“Against Doom,” an exhibition by Amherst’s Artist-in-Residence Macon Reed, is currently on display in the Eli Marsh Gallery in Fayerweather Hall. The gallery where the exhibition is held is filled with neon color and contains prints, a video and an interactive installation aimed at addressing the current political and social climate.
The contrast between the playful color and Play-Doh-like texture of each piece and their underlying social, political and cultural message is striking. The exhibit forces the viewer to expand their imagination and consider the content of each piece in a different light. The centerpiece of the exhibition is an installation titled “A Pressing Conference.” The installation is a replica of the press briefing room in the White House and contains the podium with microphones, flags and chairs labeled with the names of White House press correspondents. However, rather than a simple navy backdrop and wooden podium, everything in Reed’s construction of the space has a colorful cartoon-like feel. According to Reed, the subtle shifts in size and form are intended to allow for an “other-worldly shift” in the role of the press briefing room.
A stack of laminated papers along the side of the room detailing violence against journalists and attacks on the free press worldwide reveal the motivation behind the piece. In her artist statement, Reed writes, “Authoritarian states throughout history often begin their consolidation of power by discrediting the press, spreading propaganda that leaves people unsure about what is real and creating distrust. Bringing together performance artists, organizers, historians and others — ‘Pressing Conference’ is a vibrant platform focused on providing truth in a world of fake news.”
Through the interactive aspect of the piece, Reed aims to facilitate dialogue about the issues that are most important to members of the Amherst Community.
The gallery’s visitors are invited to step up to the podium and share stories and thoughts about what matters most to them. The installation was originally shown at Amherst in March 2018 and has been traveling to galleries and art shows around the country over the past year. Participants are invited to share their interactions on social media by tagging #apressingconference to add their voice to the network of people who have participated in the project.
With its brightly-colored, imaginative aesthetic and meaningful content, “Against Doom” creates a space that is simultaneously sobering, contemplative and full of hope.
As Amherst’s artist-in-residence, Reed works in the classroom as well as the studio. She taught a course called “Installation, Site, and the Embodied Spectator” in the fall and her current course is called “On World Making: Context, Narrative, Myth, and Truth.” According to Reed’s artist statement, her work is “motivated by human relationships within evolving queer and intersectional feminist frameworks” and based in a firm belief that “aesthetic form and social engagement are not mutually exclusive, but rather deeply intertwined.” Much of her recent work takes the form of traveling interactive installations like “A Pressing Conference” and involve intentional community engagement across the country, which she views as an act of creative resistance.
“Against Doom” will be open in the Eli Marsh Gallery during working hours until April 5.