As a recent Northwestern graduate, it wasn’t long ago that I spent extensive hours in the library and painting studios to fulfill my Art History major requirements. Working in the humanities is often a solitary task; the time spent studying and preparing your work usually far outweighs time spent sharing ideas and projects. In my experience, this is especially true as an undergraduate, when students have limited access to the professional worlds of their professors and mentors. I remember feeling excited, but also slightly intimidated, by the immense amount of “real world” information and ongoing discourse I felt I needed to learn before I could lend my own voice to the discussion. While that feeling still lingers, there are exciting new ways for students to overcome it.
ALIGNED is a global exhibition providing artistic platforms specifically for undergraduate students. Hosted on six university campuses across four countries–Australia, Ireland, Scotland, and Singapore–the exhibit highlights student projects recognized by the international Undergraduate Awards program. The first exhibition of its kind, ALIGNED provides an exhibiting opportunity for 13 students in their home countries and unites their work in an online gallery, which lets us learn more about some of the world’s leading young artists from the comfort of our laptops. Below are just a few of these impressive projects; I selected four based upon my interests in social justice and information sharing, but you should see the complete gallery for yourself!
AUSTRALIA: Jen Fullerton, “Grey Areas,” Australian National University
To combat the immense amount of information that inundates us digitally, academically and socially each day, Fullerton created abstract sculptures that intentionally lack contextual information. Her work activates viewers to engage in sensory ways, taking a break from our daily routines of information overload.
IRELAND: Elizabeth Burgess, “The Evolution of The News Media,” Limerick Institute of Technology
Burgess grapples with information overload in an entirely different way. Questioning the accuracy of modern day media, especially with social media’s influence on journalism, she created a newspaper covering the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the Sichuan earthquake in China, and the Arab Spring. The paper begins with rather traditional coverage before becoming interrupted by Tweets, fragmented information and pixelated images.
SCOTLAND: Mandi Halonen, “Everything About Quarter Life Crisis Survival,” University of Dundee
Unemployed? Anxious? In the midst of an existential crisis? No matter how you’re feeling as finals week approaches, this guide has you covered. Its sleek design outlines the symptoms and phases of a quarter life crisis and provides a map with various tips and goals: use less Facebook, go to the gym, dance the night away, seek a good money/passion balance, and so on. As you flip through and identify with a few concerns (or a lot of them), it’s reassuring to know our friends across the pond have similar experiences.
SINGAPORE: Wilfred Lim, “New House,” Nanyang Technological University
“New House” responds to the gradual destruction of Lim’s hometown, a small fishing village in Pengerang, Southern Malaysia. In 2011, construction began to create an oil refinery in the area, which will displace tens of thousands of residents and deprive them of their livelihoods as farmers and fishermen. His elegant photos explore human habitat and the importance of place. I was particularly struck by this project because it introduced me to an issue I hadn’t heard of previously, which encapsulates the crux of ALIGNED as a place for artistic and intellectual global exchange.
I look forward to seeing future renditions of this annual art exhibition: the Undergraduate Awards is a young, rapidly-expanding organization and more is sure to come. In my view, sending the students’ artwork to different universities would increase the exhibit’s global nature while still maintaining a unique experience in each venue. How would you further push the boundaries of connectedness and exchange?
Whether or not you’re an artist, you can become a part of this international network of undergraduates by submitting to the 2015 Undergraduate Awards before the June 16 deadline. All you have to do is submit your portfolio or final papers you’ve written for class. Learn more on their website, fill out the UA Form here , and keep an eye out for next year’s exhibition of impressive work by our peers from around the world.
By Claire Dillon
Claire Dillon is a recent Northwestern graduate and the Director of Education and Outreach for the Chicago non-profit ART WORKS Projects. She also serves the editorial boards of Art Journal and Vexillum: The Undergraduate Journal of Classical and Medieval Studies.
This post was originally published here by the Northwestern Art Review – Northwestern’s Visual Culture Club on May 27th 2015.