An ambitious new exhibition at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art looks at the power and politics of viewing acts of protest and resistance through moving images. “From Moment to Movement: Picturing Protest in the Kramlich Collection,” a large-scale exhibition of film and video installations, occupies three galleries. Video monitors of all sizes, as well as life-size projections, fill the space, where walls have been painted, moved and constructed to give each piece its own environment.
“From Moment to Movement” spans 30 years and brings together an international, intergenerational group of prominent contemporary artists: UC Davis Professor of Art Shiva Ahmadi, Dara Birnbaum, Kota Ezawa, Theaster Gates, Nalini Malani and Mikhael Subotzky. Each work examines a different event grounded in the real world, using specific moments from the United States, China, India and South Africa to explore protest from different angles, including the role of media in our understanding of events, and ongoing dialogues around racism and social inequity. Organized by the museum’s associate curator, Susie Kantor, the timely exhibition is drawn primarily from the renowned Bay Area-based Kramlich Collection, which has a strong focus on new media artworks with social impact.
The museum commissioned Associate Professor of Design Brett Snyder and seven undergraduate design students (now alumni) — Ama Benkuo Bonsu ’20, Marcus Dubois ’20, Jen Piccinino ’21, Alejandra Valladares-Alvarez ’20, Zoey Ward ’21, Jovita Lois Wattimena ’21 and Genevieve C. Zanaska ’21 — to design the exhibition’s layout. They began meeting regularly with museum staff on Zoom in summer 2020.
“We worked on the design in the wake of the protests following the murder of George Floyd,” Snyder recalled. “It gave all of us the chance to consider the many forms of protest and a chance to think about the relationship of art and activism in a meaningful way.”
Seeking to fuse the idea of artists whose work is at the intersection of time-based art and protest, Snyder and his students brainstormed a graphic concept for a dramatic lenticular wall based on the exhibition title.
“‘From Moment to Movement’ poetically captures the concept so succinctly — both as a play on words related to film and to protest,” Snyder said. “We liked the idea that as a visitor walks in, they would see one message (‘from moment’), and as they move through the gallery, that message would change (‘to movement’) in a filmic way.”
Kantor said she appreciated the group’s level of engagement and enjoyed the collaboration. “I had a wonderful time working with them and getting to see the way they understood the exhibition and the thoughtful way they applied it to the design,” she said.
Other faculty also played a role, contributing background and resources to the museum’s website to help visitors put the historical and political events depicted in context.
“From Moment to Movement: Picturing Protest in the Kramlich Collection” is on view at the Manetti Shrem Museum through June 19, 2022.