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When the College of Fine Arts at the University of Kentucky asked us to fill their Bolivar Art Gallery with a show of our work, we were flattered, sure, but also intimidated. We’d already exhausted a multitude of ideas designing another exhibition about ourselves. And how would we represent our work when it was so readily available to view on our website (to start)?
Pinterest, Instagram, Behance, and all the other visual-rich platforms we scroll through regularly barrage us with the pristine, perfectly photographed results of creative toil, but rarely the philosophy or blood-sweat-and-tears process that goes into getting to that point. Could our exhibition be the antidote to this?
The result was Volume Inc: This Will (Not) Be Easy. Where one would usually expect to see the actual work first and foremost, and the philosophy and process reduced to wall text (if seen or read at all), our exhibition completely reverses that hierarchy. Instead, it’s a snapshot of all the thinking and making that goes into the final Volume product.
Hung in the center of the gallery, a long banner holds a collection of single typeset sentences that each describe a Volume project. These finished works can only be viewed through an augmented reality app on one’s smartphone. The visitor focuses their phone on the text and the project image (or series of images, or even a video) is displayed on the screen.
The gallery walls are covered with a process “wallpaper” made of single tabloid-sized sheets of orange paper. Each wall section at the macro scale highlights a bit of philosophy that informs Volume’s process, no matter what the project. At the micro scale are the numerous sketches and notes created to realize the final work, as well as inspirational quotes that have informed our process from the beginning.
One of the performative components in the exhibition is a communal “tenet wall” that included giveaway RISO prints intended for visitors’ homes or workspaces as creative inspiration. Also included was a blank print so the mostly student audience could contribute their own creative rule to our dozen or so already on the wall.
We originally conceived the exhibition as snapshot of the Volume psyche. If the banner is our “ego” (the real) and the walls our “superego” (our conscience), what is the irrational, emotional “id”? In the additional enclosed room at the back of the main gallery space, we projected two videos on opposite walls that deconstruct all our work into abstract strips of content, accompanied by a John Cage-ian audio soundtrack of ambient noise recordings from our studio layered on top of each other.
Three sets of headphones dangle in the center of the room. Each set plays a separate recorded monologue that speaks about Volume’s creative approach and asks the listener a question to apply to their own creative process, providing the only linear and rational respite from the room’s otherwise sensory assault.