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"State of Emergency" Exhibit Draws Inspiration from Disaster

London, 1940
One panel from the four-part work London, 1940, by Matthew Picton.

Art by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei will highlight a winter exhibition at Davidson College that converges around the theme of disaster. Curated by Director and Curator of the Van Every/Smith Galleries Lia Newman, "State of Emergency" will feature works by 18 artists. A small catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

The exhibit will run from Jan. 16 - Feb. 28 in the galleries and atrium of the Belk Visual Arts Center. The opening reception will be from 6-8 p.m., Jan. 23.

"The goal of the exhibition is not simply to present images of horror or ‘disaster pornography' but rather to open a dialogue about the role artists can play in bringing attention to disasters while working toward recovery," Newman said.

She took inspiration for the exhibit from William Turner's painting, The Shipwreck (c. 1805), which depicts a theme common in Romantic Painting-disaster at sea.

"‘State of Emergency' builds on Romanticism's fascination with terror, awe and calamity, exploring the ways in which contemporary artists visualize crises," Newman said. "The exhibition presents diverse works of art, including painting, photography, animation, installation and printmaking, to explore cataclysmic events such as war, gang violence, illness, tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes-and the repercussions of such events."

Among the works will be Weiwei's Namelist and Remembrance, commemorations of schoolchildren lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Namelist will fill the gallery walls with the names of 5,196 schoolchildren who perished in the earthquake because of what are commonly referred to in China as "tofu dreg" schools, or schools shoddily constructed as if with the flimsy, porous bits leftover from the tofu making process. The names of the deceased will be read aloud in Remembrance, an audio work.

The more than 5,000 schoolchildren who were killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake are memorialized in Ai Weiwei’s Namelist.

Exhibition artists include Ai Weiwei, Miguel Aragón, Mel Chin, Joelle Dietrick, Eben Goff, Naoya Hatakeyama, Matt Kenyon, Miki Kato-Starr, Tatana Kellner, Kate Kretz, Mario Marzan, Richard Misrach, Jason Mitcham, Matthew Picton, Robert Polidori, elin o'Hara slavick, Katherine Taylor and Paul Villinski.

The exhibition, catalogue and programming are made possible through support from the Herb Jackson and Laura Grosch Gallery Endowment, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Davidson College Friends of the Arts and Davidson College Multicultural Affairs.

Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon - 4 p.m.


The exhibit will feature work by Miki Kato-Starr, wife of Assistant Professor of Art Tyler Starr. The couple left Japan with their young son in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.