During the first of five stations in Nelson filmmaker Amy Bohigian’s exhibition Wide Shot / Close Up at Touchstones Nelson, participants will be bombarded by thirty local faces noisily discussing the weather from a bank of television sets. Each of these pre-recorded interviews will play on a randomized loop, creating a burble of indecipherable gibberish, depending on how you focus your attention. This process is meant to mirror the overwhelming experience of introducing yourself to a new community.
“That’s quite often the first step in getting to know someone. That’s how you get acquainted and figure out what the other person is like. You talk about the weather,” said Bohigian, who will be hosting a free opening reception for her show at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 14.
She said when participants first arrive at the exhibit, they’ll get a superficial sense of the subjects involved before delving more deeply into their personalities.
“You get to essentially situate yourself with who’s a part of the exhibit, because everyone involved is in that first station of the weather. Then you move on to the labels,” said Bohigian.
Participants will walk to a different part of the gallery, where the same subjects will be speaking from a different screen.
“Each person shares the labels that they use to describe themselves, that other people use to describe them. Just one word: I’m a grandma, I’m a postal worker, I’m a poet, I’m a this or I’m a that. All you’re seeing of them is these labels.”
Beyond that, things start to get more intimate.
For station three Bohigian had the subjects address the camera, as if addressing someone they loved and cared about, or someone who they’ve had conflict with.
“You get hit with a big projection of people talking to you like you’re that person in their lives. This will be on the huge back wall of the gallery, and you’ll go in and have this experience of a person talking to you. You get to have this intimate, personal experience,” she said.
Bohigian was surprised to learn that for many of the participants, the person they loved and the person they had the most conflict with were the same person.
“For a lot of us, you would think those two people would be different. But I had people saying things like ‘I wish I’d never met you, you’ve done so much damage, but you’ve made me a better person and taught me how to forgive’,” she said.
The fourth station involves a mirror, dangling from the ceiling, which faces a television also suspended in midair. The subjects in the video address their own image in the mirror and relate what they see.
Bohigian said she was especially moved by the high school subjects who participated in this part of the exhibit.
“Those kids are living it every day, growing into adolescence. They’re assembling an identity and living in a world where it’s so important how you’re perceived, so they’re thinking about it in a way adults might not,” she said.
And finally, for the fifth station, participants can check out a mess of iPods hanging from the ceiling, each of which will be playing a video of one of the subjects dancing. Bohigian said the song choices people made often surprised her. For instance, “Lil from the post office” chose to boogie down to Katy Perry.
“On one hand you have her dancing and having a great time, but in the same half hour she had intense, powerful things to say to the camera. She had an incredible range of emotions,” she said.
Bohigian originally planned to be more selective in her casting process, but found that the Nelson volunteers she interviewed were so compelling she couldn’t leave any of them out.
“Every single person I interviewed gave me something so rich I couldn’t have not used it. I originally planned to use only a few people, but everyone was breaking open and challenging my assumptions. I thought ‘if it works on me, it should work on other people who come to see the show.”
But not even Bohigian knows how it will turn out, because she won’t be able to see the show until it goes up.
“I’ll be able to experience it at the same moment the general public does. I have no idea what the effect will be,” she said.
She hopes visitors will come out of the exhibit questioning their relationship with people around them.
“You start to really think of people as human, even if they’re different from you. You could come away thinking people are totally different too. Are we unique or are we the same? Maybe there’s no perfect answer but it will play with that tension,” she said.
She, however, believes we have more in common than we realize.
There will be a separate artist talk held on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m. After the opening reception, normal admission rates to the museum apply. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. For more information call 250-352-9813.
The exhibit will run until February 15.