Last Friday, as part of Knoxville’s monthly “First Friday” event, during which downtown art galleries open their doors for the public to enjoy their featured exhibits and complimentary refreshments, two pieces titled “Shelter” and “Confluence” were shown at the university’s Downtown Gallery.
“Shelter” is a mixed media installation by Tulu Bayar and Xiaoze Xie, and “Confluence” is a video projection work also by Bayar.
Upon entering the gallery, viewers see “Shelter,” which was first shown in April 2005.
“‘Shelter’ aims to depict the brutality of a refugee camp and compels the viewer to consider the plight of many people around the world who have no shelter,” the piece’s description reads.
In the center of the “Shelter” room, there is a large, wood-framed tent covered with fabric that has 200 enlarged photographs of refugee camps on it. The photographs were found in newspapers, magazines and documentaries.
Inside the tent, on the floor, there is a stack of neatly folded, bright clothing. Lights line the tent’s interior, illuminating the photographs surrounding the tent while emphasizing the fact that the clothes in the tent are the only bright part of the whole exhibit.
The piece is designed so that viewers are not only able to see but also hear and touch it — the floor is covered with gravel, which makes a loud, crunching sound under the viewer’s feet. There is also a soft musical track playing as ambient sound. The room is dimly lit in order to reflect the hostile nature of refugee camps.
“I thought that it was a wonderful attempt to describe something that no one who hasn’t experienced life in a refugee camp can understand,” Cassie Dobson, a senior in English literature, said. “And I thought that the idea of a shelter being made out of the pain of others is a very close depiction of the war in Iraq. We’re healing ourselves by causing pain, and that’s a message that I perceived in the piece.”
The second art work, “Confluence,” which was first shown in January of 2005, is “a reflection on the current argument about the Islamic headscarf in Western culture,” according to the piece’s description. “Additionally, the work is intended to create a narration from a series (of slow-moving images) as opposed to a series of action shots.”
The piece consists of side-by-side projected videos of two women taking off and putting on various head coverings — mainly wigs and headscarves. The videos go through a series of slow-motion images of the women performing these actions.
Combined, the video implies ideas of what the headscarves mean for Muslim women living in non-Muslim societies and the perceptions these societies have about Muslim women.
“For my art, I get my (inspiration) from everywhere — the mall, grocery, etc…Then I do research — start reading about that particular didactic event. Then I select the media I’m going to use,” Bayar said of her artistic process.
“I always try to engage as many senses as possible. Then I begin to sketch and visualize the piece. Because I’m a formless and conceptionless artist, I really have no idea where the piece is going to lead me when I come up with the idea,” Bayar added.
The exhibit will continue until March 31 at the Downtown Gallery, 106 S. Gay St.

Katie Johnson
Staff Writer