The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston presents the exhibition Cry Joy Park—Gardens of Dark and Light by Jennifer Wen Ma.
Cry Joy Park—Gardens of Dark and Light is an investigation into the construct of a utopia, inspired by the history of Charleston, South Carolina: a cultural and artistic capital of the American South, and an exemplar of its opulence and beauty. This installation aims to present both an alluring, gorgeous and otherworldly garden, and its darker counterpart. The worlds created by the exhibition are a juxtaposition of utopia and dystopia and are presented via an immersive multisensory experience that utilizes various forms of communication to convey its message.
Cry Joy Park—Gardens of Dark and Light is co-curated by Mark Sloan, Director and Chief Curator, and Bryan Granger, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Halsey Institute. Jennifer Wen Ma is debuting a site-specific, immersive, interactive, multimedia installation at the Halsey Institute with her studio staff as well as students from the College of Charleston. The installation includes multiple components and layers:
o Light and Dark Gardens – Oversized foliage made from cut paper transforms the gallery into an overgrown forest. As the viewer approaches parts of the garden, the foliage is triggered by the motion and reacts in different ways. The suggested narratives that run through the two gardens represent different sides of the same story or event, giving a Rashomon-like account of the complexity of human experience and perspective. Connected by a flower-vortex- portal with which audience members must directly interact, these gardens of opposites represent the utopic and dystopic aspects of a paradise. Within this large-scale installation, Ma will use multimedia elements to create a rich immersive experience.
o Ink-on-Glass Paintings – Chinese ink painted on glass are amongst the artist’s signature works. The paintings’ mirrored finish further creates an illusory landscape within the pictorial plane, as an additional meditation on the illusionary qualities of our constructed environment.
o Interdisciplinary Performances – These contrasting gardens of light and dark will also be a visual platform for interdisciplinary performances taking place during the exhibition period and providing a visceral encounter to the audience in unexpected ways. These performances will take the form of dancing, singing, drumming, storytelling, and other kinds of theatrical exchange. The Halsey Institute is collaborating with the College of Charleston Departments of Music, English, and Theatre and Dance to plan student performances in the gallery, as well as with a variety of community groups.
o Community Dinners – A vital component of this exhibition is a series of community dinners to celebrate some of those who have contributed to the making of the paradise that is Charleston but might not be been invited to the table in times past. Taking place in the galleries, these culinary feasts will feature performances and guided conversations on specific environmental justice themes related to the exhibition, such as, food security, land politics, re-entry into society, spirituality, and education. Key members of the Charleston community will be invited to recognize their contribution to elevate the disfranchised, and create engaging and meaningful dialogues, which can be translated into action.
Cry Joy Park—Gardens of Dark and Light is generously supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.