Staring – The Exhibition

As Rosemarie Garland-Thomson reminds us in her book, Staring: How We Look, “Everybody stares. Staring is an ocular response to what we don’t expect to see … we stare when ordinary seeing fails … working to recognize what seems illegible, order what seems unruly, know what seems strange.” Staring, as Garland-Thomson continues, “…is a conduit to knowledge … a starer’s quest to know and a staree’s opportunity to be known.” This perspective on staring reminds us that this visual relationship is more complicated than we might think; so, too, are the kinds of human relationships it frames and shapes.

STARING, the exhibition, is a visual extension of Garland-Thomson’s novel exploration into the valuable possibilities of the complicated, and often forbidden, act of staring. This exhibition renders visible the visual dialogue between starer and staree that occurs in both art and in life by broadly asking ‘why do we stare?’; ‘why are some places, people, and events considered appropriate to stare at, and others not?’; ‘what role does staring play in the visual arts?’; and ‘what are the implications of staring from the perspective of the person receiving the stare (the staree)?’ This exhibition challenges the association of adjectives like rude, childish, and voyeuristic with staring and dismantles the assumption that the staree is always the helpless casualty of a starer’s curiosity, oppressed in a perceived hierarchical relationship.