By Cynthia Haro, Apr. 12, 2022
On March 17 the Don B. Huntley University Art Gallery unveiled its newest exhibit “Treasures of Fauxtopia: The Most Believable Place on Earth.” From references to Disney Pixar’s “Ratatouille” to Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob,” the exhibit uses subversive art and commercialism to simulate a reality to be individually perceived.
The exhibit is alluring to the eye, captivating passersby with its immense amount of color and theme park-like displays. Its purpose is to revive the past and challenge ideas of how viewers understand their present reality.
“Theme parks themselves have a visual vernacular that people have become accustomed to, so it would only make sense that the people of Fauxtopia would be using the same gimmicks,” said guest curator and professor in the Department of Art, Raymond Kampf.
The exhibit is based on creator G.E. McAtnoff’s vision of a theme park where reality is what one makes it out to be for themselves. It is broken up into four divisions: hyper reality, perceived reality, simulated reality and story street.
Created for the sole purpose of pleasure and not too subtle deception, the exhibit asks viewers to think deeply about the information they are choosing to consume.
“It is giving the audience a very palatable way to digest information; if something is candy coated it can go down a little bit better,” stated Kampf, referencing the nostalgic ambience of the exhibit. He explained further that the idea of the exhibit is to entertain the notion that truths are multifaceted.
The untruths exhibited in Fauxtopia allowed viewers to challenge their belief systems and create an idea for themselves about the information they are supplied with. Coating the walls of the gallery were different kinds of propaganda, although at first glance they merely looked like cheerful animations.
Eye-catching memorabilia such as “The Brainwasher,” depicts two individuals riding what looks like a brain through a washing machine. Without a closer look, the piece merely looks like a playful poster deceiving viewers who don’t wish to think deeply. The caption reads, “take a ride when you’re tired of thinking for yourself,” and just above it the Apple Inc. and Disney logos are illustrated.
“I didn’t think the exhibit would be anything like this,” explained nutrition alumna Eliza Gonzales when she visited the gallery for the first time. “When I walked in it looked fun but the more that I interacted and read everything, I realized I was only analyzing the surface level of the exhibit. It got me thinking.”
Kampf suggested that viewers should become more aware of their consumption of propaganda. “It is important to study how it is a show blurring lines between what is real and what is not,” he said. Kampf explained that the trends of theme parks can be seen in marketing strategies for the development of retail stores and much more if one pays close attention.
Displayed through more obvious expression of satire is “Papa Gander’s Propaganda Circus presented by The Ministry of Obfuscation.” Its main characters illustrated are infamous dictators such as Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, all known for their impactful propaganda during World War II.
Fauxtopia became Kampf’s project for several years while in graduate school up until his sabbatical. During this time, he decided to contact director and curator of the exhibit Michele Cairella Fillmore to get the exhibit in motion for the community to view.
Fillmore expressed the importance of art being more than just something pleasant to look at. “Art is not about making beautiful pictures; art is a visual form of communication,” she stated. The impact of art is meant to be about communicating thoughts and processes as Fillmore explains.
“People who create advertising are all doing things in a way to communicate an idea,” said Fillmore. She emphasized that there is always a purpose behind the messages being sent out for people to consume.
She also related the exhibit’s purpose to the ongoing war in Ukraine, explaining that there is a lot of Russian propaganda promoting the war as beneficial rather than detrimental. “This show is about talking about those things (current and past issues),” she explained.
The target audience of this exhibit is anyone who chooses to think deeply about what they are taught and told; at the university this is an expected skill to develop.
Rather than simply enjoying the artwork and the cheerful atmosphere, visitors are encouraged to take a minute to sit down and engage with the videos and games to soak up the true message. The most believable place on earth should be the most questioned.
“People tend to believe the things that they see, but if they have critical thinking, they can make up their own mind as to whether or not something is true,” Fillmore expressed.
The exhibit will be held in Building 15, room 4435 and is open to the public until Sep. 11 at no cost.
Feature image by Cynthia Haro
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