet, a pack of playing cards and an ashtray with a lock in it.

The placement of these objects on a blank background and the decision to photograph them in black-and-white left viewers to reflect on stories of each object’s past life. These items, once used, now sat discarded by a younger generation.

The most visually interesting work of art shown was a mixed media contribution from Sheila Drefahl, showing an oversized wallet suspended from the ceiling with photographs coming out of it in the style of family snapshots.

The photos, which depict people doing ordinary tasks and activities, found artistry in mundanity. Something as simple as a wallet can become a meaningful object when it contains the memories of many people.

“Untitled” inspired observers and made them think about the connection between objects and the emotions they carry.

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