Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
As I read this New York Times article, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps. French artist JR has taken archival photos of immigrants around the island and its hospital and created life-sized prints that now adorn the cracked and peeling walls of the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. This installation “Unframed” is sponsored by the nonprofit Save Ellis Island that strives to protect this historic landmark.
The exhibit is no doubt a social object – or one that facilitates social interaction. What is haunting about this is that the images of the people who once roamed the grounds are the source. “You stand there and you’re in the present, and they’re in the past, and you’re there together,” saidJanis Calella, president of Save Elis Island. JR’s prints weave around the tarnished visage of the decaying hospital, “respecting the architecture” in which the art facilitates the “gallery” rather than the other way around.
Interactive features include one of the pictures being presented upside-down so that visitors must take a picture and then invert it themselves in order to see it properly. Artistic choices like these and to select JR, who is described by the article as bridging pop and high culture, were made in order to attract a younger audience. What else could be done to do so for this exhibit? I hope this beautifully eerie tribute to history fulfills its intended purpose.