Installation Offers Commentary on Amherst’s Gendered Spaces

Installation Offers Commentary on Amherst’s Gendered Spaces

Camila Dominguez ’18 exhibited her art project “Pin Up” in Alumni Gym on September 30. The project was for her advanced art seminar on public art and social practice. She placed pictures of current female Amherst students over pictures of male athletic teams, and her installation remained in the gym for about a week, prompting lively discussion between athletes and non-athletes alike. A talented artist and art major, Dominguez’s work has already left its mark at Amherst, and she will surely continue to surprise and stimulate us with her art.

Q: How would you best describe this project?
A: For “Pin Up,” I collected over 400 group pictures of Amherst women and installed them in the gym. There are already hundreds of images lining the walls of the space, but they are mostly historical images of Amherst men’s teams. Of course, for most of the college’s history, women were barred from attending. If the original image was of a women’s team, I left an open space. By leaving the few images of women’s teams exposed, I hoped to create a very simple visual metaphor for Amherst’s history of exclusion.

Q: How did you originally come up with this project?
A: Last year, I was thinking about online image production as gendered work. Women create most of the visual content we see online. Women, especially women of color, have been excluded from participating equally in traditional “serious” media, yet our contributions to social media are frequently dismissed. The fact is that women’s creative output is frequently dismissed — sewing, for example, is never discussed with the same seriousness as drawing. I began to wonder if there could be an alternative reading of online social media profiles that gives some weight to “frivolous” and gendered phenomena like selfies. For my Marsh project last year, I turned this research into a conversation with my friends, and we came up with the idea of the installation together. It took almost a year to actually execute!

Q: Do you think you began your project with an intention? If so, what?
A: I definitely intended to interact with the existing space of the Alumni Gym and the visual material that is already there. There was an explicit critique in the project, because Amherst was not built for or by women. Any time you interact with a space — in regular life or in art — you are confronting that reality.

Q: What was the most challenging part of this project?
A: The biggest challenge was trying to pull off a massive installation in under a week. I collected, edited and printed around 400 images. I didn’t sleep.

Q: Do you think your other art projects or practices influenced your project? If so, how?
A: The class assignment that prompted this project was “a subtle disruption.” I’m in an advanced art seminar on public art and social practice, which are branches of contemporary art that treat social relationships as material for artwork. Social practice is related to conceptual art, so the final art “object” can range from an ephemeral event to something long-term, like the formation of a political organization like Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International. The final project is often very different from the static objects we generally associate with art. In my mind, the Facebook event page where I asked women to submit images and the interactions that happened through social media as a result are just as much a part of the project as the final installation.

Q: How do you think people responded to your project?
A: I was really surprised that people weren’t meaner! I thought people would HATE it, but people have been really nice, especially girls.

Q: Where do you hope to see this project go in the future?
A: I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think the very simple “gender switch” aspect of the project is only the beginning of what the project can mean. I am currently working on a bigger, semi-related project on athletics. I never played team sports, so I think the whole culture and the loyalty people have to their teams is very interesting. I’m trying to understand it.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.