One of the first objects that you see on the floor when you walk into the STASH exhibit, in the Adams House Art Space, is a ketchup-stained plate inside an 11” by 11” one-gallon Ziploc bag. Where else could you find not only a dirty plate, but also Pez dispensers, lychee candy wrappers, an old sandwich, Radiohead’s “OK Computer,“ fortune cookies and bank receipts in re-sealable plastic bags, arranged artistically in a room?
Organized by Carla M. Ceruzzi ’02 and Luke C. Marion ’02, both art board members of the Harvard Advocate, STASH is ultimately art for students by students. Ceruzzi says that “[Marion and I] wanted to challenge the expectations placed on our shows—expectations about which student artists would be represented, what kind of work would be shown, how it would be displayed, etc. Our art shows in the past have mostly shown work done for VES classes by VES concentrators.” The very premise of STASH involves a much wider range of Harvard students: 120 plastic bags were handed out to a large sample of students, who were told to bring back “the most visually interesting” object they could find; the only restriction was for the object to fit into the bag.
Tucked away into a high-ceilinged, rectangular room of Adams House, the show at first glance looks like a strange collection of articles one would put into a time capsule—a stash. Never was an exhibit more true to its name. But STASH is much more than simply an array of multi-colored objects that strike the eye—it is a revealing, thought-provoking and self-declared experiment on the Harvard student body that allows its viewers to draw their own conclusions about the participants and their submissions. The fact that the contributing artists of STASH represent such a wide cross-section of the campus—both VES concentrators and visual arts novices alike—makes the exhibit one which requires only open-mindedness to appreciate.
STASH is also an interactive exhibit: viewers are free to wander around the room and gaze at the objects, some of which are mounted on the drab gray walls, some divided from others and some even dangling in midair, in an otherwise dingy and barren room. According to Ceruzzi, “I wanted to be able to take the objects out of the bags if necessary, to see them better, but still preserve the concept of all of the objects fitting within a certain space.” Bare lightbulbs on the ceiling illuminate the sections of the display, which are partitioned into square grids with masking tape, each grid marking the space that a particular bag occupies. The asymmetrical geometric arrangement of the bags and objects lends a peculiar charm to the display, and the sparseness of the room brings out with astonishing vividness the hues and shapes of the objects—as well as the dramatic contrasts between the objects themselves, which would not have been as evident in a more well-lit room.
Mounted in similar Ziploc bags in the adjoining room are pieces of paper listing all the contributing artists, as well as quotations from contributors—“Can I have it back?”—and the essential motivations of the show. Apparently STASH originated from general “frustration with the inability to gather high-quality student art from a wide range of artists and display it well.” The difficulty of putting together a student show is undoubtedly what triggers the consensus from numerous STASH participants that visual arts are generally underrepresented on campus, whether this is because the performing arts are simply more dominant, or whether this is due to the nature of visual art itself.
But the negative foundations of STASH eventually prove themselves wrong, for the exhibit demonstrates marvelously the many multi-faceted possibilities of student-organized art. Student work at Harvard is a goldmine with ores of untapped talents and unfulfilled potential; with more publicity, more participation, more prominent places to display, it should take on a much larger role on campus. If STASH is any indication, art is not just for the elite or the “artsy”; rather, it is accessible to everyone who has the vaguest desire either to experience it as a viewer or as a contributor.
So what are you hoarding?