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Halsey’s yearly juried student art show spent 2020 as a virtual exhibit but makes its return with close to 100 pieces of artwork this week.

The pandemic year presented opportunities for the school’s artists-in-training to continue their creative growth outside classrooms and studios.

“With COVID and everything, I spend a lot more time making art, since time is all we really have,” said studio art sophomore Stella Stuchlak, whose “Childhood in Charcoal” will hang at the Halsey. “I wouldn’t say I’ve changed my approach to artmaking. I just spend far more time with it.”

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On the other side of the pandemic, the Charleston arts scene will look markedly different.

It’s not just the lingering wariness of packed lobbies. It is not just the downsizing and reconfiguring of many organizations as a result of the shutdown.

The playing field is swapping out enough major players that it could have the potential to dramatically alter the cultural landscape in Charleston and beyond. Throughout the city and the state, high-profile arts leaders have exited, announced retirements or set departure dates.

There is Mark Sloan, former director and chief curator of the College’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, which is known nationally for its public-facing gallery that mounts exhibitions of some of the most thought-provoking artists of the day. He, too, has left ahead of the successors he mentored, Katie Hirsch,  Halsey’s interim director, and Bryan Granger, director of exhibitions and public programs.

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Below a picture of an orange tree growing near Joshua Tree National Park in California is a simple question: “These tweets have my location?”

The combination of online commentary and visuals of the physical world is what drives “Geolocation,” a photography project by artist duo Larson Shindelman.

Larson Shindelman is made up of Marni Shindelman, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art and the area chair for photography and interdisciplinary art and design, and contemporary artist, Nate Larson.

An exhibition of “Geolocation” is open in the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art as well as online as a virtual exhibition until March 5.

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Artists Marni Shindelman and Nate Larson didn’t know how timely Geolocation would be at the beginning of 2021. Their ongoing project, which pairs tweets with photographs from the location posts were uploaded, began in 2009. Geolocation has witnessed social media reactions to the Great Recession, the birth of #BlackLivesMatter, the presidency of Donald Trump and most recently the failed insurrection at the Capitol.

The exhibition, which opened to the public at the Halsey Friday, is a startling commentary on surveillance brought on by tech companies and a less-startling meditation on the ubiquity of social media. Each art piece is a picture taken from the location a tweet was posted, found through publicly accessible geolocation data.

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The almost ubiquitous internet acronym IRL, which stands for “in real life,” suggests a bifurcation of lived experience. Denoting a fracturing of reality, it breaks life into two domains: one existing in the connections between servers on the internet, and the other in the realm of lived experience. While this fragmented reality was more conceivable in the internet’s early existence, younger generations are growing up in a world where one’s IRL and online selves are often indistinguishable. As Orit Gat wrote in 2018, “a word to differentiate between time spent online and offline isn’t very handy after smartphones, which all but ensure we’re never actually offline.”

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“These tweets have my location?” reads the text below a photograph of orange trees shot by artistic duo Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman.

Yes, they do.

That point is proven by the two photography educators who have combined their talents for a project called “Geolocation.”

Their exhibit, which features photographs taken at a variety of locations where tweets were posted, is on display at the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art through early March.

The art does not include identifying information, geographic data or any outside context. It just includes a photo with the original tweet below. And while sometimes the subject matter and caption make sense together, other times they might not seem necessarily connected at all.

“Cars are nothing but money pigs #hateit #waitingsucks #impoor” reads the tweet beneath a picture of an auto shop.

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The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art will host its next in-person gallery, Larson Shindelman: Geolocation, Jan. 15-March 5. The body of work, according to the Halsey, explores the connection between text and image and public versus private.

Artistic duo Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman assembled the exhibit using Twitter. Utilizing publicly accessible geographic data from tweets, the artists tracked down locations where a Twitter user posted something. Once there, they took pictures of each location and printed it with the tweet at the bottom of the picture.

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Halsey Director Retiring After 26 Years at the Helm

Thu Dec 10, 2020
The College Today

Some might wonder why colleges and universities have art museums and may even question the value of the museum to the institution. Mark Sloan, director and chief curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston, has dedicated the last 26 years to answering that question. During his tenure, the Halsey Institute has been transformed from a small, sleepy gallery to a vibrant space with engaging, imaginative shows that drew visitors both near and far and introduced the community to innovative contemporary art.

“All the liberal arts disciplines come together in one place at the Halsey Institute; the humanities, arts and sciences are presented in conjunction with educational programming that includes discussions, film screenings, lectures, conferences and panels,” says Sloan, who is retiring at the end of the month. “People from across campus and all over the world are involved in Halsey programming.”

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Mark Sloan was tired of the stereotypes, of how people thought of southerners as slow-talking, slow-thinking bumpkins.

So he set out to change those perceptions.

The result of his efforts is the photo exhibit “Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South,” now showing at the LSU Museum of Art.

Sloan, director of the Halsey Institute of the College of Charleston, and the institute’s curator-at-large Mark Long began working on the project six years ago.

What started with a search for images developed in one of the most comprehensive projects about the American South ever assembled.

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What inspires a writer, a musician or a dancer? Some seek inspiration in nature. Others are inspired by places and people. This semester, English, dance and music students were tasked with seeking inspiration from the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art’s exhibition Dis/placements: Revisitations of Home, a virtual exhibition featuring 10 artists whose work deals with issues of displacement from their homeland.

Halsey associate director Lizz Biswell ’08 says the staff wanted the Dis/placements exhibition to function as a multifaceted digital humanities project. Each artist, whose work had previously been shown at the Halsey, was paired with a writer from the community who offered their response to the concept of home. Biswell and her team took the collaboration a step further by engaging students to create art based on the exhibition.

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