DePaul Art Museum: The Sochi Project
Rob Hornstra, Arnold Van Bruggen are two journalists currently documenting the region in Russia known as Sochi. Sochi is a town that sits by the Black Sea, and is known for its offerings as a beach-side resort. It is also home to the most recent Winter Olympics. The Sochi Project is a body of work dedicated to studying the socioeconomics and politics of the region and its role in hosting a glamorized global sports exhibition.
Photographs from The Sochi Project can currently be seen at the DePaul Art Museum. The content of the exhibit is divided between floors and rooms. On the first floor, one can find a section dedicated to a general overview of Sochi, as well as one about the site that hosts the games. On the second floor, one can find photoraphs which regard the newly formed country of Abkhazia, as well as the North Caucasas region around Dagestan
In the center of the galleries on both floors, one can also find a selection of books containing material related to The Sochi Project. On the first floor, the back-most room shows exhibition videos on various screens. The photographs are printed on a translucent newsprint paper, and are accompanied by texts which give the viewer insight as to the relevance of each photograph. The texts give a brief description of the subject, as well as matters surrounding the subject; their role in a construction site, how one is effected by the regions militants, etc.
Printing on newsprint gives the pieces a sense of immediacy, almost as if the artists intend on teasing out a reaction similar to when one reads a newspaper or is greeted with similar media. The lack of frames and hanging parts gives the galleries a more open feel, and takes away a rigid, formalist aspect of convention art presentation. While some piecs are indeed framed, a majority of them are not. The pieces that are framed are larger than the rest, and focus on the image itself, with the accompanying texts placed adjacent to it, separately.
I also enjoyed the introductory map on the first floor on the wall opposite the one which initially confronts the viewer. This map lays out the broader Caucasus region, giving information pertaining to other territories, both historic and present. This map sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, explaining Sochi, The Sochi Project, and all the relevant bordering countries within the continent. The effect of each wall text is boosted with this initial introduction to guide the unfamiliar into an understanding of The Sochi Project
This body of works presentation is incredibly effective. While the imagery is all well presented, I feel that the meat of the exhibit lies in the text. If it were not for all the extra contextual information, the objective would be less apparent. Yes, it takes extra reading in order to understand The Sochi Project, but the end result is a new insight on an otherwise foreign part of the world.
Here, two artists merge contemporary fine art practice with reportage and journalism. They present their work beautifully, and with contemporary practice in mind. The material and subject matter in this exhibition is very digestible and concise, pointing to important and relevant global issues.
The Sochi Project is on display at the Depaul Art Museum from January 9 until March 23.
written by Christopher Wong on February 24, 2014