The exhibition Voice to Vision, currently on display at Concordia’s Cyrus M. Running Gallery, strikes you with a sheer of avalanche of imagery. Faces, colors, lines, and forms all collide in innumerable ways, begging you to make sense of controlled chaos.
In a way, that’s part of the reason for the exhibition. The collected works are all collaborations between an artist team and survivors of the Holocaust and a number of genocides from across the world. According to David Feinberg, director of the Voice to Vision project, a logical approach wouldn’t have the same effect. Studying the memories of these survivors requires something other than a straightforward approach, something that will be more significant than if it were left to facts and figures alone.
“The search for significant forms never comes from logic, but always from accidents,” Feinberg said. “If you throw enough information at something and keep on studying it, then, out of nowhere, clarity comes through.”
The process becomes important not only for the finished product of the collaborations, but for the survivors themselves. Participants first share their stories through dialogue with the artist team, then move into a process in which creative decisions on the work are made together. Along the way, Feinberg said, participants often find more to their story than they’ve been able to share previously. He tells of one woman who spoke on a panel after taking part in the project.
“She was asked if the project had a psychological effect on her, which isn’t our intention, but she said she’d been going to a psychiatrist for ten years and nothing has helped as much as (the project) did,” Feinberg said.
The powerful narratives created through these works move audiences as well as their creators. At a recent opening for the traveling exhibition, Feinberg said, exit polls gauging the exhibition’s impact registered no opinions.
“They told me people were in an emotional state where they couldn’t fill them out,” he said.
Feinberg said that the creations made during the Voice to Vision process aren’t meant to be “good” works of art. Instead, they’re meant to convey truth. After the initial process of helping the project’s participants allay their fears of making art, he said they begin to flesh out memories and stories that they hadn’t expressed for years. As they go through the process, images and themes begin to loosely tie themselves into a narrative, and artistic decisions are made on what best relates to the survivor’s narrative, not based on what makes “good” art. From there, he said, it’s up to us as an audience to attempt to put those threads into a greater meaning and context.
“Through this art, we have fragments of images, and by organizing them we go deeper into the stories. All of participants bond together and turn these experiences into something that can teach,” Feinberg said.
The exhibition is being held in conjunction with the Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium today and tomorrovw. The symposium’s theme this year is “Beyond Genocide: Learning to Help and Hope,” and Voice to Vision will likely provide a multitude of angles to inspire discussion.
Image: David Feinberg, with drawing and painting contributions from Lucy Smith, survivor, Sabina Zimering, survivor, and the following artists: Laura Krueger, Katie Novak, and Diane Grace Goodman. Photographs by Aviel Goodman.