February 27-March 31, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, March 1, 2019, 5:00-8:00 pm
It has not been a good decade for small, private liberal arts colleges, religious universities, art schools, and other specialized institutions of higher education. Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School's "disruptive innovation" theory suggests that the cause of this change is due to online and hybrid learning which now accounts for nearly half of the classroom hours that colleges and universities are delivering. But that might not be the only reason. Prospective students prefer public colleges and bigger universities which offer larger financial aid options. And Trump's xenophobic immigration policies initiated a decline in the enrollment of international students who have traditionally been relied upon to pay full tuition.
Chantal Zakari's new work hails from the future with nostalgic postcards of recently defunct colleges. In the images of crumbling campus buildings, once icons of American academic life, learning and research are at risk. Through the use of a rough halftone pattern the images blur and disintegrate into a painterly abstraction of a bygone era.
This collection of postcards includes stories about Alliance College which is now a state prison, Virginia Intermont College whose campus has been bought by a Chinese university, and the local news of Mt. Ida College that has become embroiled in a feud about how public funds should be spent. We are a long way from the mid-19th century when the wealthy took pride in philanthropy to found schools such as Morriston College which was dedicated to the education of former slaves.
In Cogent Message, also the title of an encyclopedic photobook in the show, idyllic images retrieved from schools' marketing campaigns emerge from the white background of the corporate style letterheads. Interspersed with school logos we see part time faculty who barely make ends meet, students starting life in-debt and staff that suddenly find themselves unemployed.
In line with her earlier work, Strategic Planning, also shown at Kingston Gallery, Cogent Message is a souvenir postcard rack of a fragile landscape.