JustArts Spotlight On The Faculty/Staff Art Exhibition 11/11/2019
One of the oldest objects in my house in China was a wooden baseball bat. During the war time in the 1940s, my grandparents fled home in Wuhan for a few years when the city was occupied. When the war ended, they made their way back to the city, with not much left in the house except a baseball bat left by the occupier who was no longer there. Fascinated by this equipment from a sport that almost no one watched back home, it was kept by my family until today, as a token from an era.
When I saw “Ghost Town Artifact: The Concertina” by Digital Communications Associate Naomi Ribner at the JustArts Faculty/Staff Art Exhibition 2019, I immediately felt the weight of time. The concertina is clearly torn out of shape and might just fall apart if you make any attempt to use it. Most of the buttons are missing, and the brass handle is no longer shining. At the same time, one can still see the bronze declarations on the concertina, leaving space for imagination of what the instrument looked like at its prime condition.
After spending more time looking at it, I realized that there are so many more details beyond the drawing itself. The artifact was sketched on a bronze yellow paper with piece of writing on the background. There was so much effort put in to make it look naturally aged, including leaving parts of the paper dirty and damaged — like someone made the sketch on a newspaper and decided to keep the piece. The glass box that contains the art is also specially designed to create a three-dimensional texture and the illusion that the piece is floating in the air.
On the sign next to the piece, Ribner wrote, “I am not documenting real people; rather, I’m intrigued by story suggestions triggered by the objects I’ve found....These works explore memory and the passage of time.” This might be why he also named the series “Ghost Town Artifact.” Life is short and memory will fade eventually, but artifacts can be the medium of a piece or memory that last for generations. Just like the baseball bat that is still sitting in my house, the concertina lives beyond its own time as a piece of art.