Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ephemera and Lingering History

I recently saw two wonderful exhibitions that touch on themes of ephemera, our transient existence, and the lingering history and evidence of our being that is left behind.

First, I attended the reception last Friday for "On Streets Like Ours, In Rooms, Up Collapsing Stairs" by Sage Dawson, currently on exhibit through June 22 at Good Citizen in St. Louis, MO.  Dawson "examines the history of cartographic rendering... to investigate the distinct identities of spaces, dwelling rights, and contemporary perspectives on nostalgia."  Her exquisitely rendered mixed media artworks bespeak maps, landscape and interior spaces but also hearken to biological systems and pure abstraction.  Also included are cataloged objects and details about an abandoned house at 1163 Mary Street in Springfield, looking into its history and discovering the people who had lived there.

Then on Tuesday, I saw "LOST AND FOUND: The Search for Harry and Edna" produced by Jeff Phillips at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO through June 21.  Recently reviewed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, this show includes excerpts from a thousand found photographs of an unknown "Harry and Edna" recounting their lives, travels and history.  Phillips purchased the images and then yearned to discover who the people depicted were, using Facebook to create a "social media search party" to solve that mystery.

Both shows explore ephemera and lives left behind, abandoned people and places that still resonate across time and inspire the viewer to wonder about their whereabouts, what happened to them and why the found articles were neglected as they were.  But, even more interestingly, both shows also explore how social media can be used to track and deduce that history, to piece together the puzzle presented and find out what happened.  Who are these people?  Who lived here?  Where are they now?  In the past those questions may or may not have been as easy to answer, but, with as accessible as information and communication is nowadays, we are becoming much more able to do so.

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