In light of the ongoing risk from the COVID-19 pandemic, 1708 Gallery has decided to hold this year’s InLight Richmond exhibition in multiple locations across Richmond, and has picked a theme of “Safety and Accountability.”
1708 Gallery has been an institution in Richmond for more than four decades. Their annual fall public exhibition, InLight Richmond, has been an event Richmonders can look forward to for 13 years so far, and hopefully many more. However, this year’s InLight poses challenges that 1708 has not had to face before.
“This year’s will be different because it will be distributed across sites all over the city,” said 1708 curator Park Myers, “It’s much more decentralized.”
Myers also said this year they will be working more closely with community groups than they have in years prior.
“This came from the requirement and necessity of social distancing because of COVID, and eventually thinking about how to decentralize the event,” said InLight guest curator Wesley Taylor. “From crowd control — how it’s historically been — we’ve only had one place where we’ve needed to manage crowds; safety and health, too. This way allows for people to passively engage with the work, without having to be at one place with a lot of people. The idea for multiple sites also means multiple communities.”
“In past years when it’s been in one location, we work with that community; those neighbors and residents within that place. Since this year [InLight] is spread all over the city, we wanted to make sure that we are keeping ourselves accountable for all of the communities we’d be entering into,” said Myers. “We don’t want to just parachute in and set up. We’d rather work with the communities, have a dialogue, and work from the ground up.”
This year’s InLight theme is ‘Safety and Accountability.’ Taylor and Myers said that there had originally been a plan for InLight Richmond 2020 at a specific site; but in response to COVID-19 and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, everything had to be revamped.
“We came to terms with what was happening,” said Taylor. “Usually the site is the theme and we invite artists to respond to the place. This year, because we don’t have the same approach and don’t have the theme of the place, we decided to come up with something to ground the artists and give them something to think about. Safety and accountability has a lot to do with the confluence of all these world events. It’s not a necessity for an artist to respond directly to these world events, but it’s more of a theme for them to be inspired by.”
“Safety and accountability are important as a thematic intention, but we’re looking towards thinking about them in a lot of different ways,” said Myers. “Things like social safety, political safety, accountability in the sense of personal or social accountability, or institutional accountability. For us, when you think about these quite horrific world events, it’s important to realize how interdependent we are on one another.”
Taylor said that although things like COVID and Black Lives Matter are important, 1708 doesn’t want to put artists into a box of only thinking about these things. They want artists to interpret the theme of “Safety and Accountability” in their own natural way.
“Between Park and I, there was no way we could have a public exhibition and not think about these things,” said Taylor. “It’s an outlet for people to express themselves and feel right doing so. You can take certain interpretations of safety and accountability. We’re thinking about this idea of police and policing at a community level, and I think people can express that in their work.”
However, there are many other ways to intepret the theme beyond the current events we’re all experiencing, and Taylor hopes the artists involved will explore all of the different possibilities available to them.
“I think we’re talking about the idea of safety nets, resources, and coming together in emergencies,” Taylor said. “Safety and accountability can be for the future, too. When you’re talking about Black Lives Matter or COVID, these are things that InLight still decided to move forward with despite them happening. This is because of the idea of exhibition. Exhibition and space has been put on hold for a long time, and for these things to be present at an exhibition that people actually go to, it may be one of the rarest times that people have a response to these things in real time.”
“Giving artists this platform and the ability to discuss these things with communities is important,” he said.
1708 Gallery is still in the process of picking the sites for this year’s InLight Richmond, and applications are still open. They said once they receive responses from sites and artists, the final decisions will start to be made. Taylor said that they want the sites they choose to be interesting. They want communities to speak up and present a site that isn’t expected and has a lot of significance to the community.
“We’ll give a lot of credence to that — see how that can work, and see how we can put the right resources and artists together,” said Taylor. “We want to see how these spaces and venues transform during InLight.”
In the past, 1708 has put out an open call to artists to apply. This year, there are three different open calls for three different categories. There is one for artists, one for community groups, and one for stewards of sites. The application process for artists is similar to a traditional arts proposal, said Myers. 1708 is encouraging artists to submit their work, information about themselves, etc. to be considered for this year’s InLight. They say that because it is at multiple sites they want to see how artists can work in a serial manner and have pieces at different locations. The deadline to apply is Friday, August 7 at midnight.
“There are things we are encouraging folks to respond to,” said Myers. “We want artists to consider the theme, but this has also historically been an outdoor exhibition. We want artists to consider the media they’ll be using. It’s called ‘InLight’ because it’s normally a light exhibition, although I can unequivocally say that it’s grown to include performance, film, video, screenings, and a whole myriad of different media.”
This year’s InLight Richmond will be held from November 12 to 16. Due to the use of multiple locations, 1708 decided to expand the length of the exhibition beyond its usual two-day weekend presentation. The gallery is looking forward to presenting a variety of great artworks in memorable locations, and is urging Richmonders to submit proposals for possible sites. They are also encouraging artists to submit their work and are very eager to see submissions.
“We’re thinking about the reverberation of an event like that[InLight Richmond] being placed somewhere [unexpected],” said Taylor, “so there will be a conversation or ongoing resources, and shed new light on new artists, places, and communities that Richmond hasn’t been thinking about.”
If you’ve got a proposal for this year’s InLight Richmond exhibition, submit an application at 1708 Gallery’s website.
Top Photo: Josh Rodenberg and Russell White, TechnoCosmica, InLight 2017, photo by Zephyr Sheedy, via 1708 Gallery