Binaries centered on campus

By Mike Velez, STAFF WRITER
On April 27, 2011

Posters with familiar faces on campus will invade USF today and ask the question: Who am I?

About 60 students from HUM 1020: The Arts are participating in the creative art project, "From Binaries to Bulls: the (Re)Construction of Identity at the University of South Florida."

Class professor Alaina Tackitt said the posters will be displayed in the USF Library, Marshall Student Center and Bull Market with the intent of providing a realistic portrait of USF.

"Many students are ignorant to the portraits of other students," she said. "We're showing pictures to show how diverse the campus is."

These pictures, or "binaries," consist of close-up photographs of pairs of individuals on campus with captions identifying certain traits.

Liliana Ibarra, a freshman majoring in political science and one of the participating students, said the captions would list characteristics describing the individual without disclosing who they are.

"The binaries, for example, would show two people, one person has a GED and one person has a Ph.D. and it's going to say, ‘They're both Bulls.'"

Tackitt said her class tried to represent the diverse campus with subjects including College of Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg, student body President Cesar Hernandez, faculty members from various departments, students and Physical Plant staff.

Iberra said there will be more than 20 sets of images of these side-by-side portraits and she hopes students look past the descriptors to the people beneath.

"We don't want people to look at these people's images and just see the binaries," she said. "No, we want people to see beyond that and see that we're all people."

Tackitt said the idea for the project came about six weeks ago when she was watching an online lecture from French street artist and activist JR.

"At the end, he made a call to action to answer his question: ‘Can art change the world?' And I thought that was brilliant, and I started to think about how we could do that on campus," she said.

JR's piece, "Face 2 Face," involved large, side-by-side photographs of Palestinians and Israelis posted in the Gaza Strip.

Tackitt asked if students would be interested in doing one large project where they would emulate this idea rather than individual projects.

"Fortunately, they were courageous enough to take this on," she said. "It's good for students to learn that binaries are a construction, that these things don't really exist."

After remaining on display around campus, the posters will be moved Thursday at 6:15 p.m. to Marshall Center Ballroom C, and there will be a reception where the class will answer questions about the project and reveal who is who.

Iberra said she will be excited to interact with the public after they've seen the posters spread across campus during the day.

"We want to see what people's reactions will be," she said. "Are people going to know who is who? Some of them are kind of tricky. We want to get people thinking."

Tackitt said she hopes to see the class get in contact with JR about the results of the project and whether they answered the question, "Can art change the world?" by "re-humanizing" their images' subjects.

"If you find out someone is Israeli, he becomes the Israeli as opposed to Bob, your neighbor, and students are confronted with this every day and participate in it unknowingly," she said. "I thought (this project) was a good example of what art can do to re-humanize instead of dehumanize."

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