Kinetic Gallery’s “Activating the Gaze” depicts American identities

On Jan. 29, Geneseo’s Kinetic Gallery played host to sophomore Brandon Eng’s exhibit titled “Activating the Gaze: Visualizing American Identity.” 

The exhibit consists of numerous small, matted photographs grouped under different headings and juxtaposed with various quotes about American identity. 

This past spring, the Geneseo Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership awarded Eng the James Houston ‘80 Ambassadorship in Innovation. Eng used the grant to give cameras to a diverse range of collaborators to take pictures of scenes that reminded them of American life. 

According to the exhibit’s wall text the influence of Eng’s friends brought on his interest in identity formation through the lens of cultural and generational divides.

Eng said that whereas textual accounts of American identity must be reduced down to a single document, he hopes that his exhibit can transcend the reductive limits imposed by text.  Eng described the exhibit as a “montage enabling the coexistence of viewpoints.”  

Various photographs were placed under various headings inspired by Eng’s interviews, including titles like “Public Places, Public Spaces” and “The Media and the Mediated.” 

Under another heading titled “In Transit,” pictures of dead ends, crosswalks and vast expanses of road are placed above a quote from a participant, which says, “There’s always been the concept of the frontier, the Wild West of American culture. Even if that’s no longer a physical place, the possibility of escape, of change, has always given me hope.”

As for the viewer, Eng said that he hopes that these photographs will “disrupt and transform the viewer’s gaze.” He said that, like text, we “read” images in ways that can “alter our perceptions or generate sites of resistance.”

According to Eng, the exhibition’s aim is not to show the way things are, but rather to “encourage viewers to consider the complexity of the relationships between identity and the spaces and material presences in our lives.”

Eng’s exhibition will run in the Kinetic Gallery in the College Union from Jan. 29 until Feb. 19.