Experience Austin Shull’s Reconciliation
written by Jen Noone, AAC Curatorial and Exhibitions Intern
Our current exhibitions Strange Landscapes, Austin Shull’s Reconciliation, and Materialized Magic opened on June 25, and if you haven’t seen it yet don’t wait! Reconciliation and Materialized Magic both close this Sunday, July 31!
In these three shows the artists and curators utilize, alter, or reimagine their surroundings to present unique, and often very personal, perspectives. AAC Resident Artist Austin Shull uses the literal act of excavating the land to delve into various psychological landscapes in his solo show, Reconciliation.
Austin’s multimedia installation consists of a video, a poem, and a collection of photographs. In the video, a group of people work together to excavate a privy in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Some of the people in the video are friends of the artist, a few are tenants of the building on the property, and others are members of the surrounding community.
Throughout the process of digging, stories are shared, and desires and fears revealed. Artifacts are discovered and hardships are experienced, each spurring new dialogue among the group.
As the video progresses we watch the past filter through the present and hear about possible futures inspired by the past.
Austin describes one of the concepts of the project, “It’s so much about how digging through the past at the same time unpacks a lot about what’s happening right now with us in the present.”
Reflecting on the experience of digging, Austin says, “As we got deeper things started to cross over and as we started to get to know each other and as we found things, people started to really reveal themselves.”
“We’re taught…about these very dominant moments in history and they’re so often not actually the truth…”
Many of the photographs in the installation depict members of the excavation team interacting with the found artifacts: a boy and a woman examine a collection of marbles with awe; a couple shares a plate of oysters while their minds seem to be somewhere else; the artist puffs on a long pipe with a mischievous smirk on his face. There is a sense of play and an air of fantasy. Here we see relics of the past informing present situations.
As I contemplate the give and take between past, present, and future I think about how similarly life is experienced but how differently history is often presented—tidy, neat, linear.
History textbooks present a snapshot of an event from a single perspective.
Through Reconciliation Austin challenges this traditional notion of how history is experienced, recorded, and shared.
When I shared my thoughts about the absolutes presented in published history, Austin agreed, saying, “We’re taught in high school, and college even, about these very dominant moments in history and they’re so often not actually the truth or they are misrepresentations.”
He goes on to say, “History was actually built on the people and not on these particular dominant figures or whoever else—it’s the factory workers, it is the masses—and so thinking about history in the terms of that is very interesting.”
Along with the powerful reimagining of a history for and by the people, Reconciliation also possesses an element of enchantment.
Austin describes his experience saying, “This was probably the most magical project that I’ve ever done…we were all so deeply kind of emotionally involved in this discovery process which was both about self-discovery and the discovery of others.”
About the Artist:
Austin Shull is a multidisciplinary artist from Washington, DC. He received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts and a BA from Bard College. Shull participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
In addition to his AAC residency, Austin has completed residencies with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Henry Street Settlement Abrons Art Center in New York. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
Be sure to check out Reconciliation on the Upper Level before it closes on July 31. While you’re here, stop by the main and lower levels to experience Strange Landscapes and Materialized Magic.
Our galleries are always free and open to the public Wed – Sun, 12 – 5 pm. Find us at 3550 Wilson Blvd across the street from the Virginia Square Metro. Mark your calendars for the upcoming events so you don’t miss a thing:
Saturday, Aug 13, 6 – 8 pm: Light Wishes Only to Be Land opening
Saturday, Sept 10, 1 – 4 pm: Strange Landscapes Meet the Artists