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Title: Will and Grace : an unnatural history of Hawaiʻi 
Author: Ohnuma, Keiko
Date: 2004
Abstract: Artwork is not complete until someone looks at it - really looks at it, enough to see more than just "art." The first, crucial, unifying theme of my thesis exhibition, "Will & Grace: An Unnatural History of Hawai 'i," at the University of Hawai 'i Manoa Commons Gallery, is that it grab the public's increasingly fractured attention. This may seem so obvious as to be not worth mentioning, but I know that 90 percent of what I see in art exhibits does not engage my attention for more than a second - and I am as receptive to art as any casual visitor to the Commons Gallery. That is why I favor figurative work: because people identify with it automatically, as long as it is not isolated on a pedestal, where it reads as "art" and calls forth a generic (usually contemplative) approach. Figures in an environment express a relationship, so that the viewer forgets about her reaction and naturally focuses on the piece itself. Narrative frameworks transport us from the "real" world, in which we are the main players, to the position of audience, where we anticipate with less wariness and prejudice, like children. In the pause before a story is told, or as a movie begins, the viewer is as undefended as he will ever be. This gives the work its best chance to set its own terms. I do not take my role in this spectacle lightly. Never mind that viewers will repay disappointment or delight with the candid immediacy of children - rotten tomatoes or applause. Once you invite a viewer into the space of fiction, every element is read as part of the journey. Break that spell, and attention shifts to the viewer's own reactions. As long as you hold an audience in your spell, you enjoy a rare power, along with the opportunity to use it wisely. The question then becomes not only what you do with this power, but how you, as the creator, acknowledge it. My background is in journalism, a profession that justifies its necessity on self-congratulatory evidence of "the power of the press." News narratives wear the cloak of transparent truth, although they are obviously mediated by an authorial hand. The press in America has institutionalized the evasion of authorial responsibility under a code of conventions formulated to represent "objectivity." Artists do not have this luxury. Artwork is understood to be a personal invitation, and thus runs the risk always of seeing its effects projected onto the artist herself. So the artist, unlike the journalist, must acknowledge her role in some way, because audiences today are too savvy - having been fooled and manipulated in too many ways for too long - not to look behind the wizard's curtain. There are several ways to handle this quandary. You can suck up: Invite the viewer to share your (often ironic or critical) inside view. Or you can be enigmatic, and risk alienation. I have opted for the latter course, because my motives are sincere. Irony is a bankrupt position, post-9fI!. Artists are foolish to pretend they do not have power, or to refuse this power, when the stakes are so great. Certainly they become ridiculous when they ignore everything that has happened - the course of history, including art history - and adopt the pose of the wizard behind the curtain. My invitation to suspend disbelief does not deliver an easy or satisfactory conclusion - at least, I have done my best to prevent that from happening. I present my dioramic world and step aside; the viewer does the rest. Of course, I cannot control every reaction. But I will answer to all of them.
Description: Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2004. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 32-33). v, 33 leaves, bound ill. 29 cm
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/12088
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.

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