By Josie Mills
Ryerson University’s fourth-year new media students hosted their eighth annual META exhibition from April 14 to 16.
The organization and creation process of the exhibit took six months and gave students a platform to have their artwork, which was often inspired by contemporary art and incorporated technology, displayed.
Twelve final media projects were featured at The Gates, a venue close to Ryerson over the three days. The projects spanned from live performances to 3D printed pieces.
“Events like these confirm year after year that there is exceptional talent at Ryerson,” said Dr. Christopher Evans, Associate Professor and Interim Provost and Vice President Academic at Ryerson.
In order to be featured in META, each student had to appear in front of a jury of three industry professionals, with no affiliation to the school, and had their completed work evaluated. This jury decided if the students’ project was distinguished enough to make it into the final 12 chosen works. The rest of the students in the program took on curation and leadership roles in planning the event, such as social media and public outreach.
Although many of the pieces featured projections, bright colours and pictures, one simple, but powerful, performance by Alessandra Mancini stood out. “A Letter To Our Demons” was both a performative and participatory display that addressed mental illness.
“I wanted to get rid of my memories I had of anorexia,” Mancini said. “It was a form of therapy for myself I wanted to make a space where perhaps, somebody could be put into the mindset of anorexia, but as it evolved into this piece that focuses on more than one mental illness as a whole.”
Dressed in all black, she spoke about her relationship with anorexia and how she wrote letters to “Ana.” Behind her was a pedestal with two drawers, with a stack of letters that she collected over the term from other people suffering from mental illness, whether it be forums or blogs to their illness as if it was a person.
She started with a monologue about the meaning behind the letters and proceeded to read them. At the end, the audience chose what she did with each letter. She asked the audience if they would like to tear the letter up and get rid of it forever, or keep it because she already experience closer or keep it as a memory. She also encouraged the audience to write their own letters and keep them for themselves, with the possibility of having her read them at future performances.
For some students like Mancini, there is more to the process than just art.
“I’m looking forward to when my family comes, they are going to be learning things about me they might not have known,” she said. “I’m scared but also excited for them to experience something with me that they haven’t been able to before. It’s like complete closure. I feel like it might bring me closer to them in some way.”
Another project featured was Alex Basso and Andrew Imecs’ piece called Theatre of War. The 3D printed animation was on a motorized turntable with a strobe light in darkness and played an animation of a potted sunflower. The piece suggests that war should not always be looked at negatively due to the societal gains that result from it.
“A lot of technology that we have and that we use in society [has] basically been advanced very quickly because of war,” said Basso.
Some students also see the exhibit as an opportunity to express themselves in a way they might not have before through different art forms.
“Its cool to see people feel vulnerable in that kind of setting,” said Cecilia Chan, new media student and public outreach coordinator for META.
Aurora Cacioppo, the curatorial coordinator spoke on the teamwork that was involved in META during her speech on the opening night of the exhibit.
“Despite the stresses that final projects and exams put on us, it was so nice working with all of you and to know that we had so much support and there was always someone to lend a helping hand,” said Aurora. “I’m so proud of that and so grateful to each of you. Thank you for sticking around to see what new media actually means.”
CORRECTION: A prior version of this story, published April 16 online, claimed in the headline that the exhibit was hosted by Ryerson RTA. However, this exhibit was hosted by fourth-year new media program students, whose curriculum is still under the image arts faculty. The story also incorrectly stated that this was the 16th annual exhibit. It was actually the eighth. The Eyeopener regrets these errors.