PERCEPTICON to Raise Awareness of Ingrained Reception Habits

PERCEPTICON, a three room, audio-visual exhibition challenging visitors’ unconscious reception habits, will be on display in Beardsley Hall from October 26 through October 28. The rooms will confront a variety of contemporary issues, including gender, class, race and sexuality, cross-cultural communication, power, propaganda, and storytelling.

PERCEPTICON was designed by Sunka Simon, professor of German and film and media studies, and Laila Swanson, assistant professor of costume design and theater, along with three current Swarthmore College students, Na Yoon Kim, Mikail Ahmed, and Nadezda Malaya, and one current Haverford College student, Kevin Medansky. Simon and Swanson previously collaborated to design a five hour workshop that explored the synergistic connections between theater and film and media studies; this workshop aimed to discuss and highlight theory and genre history as well as appreciate the collaborative work necessary for a theater, television, or film production. After experiencing the success of this workshop, the duo opted to continue exploring these unique intersections and applied for a Foundation grant.

The exhibition seeks to explore two critical questions: How do we make sense of what we see, read, hear, and feel? How much of our reception is automated by cultural and social habits? The first room, titled the Blair Witch Room, derives inspiration from the Boston Contemporary Art Institute and will display analog media, single items of pairs, opaque textiles serving as room dividers, untraceable sound sources, fragments of letters and documents, and blood and lipstick writing. The second room will focus on propaganda and surveillance by showcasing signs, posters, and warnings from different eras and disparate cultures mixed with Hallmark cards, catalogs, advertisements, and Twitter hashtags. Surveillance cameras and monitors will be displayed outside of the room for the viewers to engage with. The final room, titled the Lost in Translation Room, will explore the relationship between text and image. Viewers will be invited to watch clips from parliamentary debates superimposed with subtitles from children’s television shows, to subtitle a muted scene, and to translate segments of a foreign film.  

The exhibition is open to the campus community in groups of up to five individuals; it is a timed exhibit with twenty minutes allocated to each room. The entrance to the exhibition is on the Science Center side of Beardsley Hall and it will be open on October 26 from 3-9 p.m., October 27 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and October 28 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  

Featured image courtesy of Karin Nakano for The Phoenix

Elena Moore

Elena '21 is from San Francisco and plans to double major in art history and sociology/anthropology. Her favorite author is Elena Ferrante and one day she hopes to successfully finish a Saturday NY Times crossword puzzle.

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