Sunday, April 4, 2010
Now that April has arrived, it means on-campus tours, and lots of them. As the spring sun beats down on the picturesque Wake Forest University, wide-eyed teenagers and their concerned parents are led around campus by an experienced student. What is a seemingly normal routine, however, might be viewed as an exercise in performativity as it relates to site-specific art. While the guide absentmindedly rattles off obscure statistics about the founding of the University, and of certain buildings, the eyes of the prospective students twinkle with an curious mix of excitement, wonder, and even trepidation. To look into the faces of these youths is to experience a truly pure form of reaction, which has in recent years come into the world of site-specificity as a performance art. One such example brought up in class previously involved an artist (whose name escapes me right now) who put on an exhibit wherein he simply stared into the faces of individual audience members for an extended period of time. This avant-garde style of performance relies heavily on facial expressions, and how people react to the situation of being stared down by an eccentric artist. Observing the faces of the parents and kids touring the campus provided a similar sort of intrigue for me as a current student, as expressions often reveal thoughts and emotions. For some, it is clear that they have immediately fallen in love with the campus, and will be attending for sure. For others, vague expressions of disenchantment might reveal one of several emotions; whether it be disinterest in our particular campus, or even crippling fear at the prospect of college life in general. Indeed, students passing by often fail to realize that these 17 and 18 year olds are in the process of making perhaps the most important decisions of their lives. This coupled with the fact that they often forget they are being casually watched by the students on the quad makes for natural and highly interesting reactions to observe on the faces of kids who might well be spending the majority of the next 4 years on this very campus. On a side note, the grandiose campus that they are so overwhelmed by will in a few months time become the "everyday" for a good portion of these very same kids. Whereas museum tours can involve myriads of different times of people, college tours almost always include teenagers in similar situations, and thus seeing the different reactions on people so similar is a truly intriguing situation.