Arts & Culture

Dual Degree show indulges disarray

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, March 2, 2012

If Basket|Case is anything like the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program, it calls into question the sanity of whomever thought allowing students to earn degrees from both schools at the same time was a good idea.  

In short — the show is great.

It is more than great. I have gone six times.

Basket|Case — which runs in the Hillel Gallery until March 4 — paints an unsettling picture of life straddling the divide between liberal arts and art school. The energy in the gallery is frayed, with sculptures seeming to balance precariously, a touch away from total collapse. Repeated themes that stop abruptly are a common motif. There is a tangible tension evident in the works, a feeling that this group of students is barely — just, just barely — keeping things together.

“Swingset,” by Lukas Bentel ’15 and Jian Shen Tan ’15, consists of three plastic swings suspended from a stainless steel bar with ultra-sleek rope. The only place those swings can possibly exist is in a gallery. One self-respecting gust of wind would send them to playground Hades.  

Across the hall — Hillel Social Hall, nerve-wrackingly filled with vegetables and zumba dancers during the majority of the week — is “Column,” a perilously tilted stack of plastic cases pilfered from an abandoned factory in the Jewelry District, by Josephine Devanbu ’15. “Column” teeters and arcs all the way to the ceiling.

Again, this hall is packed with Zumba dancers on weeknights.

But perhaps the most compelling balancing act in the exhibit is the contrast between “Survey of Lists Created Fall 2010-Winter 2011” and “Redaction,” both by Rachel Himes ’15. “Survey” is a collation of dozens of Himes’ to-do lists quilted together into a five foot-tall monstrosity. They are crumpled and stained; question marks abound. It is scattered and frenetic. In one corner is simply the word “MORE!” Also: “Buy knives.” This is a piece capable of inducing anxiety attacks.

“Redaction” is not. It is not scattered or frenetic. A layered charcoal sketch of a cathedral’s bones, it is arguably one of the most purely beautiful pieces in the show.

This dichotomy between an impeccable exterior and the disarray behind the scenes governs Basket|Case. The title “Double Burden” attached to a collage featuring Saddam Hussein’s face leering behind a grinning female discus thrower is made all the more telling by the fact that artist Kseniya Konovalova ’14 is earning degrees in international relations and painting. (Is that really a discus, or maybe — a palette?)

A few lighthearted pieces hold their own amid the general mania — in particular, “Lunch Blows,” a picture book illustrated with ironic tenderness in gouache by Alison Rutsch ’13. The book is a compilation of the everyday disasters of the elementary school cafeteria: sickly green cafeteria ladies hoarding trays of jello, kids being teased about their lunchboxes, spills, garbage and lunch monitors.  

But on the whole, Basket|Case celebrates exactly what its name advertises: ideas just crazy enough that they might actually work.