Still Indicators of Life

In 1957, Kissam Quad opened up as a newly renovated all-male dormitory, to replace the old Kissam on Alumni Lawn (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/magazines/vanderbilt-magazine/2012/03/the-three-lives-of-kissam-hall/)

Men were recovering from the effects of World War II or being remembered for their lives taken in the effort, women were rising in the fight for equal recognition, and blatant segregation still thrived in the South.

The two artists discussed by Vesna Pavlovic that moved me most, Taysir Batniji and Jessica Ingram, both made me question the social commentary present in everyday life. This theme was especially prominent in Ingram’s work, and while her photography of sites of violent acts of racism held powerful messages, I was drawn to this image

for its simplicity and seemingly untampered sense of reality. The little book above the toilet seems so telling of personality and moral, making me realize that we leave traces of social commentary through the way we live.

Taysir Batniji interests me in his attention to shape, texture, and detail in his photography and other works of art. I felt that this photo

combines both methods because it suggests the obscure sense that I feel upon reflecting on the building where I temporarily live. The buildings of Kissam Quad have their own statements simply because of their presence in another time period where social context differed so drastically. I see the urinal in my bathroom and am reminded that this building was intended for men. Then I realize the specific kind of man the building was intended for, and wonder how, back then, that man would feel to know that one day a black woman would stay there. It was both intriguing and eerie to view my status in relation to generations of college students.

   Something about the shape and structure of the windows in the staircases captures the weird feeling. Perhaps it’s the darkness, allowed little glimpses of light only through the restraint of cross-shaped openings. The cross shape itself suggests ideas of morality, religion, and all the social issues that come with it. I realize I’m not the only one who feels this way because I’ve heard several parents and students equate the buildings to a prison. Even though it was in good humor, and meant to address how unsuitable the buildings are for modern life, I think it demonstrates that objects of time have a similar effect on many people. To me, this photo exemplifies the power of still indicators of life that Taysir Batniji presents in his works. It then makes me wonder whether photos create social commentary or simply bring it to light; something Jessica Ingram questions in the way she uses photography.

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