I had the exciting opportunity to attend the second gallery opening of Shani Peters’ The Crown: Contemporary Construction of Self in America in GalleryDAAS last Wednesday, March 18. It provided a wonderful follow-up to the first part of the exhibition, which opened in the Institute for the Humanities on March 12.
Although The Crown is one project displayed in two different spaces, I found that the opening receptions afforded visitors with varied (yet equally as compelling) experiences. At the Institute for the Humanities, there was aura of reserve among the participants that one may expect at an exhibition opening. However, the atmosphere proved much different at GalleryDAAS.
From the start, there was a sense of heightened excitement in the air regarding the selfie photo booth. As The Crown project is centered on self-determination, Peters created the booth to be a space where UM students, faculty, and the greater Ann Arbor community can literally “crown” themselves as an act of “selfie-determination.” Visitors have the choice of wearing one of six gold crowns, three of which represent Africa and its diaspora and three that represent the West. Almost all visitors engaged with the photo booth, ensuring to Instagram the photos using the hashtags #CrownedatUM and #SelfieDetermination.
In addition to the photo booth, an installation of captivating photographs line GalleryDAAS’s walls. Within moments of entering the gallery space, the first thing I heard from a student was “these photographs are amazing.” The series of photographs depict two silhouetted individuals wearing the same crowns used by the photo booth participants. It was wonderful to witness how visitors engaged with the photographs for not only their striking visual appeal, but also by discussing the relationships between them and by reflecting on what it means to “wear the crown.”
Be sure to get #CrownedatUM in Peters’ exhibition at GalleryDAAS!
~Sarah Phalen, History of Art, AAS 458