The art exhibition “Davis Inside Out,” which is set to officially open April 9, will soon line the walls of UC Davis’ Social Sciences and Humanities building. The installation features 400 large black and white portraits of UC Davis students and community members pasted along the building’s concrete exterior, and aims to celebrate individualism and identity.
The installation is modelled after the work of French artist JR, who in 2011 won a TEDx prize for his public displays of mass portraiture. His work pushed the boundaries of street art and encouraged people to be vocal in their beliefs.
Since his initial project in 2005, JR has encouraged others to join in and replicate versions of their own Inside Out as a means of showcasing identity. Today, tens of thousands of people from over 100 countries have participated in Inside Out exhibitions.
According to Shavika Singha, a fourth-year communication major and director of marketing at TEDxUCDAVIS, Inside Out projects quickly gained global popularity.
“Several campuses have done it and a lot of TEDx followers have done it,” Singha said. “So we decided to bring it to Davis and really showcase the Davis community and celebrate its diversity on our campus as well as the city.”
The project is an extension of the student-run conference TEDxUCDAVIS. In hopes that the artwork will reflect the singularity of the City of Davis, photo booths were set up in the Quad, the Davis Farmers Market and other public forums to allow all ages, shapes and sizes of people to be a part of the project.
The portrait can be whatever the individual wants to make it. Expressions can range from joy to frustration to dismay. Participants were given very few instructions, which allowed them to express themselves in an honest and forthcoming way.
According to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Adela de la Torre, both Davis and the University have always been accepting of art.
“Public art expressions and visual art are part of the fabric of UC Davis,” de la Torre said. “You need only walk through the campus and see that we have a long history of making art accessible to the broad community.”
The display has been headed by Lucian Novosel, a third-year design major, who serves as the project’s design lead. Since September, his team has been planning and struggling to finally get the project approved.
“JR’s project is to bring out that humanity,” Novosel said. “In celebrating the centennial of Davis we thought that it would be a fantastic opportunity to actually present our character and turn ourselves inside out as the title goes.”
Novosel said he sees the Inside Out projects as a way of revealing a new perspective to communities through recognizing each individual in a new light.
“You walk down the street and you see a bunch of strangers but you don’t really associate or understand that other people are human,” Novosel said. “You only catch a glimpse … those rare glimpses don’t show enough of the character that every human being has.”
In general, TEDx events strive to spread innovative ideas and encourage honest and open conversation. The exhibition’s curator, Cory Warshaw, believes Inside Out, as a part of TEDxUCDAVIS’ mission, should show the community how a good idea can go beyond just discussion.
“We don’t want ideas on the stage to stop at the stage,” Warshaw said. “So instead of having people talk and do a service to great ideas we want to show that we as a community can actually go out and do something.”
Warshaw hopes that the exhibit will have a lasting impact on the community, even after it no longer lines the campus walls.
“I hope that people will think a little bit more about the people that they pass by every day,” Warshaw said.
The Davis Inside Out installation will be left up until April 25. The group is currently looking for volunteers to put up the images on April 6 and April 7. Volunteer and event information can be found at their website bit.ly/Davis_InsideOut or through their Facebook page.
COLEMAN PERKINS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.