UNLV exhibit highlights grim future for photography program

Photography students Marlene Siu, Eri King, Juvier Sanchez and Yasmina Chavez exhibited the show empty at UNLV Grant Hall Gallery as a response to the university budget cuts.
Photo: courtesy photo

I’m waiting for the white sheets. There is supposed to be a performance protest over budget cuts with students covered in white sheets outside UNLV’s Ham Hall. But only an occasional student in a hoodie strolls past on the quiet campus. No sheets. No protestors.

Their absence seems more compelling than the would-be demonstration signaling their absence, but that’s way too conceptual. You’d have to know of their absence in order for it to have an impact.

This, it turns out, is what they were thinking—not with the protest, which had been moved to the Student Union, but with empty, the protest’s accompanying exhibit at the Grant Hall Gallery, where absence haunts the room. The literal installation, on display last week, was composed of empty frames along the walls, signaling the silence of future photography and printmaking students whose programs are to be eliminated as part of the budget cuts. The audio recording of a recent protest blaring through a single speaker made it even spookier—the future listening to the past in the present. Whether the recorded bravado of protestors taking turns at the megaphone, urging voters to keep the pressure on decision makers, will see success is undetermined. But Marlene Siu, one of the four photography students, including Eri King, Javier Sanchez and Yasmina Chavez, who put the exhibit together (in lieu of showing their own work, despite the fact that three of them graduate this year), says she believes the program can still be saved with enough voices.

The signed petitions that sat in a box near the gallery door are now on their way to the offices of Dean Jeff Koep, Provost Michael Bowers, the Board of Regents and President Neal Smatresk.

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