Hidden away in the basement of Mac-Corry Hall, student-run art gallery PotPourri is back for another year.
Cultural Studies students and the exhibit’s co-founders, Stéphanie McKnight and Michelle Smith, installed the exhibit in their department’s student lounge.
The Mac-Corry basement location is hard to find. There’s minimal foot traffic in the surrounding hallways of the building and little advertising around campus. It’s not an ideal space for an art show.
PotPourri has made strides despite it all.
It was recently granted funding from the Queen’s University Experiential Learning Project Fund and the School of Graduate Studies Student Initiative Fund, allowing them to pay artists a $50 honorarium for exhibiting a solo show.
With new funding, the repurposed student lounge is now home to the exhibits of amateur artists for the entire school year.
McKnight and Smith hope to make the space more visible, putting up posters in the building and hosting social events in the lounge to encourage more visits.
Meanwhile, their search for artists in this year’s exhibit continues with the help of a small group of students who review artist submissions. McKnight and Smith consult with the Q4F art collective to pick artists who will then be granted the $50 honorarium.
Getting started, McKnight is the first artist to display her work in the makeshift space this September.
Her exhibit features several heavily edited photos taken from surveillance cameras in the south of Markstay-Warren near Sudbury. conducting her fieldwork for her Master’s thesis in 2016. Her thesis examined how rural landowners use technology to protect their land from trespassers.
The idea for the exhibit struck McKnight when she read researchers David Haggerty and Daniel Trotsky’s articles on technology in nature. The authors explored if nature can be an escape from modern technology and advancements—and McKnight decided to incorporate their ideas into her art.
It was personally compelling: she grew up in the rural town of Markstay-Warren and always lived with technology in nature. In her experience, many rural towns use surveillance, efficiently keeping watch over large areas of open space.
While conducting her Masters fieldwork, McKnight investigated surveillance technologies in nature. In several cases, rural landowners used hunting cameras mounted on buildings and in woods, electric fences, and warning signs to scare off trespassers.
She applied it to her work, and distorted the photos by overlapping images on top of each other, adjusting the saturation and cropping certain landmarks out.
She removed all landmarks and made the landowners properties unrecognizable, protecting their identities.
Her theme of watchfulness, both in landowner’s security and in the use of surveillance technologies, isn’t a theme in other PotPourri artist’ work.
Next month, Jessie Golem’s Humans for Basic Income features a series of portraits of advocates for universal basic income.
The subjects hold up pieces of paper with messages detailing how the policy has helped them. Golem puts a human face to a wide-spread social issue.
Golem’s photography is vastly different from McKnight’s, but that’s the intention behind PotPourri.
McKnight and Smith chose the name PotPourri because they wanted to create an artist collective that was diverse and inclusive, but compatible as a whole.
They will continue accepting artist submissions until the exhibition is fully stocked for the year. In the meantime, the Cultural Studies lounge is open to anyone who wants to take a break from class to view and support up-and-coming artists.
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