Student-curated Hood Museum exhibit explores consent through photography

by Lauren Segal | 4/25/19 2:05am

 The Hood Museum is currently exhibiting the student-curated show “Consent: Complicating Agency in Photography,” featuring photographs that visualize the subject of consent. The exhibition was curated by 2017-18 Hood senior interns Gina Campanelli ’18, Marie-Therese Cummings ’18, Ashley Dotson ’18, Tess McGuinness ’18 and Kimberly Yu ’18, and displays a collection of photographs procured through the Hood’s Museum Collecting 101 program, in which students curate photographic works to the Hood Museum. The exhibition is the first to be displayed at the renovated Hood Museum as part of the student-curated “A Space for Dialogue” series. 

Not only does the exhibition present insightful commentary on consent, but it also demonstrates Dartmouth’s commitment to highlighting student curatorial work, said associate curator of academic programming Amelia Kahl ’01. 

The interns sought to unite 13 photographs under a common theme that was relevant to the Dartmouth community. “Consent: Complicating Agency in Photography” is divided into four sub-categories: “Self-reflections,” “Individuals and Identities,” “Public Spheres” and “Global Ethics.” The final exhibition features photography by Nobuyoshi Araki, Tierney Gearson, Tim Hetherington, James Karales, Atta Kim, Nikki Lee, Jerome Liebling, Mário Macilau, Vivian Maier, Doug Rickard, Daniela Rossell and Sebastiao Salgado.

“In light of our current political climate and the issues around privacy, climate change, poverty, identity and social media, this exhibition hopes to start critical conversations,” the interns write in the exhibition’s introductory wall text. “We hope these photographs — often intimate, sometimes perverse, but all thoughtful and intentional — reflect the diverse challenges presented by our increasingly globalized world.”

According to Dotson, issues of consent arise constantly on campus, and for the interns to have the opportunity to address them in public shows the value Dartmouth places on open dialogue. 

“As this was the grand reopening of the Hood, we wanted to choose a relevant theme; rarely do students get to make a commentary in such a big, public forum like this,” Dotson said. Kahl said she believes that the exhibition offers an insightful commentary on the subject of consent and that the medium of photography provides the opportunity to delve further into the topic’s complexities. 

According to Kahl, the idea of consent is implicit in photography as a medium due to the interplay of power dynamics between the photographer and the subject. Not only does the exhibition raise the topic of consent within intimate relationships but also within the discussion of the role technology plays in our lives and the influence of social media, she said. 

“Consent: Complicating Agency in Photography,” Kahl added, explores the public discussion of privacy and the increasingly complex issue of self-presentation and representation by others.

Dotson noted that photography raises questions about how even the way one wishes to portray themself is not necessarily a decision one has complete agency over. 

“I want viewers to take away the complexity of the notion of consent, the complexity involved in the idea of consent and how consent plays out in our own lives,” Kahl said. “I want viewers to be thoughtful about the photography and images they create.”

During the curatorial process, the team faced a dilemma when photographer Nobuyoshi Araki — whose artwork “Untitled ‘Bondage (Kinbaku)’” was among the selected photographs — was accused of financial exploitation by one of his models a few months prior to the opening of the exhibition. According to Kahl, this discovery prompted debate among the student curators as they considered the implications of featuring an artist who violated his model’s consent. The curators ultimately decided to include a reproduction in the final exhibition and discuss the incident in the accompanying didactic.

Dotson said that she hopes viewers of the show discover their own meaning in the artworks displayed. 

“The beauty and truth of art is that it is subjective, but that is also what makes it so powerful,” she said. 

“Consent: Complicating Agency in Photography” will be exhibited in the Hood Museum until May 9.

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