An exhibition of photographs and drawings by New Zealand students revealing their perceptions of social issues in their country will be on display in Borland Gallery on the University Park campus, Nov. 3–Dec. 12, 2014, with a public reception on Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. The images were produced during a weeklong workshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, led by Penn State School of Visual Arts Associate Professor Lonnie Graham in spring 2014 and hosted by the University of Canterbury.
The title of the exhibition, Polyphony, refers to the notion of speaking in many voices or, as Graham describes, “I see what others are saying.” Graham was invited by the Christchurch City Council to collaborate with Te Ora Hou Ōtautahi, a Maori youth and community development organization, with the goal of helping youth find their voice through art-making practices. With an underlying theme of “speaking up,” the images reveal the participants’ concerns about domestic violence, fixed perceptions, identity, multiculturalism and the state of Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. Graham has long focused on cultural activism in his photography practice and the process of image-making and identity-forming used in the workshop is similar to how Graham collaborates with people and communities around the globe in his ongoing project, A Conversation with the World.
In an interview with Christchurch press last spring, Graham described the workshop process: “I engaged them in a conversation about how they were perceived, how they’d like to be perceived and what ideas they had so that we could visualize those things and put them in a place where they could share their ideas. I tried to get them to tell me what they were thinking. They didn’t want to. We talked some more. Then they started saying what they think, we started going back and forth, talking, writing and sketching. They told us stories about their heritage, culture, gifts, ideas, what they wanted to leave behind and what they wanted to carry into the future with them.”
For more on Graham, visit his personal page on the SoVA website at http://sova.psu.edu/profile/lonniegraham and two sites about A Conversation with the World: http://lonniegraham.com and http://conversationwiththeworldcalgary.com/photographer/.