'More Weight' surprises and intrigues
Rachel Stern’s exhibition, “More Weight,” points a satin-gloved finger at both the ideal of justice and its subjectivity. While Stern is not a Brandeis alumna, her display at the Kniznick Gallery in Brandeis’ Women’s Studies Research Center perfectly resonates with Brandeis students; it holds justice as a core value and features gavel imagery, both of which permeate Brandeis’ culture. The title, “More Weight,” is taken from the famous last words of Giles Corey during the Salem witch trials, during which he was put to death for refusing to confess to practicing witchcraft.
The exhibit consists of many highly stylized photographic portraits hung on a wall. The wall is decorated with hands covered in colorful satin gloves filling the space around the portraits. The wall interacts with the photos on a deeper level that elevates the work; the art expands past the frames of the photos and past the viewers’ time in Kniznick Gallery.
These disembodied hands with their accusatory pointing and gavel banging intrigue viewers, especially when the hands are framed as their own full photographs. Three of the colored hands also hold items: The blue hand holds a sapphire, the gold hand holds golden chains and the white hand holds a small white column. All of these photographs are hung above a blue gavel that the viewers can bang. It feels as though there is a puzzle to solve in the hands’ interactions with the various portraits.
On the main wall, a red hand points at a small headshot of a woman with a blue ear. Another red hand holds a gavel pointed at a large portrait of a woman wearing a transparent dress while sewing. Two blue hands point accusatorily at young pre-teens in their underwear in a lush jungle. The hands seem to be enacting justice — their version of justice — and shaming the figures in the photos as punishment for their sins. The figures that seem to bear the brunt of this shame are the ones who are naked or hardly covered.
The continuing theme in the exhibit is the colorful satin covering the hands, printed on the wall, covering most of the models’ bodies and covering the altar in the center of the exhibit. This material and color scheme is reminiscent of a low-budget school play. One can’t help but feel like a witness to a poor excuse for justice enacted by the disembodied hands, in the same way one might have to sit through cringe-worthy high school plays. The injustices of the Salem witch trials are the first injustices that come to mind, but Stern ensures that the audience thinks of any to which they have been witness, waiting for the painful persecution to end instead of playing a part in fixing it. Throughout the exhibit, “More Weight” invites the audience into a heavily weighted discussion on justice.