Bring The War Home

Exhibition Description:

Bring The War Home is a collaborative project and exhibition in which Brandon Bauer worked with SNC Art students to research and restage an archival photograph of a 1969 Vietnam War protest on the St. Norbert College Campus.

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For a PDF of the publication produced for this exhibition click here.

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Bring The War Home – Project Statement

For this project we restaged and re-photographed an archival image of a Vietnam War protest that took place on the St. Norbert College campus in 1969. The project was inspired by class discussions about conceptual strategies contemporary artists use, including narrative approaches, staged documentation, and ideas of the cinematic in contemporary photography. In the course of these discussions, we looked at a series by African-American artist Carrie Mae Weems titled ‘Constructing History’, in which Weems worked with art students to recreate several famous press photographs from the 1960s. The idea of recreating the past to connect with it through a project like this was exciting. As a result, we decided to engage in a project that would explore the history of St. Norbert College in a participatory and interactive way.

We began our project by searching the college archives for a photograph to recreate. In this search we discovered a number of images from the late 1960s of Vietnam War demonstrations on campus. We discussed various images and decided we wanted to use one with a clear connection to the campus both past and present. For this reason, a photograph was chosen of a large group of students gathered in front of Main Hall, a prominent building on our campus. We analyzed the photograph in detail. Central to our discussions was whether or not we wanted to stay true to the original image or use it as a starting point to address concerns of the present day. Ultimately, we chose to recreate the image in detail aiming to better understand the social context of the original event in the process.

Coincidentally, the day we set aside to restage and re-photograph the archival image occurred on a day in which the St. Norbert College Center for International Education convened a faculty panel discussion titled “Making Sense of the Senseless” to address the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris which had taken place only days before. Several students and faculty joined our event after the panel and their participation brought additional meaning, connecting past peace activism on our campus with conflicts we face today and expanding our perspective of the project.

Through this project we found an opportunity to look deeply at an image, consider and discuss the social history surrounding the moment from which it was captured, and found a genuine connection to a past event on our campus in the context of current events. Through the support of this project by students and faculty across campus, our community came together. This act of restaging a peace vigil became a momentary yet meaningful response to acts of terrorism occurring in our world today.

-Brandon Bauer, Assistant Professor of Art with students Tania Hernandez, Melissa Kurth, Amanda Mura, Rebecca Ratajczyk, Dayna Semour, Stephen Sheperd, & Sadie Smith for ART 380 – Contemporary Photographic Strategies (Fall 2015)

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Exhibition On View: February 29 – April 1, 2016
Godschalx Gallery, Bush Art Center – St. Norbert College

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Press Links:

St. Norbert students recreate anti-war image – WLUK Fox 11 News

New Art Exhibit – WGBA NBC 26

Revisiting History/An Era of Protest – St. Norbert College Magazine

Undergraduate Research in the Galleries – St. Norbert College Art Galleries