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USC Student Show 'Grand Depository' Pushes For Change At The Art School

Nadu Barbashova |
April 16, 2015 | 9:02 p.m. PDT


Photo by Michelle Park (Facebook, GRAND DEPOSITORY).
Photo by Michelle Park (Facebook, GRAND DEPOSITORY).
A new student show in the Lindhurst Gallery at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design opened its doors this week, prompting a dialogue about transparency between administration and students through immersive nightly events. “Grand Depository” aims to bring attention to administrative changes at Roski with a concept–an alternate reality in which the worst has happened–which supposes the Architecture & Fine Arts Library has closed and all books have been moved to the off-campus Grand Depository, leaving students without print resources at the art school. 

READ MORE: USC Students And South L.A. Residents Unite With Art

Though the possibility of the library closing has been neither confirmed nor denied, the concept provokes viewers to pay attention to changes that are affecting their education. The installation urges viewers to consider worst case scenarios where educational resources are diminished and students are left in the dark about what is going on. Brandon Patrick, a student artist in the show, says, “we need more communication between the administration and the students about the rapidly changing structure of our school, more respect for the hard-working and extremely valuable full-time and adjunct faculty, and a more vocal student body to keep things in check.” The show brings in this concept of the library closing to mirror a lack of clarity between administration and students; however, it does not focus on specific issues, leaving some viewers confused about what the show is criticizing. 

The gallery space has a single installation in it, a bookcase full of books checked out from the Art and Architecture Library. Architecture student Graham Sandelski explains, “we each curated 100 books that were relevant to our practice.” 

During the daytime, the gallery is lit and the bookcase is fully visible, but the sliding glass doors remain intentionally locked. The bookcase is just out of reach, drawing a comparison to the lack of resources the show’s organizers believe Roski students face. Patrick describes the installation: “the physical removal of books from a school is very telling about the current climate of our campus and the direction it's headed in.” 

Text from the GRAND DEPOSITORY Facebook page.
Text from the GRAND DEPOSITORY Facebook page.


Viewers are encouraged to look through and read the books in the bookcase installation when the gallery is open every night and are even encouraged to check out their own library books and add them to the bookcase. After the end of the show, all books will be returned to the USC libraries.

Vidhi Todi, who held a discussion on Queer Space in the media followed by a screening of “Paris is Burning” on Tuesday night, described her view of the structural changes. “It is not only enough to have resources available, but students should be provided with the skills and tools to know how to use these resources,” she said. “Without such training, students will not only be incognizant of the resources available to them, but their ability to optimally use it will be crippled.” 

The artists behind the show have been vague as to which changes they are protesting. Some students believe the show to be a comment on the loss of adjunct faculty and teaching assistants in art classes. Others interpret it as a loss of physical resources (i.e., books). One student wrote on the event’s Facebook page, “I'm really glad that someone is taking an interest in the state of our libraries and the future of students' access to materials. I'm a student worker at the Grand library and I catalog books there [...] and it's admittedly concerning how many of them are getting pushed off campus for good.” 

While all the events revolve around this larger theme, each artist in the show has a night dedicated to their personal area of exploration. It’s running for 13 nights featuring 13 student artists, with works including a consciousness-raising conversation on homelessness, yoga, Korean food and dance, movie screenings, performances that deal with language and translation, free permanent body art and more. Unlike most shows at the Lindhurst Gallery, “Grand Depository” is a heavily interactive show in which viewers become participants and are invited to talk, drink tea, do yoga, dance and discuss. Each night “Grand Depository” offers a different enriching experience with an opportunity to engage in an array of issues and topics with other students and artists.

The show started off with a poetry reading Monday night. Viewers sat on the grass outside Roski, closed their eyes and stretched out to listen to Sandelski read selected poems from “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. His reading mingled with the sounds of cars driving by, occasional sirens and the presence of students walking past. Sandelski spoke about the influences behind the reading. “I’m making work that has to do with my childhood in Indiana,  juxtaposing where I am now, and where I was then,” he explained. The poetry reading acted as an attempt to create “a synthesis between two places.” Afterward, viewers went back to the gallery space to look through the curated books. 

The students behind “Grand Depository” have received criticism for the ambiguity behind the show. Some students are unsure of what the aim of the show is and which specific issues it is targeting. Another student commented on the show’s Facebook page, “as a student worker in the AFA library, it feels like this gallery exhibit is hurting players that aren't actually involved in the dissolution of libraries.” 

"I...am a little confused," said the first Facebook commenter. "Is the goal primarily to create an artistic/communicative space to REPLACE the books and other materials you have 'lost' to Grand, or are you actively protesting the moving of the books? Or both? Or neither?"

"We ourselves are confused," replied Tanner Ott, one of the show's organizers. "The show has been setup as a fantasy or nightmare kind of fantasy for the fact that there is no transparency or communication between student, faculty and the those in power at USC. We are here to create a dialog with student and faculty to hopefully get answers from the powers of USC. Please come to the events, and bring your friends, we can talk about it more in depth."

The student artists will be meeting with the Roski dean next week to discuss the issues their show attempts to address. 

The bookcase installation and nightly events will continue on through April 25th. Find more on the other events through the “Grand Depository” Facebook page and tumblr.

Contact Contributor Nadu Barbashova here.



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