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New exhibits open at Saint Mary’s gallery

| Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wednesday evening, the Saint Mary’s Moreau Art Galleries welcomed two new spring exhibits, “Touristic Intents” by Mat Rappaport and “Homeland: Chicago & Belgrade Diasporas,” a collaborative project by Melissa Potter and Mat Rappaport. The exhibits will run from Wednesday through March 6.

Artists Melissa Potter, left, and Mat Rappaport presented two next exhibits to the Saint Mary's community in the Moreau Galleries, titled "Touristic Intents" and "Homeland: Chicago & Belgrade Diasporas."Monica Villagomez Mendez

Artists Melissa Potter, left, and Mat Rappaport presented two next exhibits to the Saint Mary’s community in the Moreau Galleries, titled “Touristic Intents” and “Homeland: Chicago & Belgrade Diasporas.”

“Touristic Intents” was created using photographs, single channel video, silk screened cardboard boxes, rubber, surveyor’s poles and audio. The exhibit explores a three mile-long building that was constructed in the 1930s to be a Nazi resort that was unfinished in Prora, Germany. Rappaport said he started his research for this project in 2008.

Rappaport said the purpose of the site was to house 20,000 vacationing working class Germans after the destruction of the trade unions.

“What struck me was that this building was designed by the Nazis started being built in 1936, and the architect of this building’s main objectives was to create a resort for the working class, for the German workers, where everyone had a sea side view,” Rappaport said.

The exhibit consists of 135 images, with each image showing the views from windows that were taken within one block of one building section.

According to a description of “Touristic Intents” as provided by a brochure at the event, each image “depicts only the space of a window’s opening, its ‘view’ floating on a white background.” In order to “reinforce the initial promise of an ocean view for all, the obscured view is mirrored on the page with a reconstruction of an ocean view pushing through the same shape.”

The site was sold and intended to be converted into condominiums, rental apartments and hotels by private developers in the 1990s after it was used as secret military site during the German Democratic Republic. During that time, it was used as a German military training school, barracks and officers’ resort.

Rappaport said the building he explored is one of the five that the Nazis had planned to build as a part of their “strength through joy” program.

”I was fascinated by this idea that this fascistic government wants to do something that seems, at least in my mind, very, very progressive by giving access to leisure time, which at that time [leisure time] was a construct that only upper class people got to experience,” Rappaport said.

Visitors to the Moreau Galleries examine the new exhibits, which showcase themes surrounding diaspora, architecture and travel.Monica Villagomez Mendez

Visitors to the Moreau Galleries examine the new exhibits, which showcase themes surrounding diaspora, architecture and travel.

Also on display was Potter and Rappaport’s “Homeland: Chicago and Belgrade Diaspora,” which uses interviews with multi-generational artists and curators to explore the Serbian experience of moving to the United States and establishing a post-Yugoslavian society.

Some of the images presented in the exhibit are taken from Chicago, which is known as the Serbian center of the United States, having a population of roughly 400,000 Serbian people. The exhibit displays quotes from the interviews on images of a Chicago Serbian neighborhood and of Belgrade.

“Doing the interviews has been so amazing because there is no way that, even a student of international news and international history, that you could get these kind of personal stories without sitting down with people,” Rappaport said. “As an artist, I think we get to have permission to ask people personal questions and intimate questions, and for whatever reason, they open up to us really nicely.

“It has been a real privilege and an incredible answer to my own curiosity about certain issues.”

Potter spoke for both herself and Rappaport when she said this work has affected the way that they both see certain parts of the world.

“Sometimes you make work and then you leave it behind, but this work has made me think a lot. I really learned from these interviewees, and this project has changed a lot of my opinions and attitudes about social situations,” Potter said.

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