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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Life + Arts

Guest lecturer addresses materiality

Artists Terry Fox and Stuart Sherman’s short videos showed viewers extraordinary ways of looking at ordinary objects Thursday at the Blaffer Art Museum.

Feher’s work, displayed at Blaffer, is a contemporary incarnation of the ready-made concept popularized by Marcel Duchamp, most famously known with “The Fountain.”

Cameron suggests that Feher’s sculptures and installations are important because they explore society’s relationship to the materials it produces.

“Everything he presents is kind of a what-if question,” Cameron said.

“What if our relationship to discarded things in our society was such that we forced ourselves on a regular basis to rearrange those value systems?”

Though Feher’s work is comprised of everyday materials — primarily loose items such as half-empty bottles and milk crates — it is not easily accessible. The work often inspires surprise or anger.

“The work upstairs (at Blaffer) pulls together a lot of the immediate sensations one has the first time they encounter Tony’s work, and that’s the idea of a shock or surprise,” Cameron said.

Cameron says after this immediate reaction, viewers experienced disbelief. Viewers may feel someone has made a mistake, that someone has moved the art and replaced it with whatever they are viewing.

“You suspect someone might actually be pulling the wool over your eyes. The final feeling you come to is that this isn’t really art at all, at least not art in the way that you know it,” Cameron said.

What makes Feher important is not only his materials, but also his process. He is relentless in crafting his installations.

“Simply put,” Cameron said, “Feher’s work is the result of an elaborate process designed to get it right.”

That process often entails 10 hour days, in which Feher might move an object a few inches in one direction, ponder it, observe it for hours and then move it another few inches. The painstaking process, according to Cameron, is anything but restrictive.

“Feher’s method involves an intense commitment to discipline, but within that, a form of radical freedom,” Cameron said.

That freedom is tied to the value of Feher’s work. Cameron said he relies on rejecting some common sense assumptions about what art is.

Art history freshman Brandon Zech attended the lecture and appreciated hearing Cameron’s perspective.

“I really enjoy the events that the art department puts on,” Zech said.

“They’re often overlooked, but they can help majors and non-majors alike learn to appreciate art.”

Cameron said the value of Feher’s work was clearest when one examines the lingering emotions it inspires.

“It never stops being beautiful, and it never stops being upsetting,” Cameron said.

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