From Dec. 4 to Jan. 23, the Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM) is presenting “Orlando,” an exhibition organized by Aperture, New York and guest curated by Tilda Swinton at Art on Hulfish, 11 Hulfish Street.
Art on Hulfish is open Sunday–Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free for everyone.
The exhibition showcases the work of 11 artists who, according to the PUAM website, “experiment with the expansiveness and possibilities of human experience.” In accordance with its name, the exhibition pays homage to both the Virginia Woolf novel “Orlando” and also the movie adaptation directed by Sally Potter and starring Swinton in the titular role. The art pieces in this exhibition are all photographic works that explore gender identity and question the bounds of gender — both within the artists themselves and within their photographic subjects.
Upon entering Art on Hulfish, you are greeted warmly by staff members who direct you to begin at Swinton’s curator statement. Swinton emphasizes her perception of “Orlando” (the film) as a story about liberation from gender and social norms, explaining that this exhibit considers the story’s limitlessness and the “wider territories of identity, of dream, of heredity, of consciousness, of memory, of history, of fantasy, of the limitations of morality, of life itself.” Throughout the over 50 photographs collected for this exhibition, you do get a consideration of all of these themes, in conjunction with a wider, more collective consideration of gender and the physicality of the human body. For example, Jamal Nxedlana took inspiration from fashion and street culture in Johannesburg and photographed the musical duo FAKA in un-categorized styles that created fluidity in their expression of not only gender, but class, race, age, and time period. The work of Viviane Sassen also embodied these themes through photos of statues from the Palace of Versailles which were edited to create bodily mutations, playing with historical representations of humanity.
The artists whose works are displayed in this exhibition include Potter, Zackary Drucker, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Nxedlana, Elle Pérez, Walter Pfeiffer, Sassen, Collier Schorr, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mickalene Thomas, and Carmen Winant. Potter’s own photographic work was created with Swinton as the subject when Potter was receiving continued rejection from financiers in response to her attempts to make “Orlando” into a film. These photographic works also serve as a precursor to the film.
Overall, the “Orlando” exhibition is a stunning collection of art that is evocative, interesting, and strikingly unique. If you have some free time or want a break from studying for finals, it is well worth a visit.
Cathleen Weng is a senior writer for The Prospect who often covers music and culture. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @cathleenweng.