Catalyst Blends Humor with Art

Diane Jong | Staff Photographer

Diane Jong | Staff Photographer
Obedience and order are represented at Catalyst by this single file line of a teachers’ favorite: red apples.

Catalyst, a biweekly collaborative art exhibition produced by UC Irvine students, is more than simply an art show. Showcasing work by art majors and non-art majors alike, the event is just as much a party as it is a presentation.
However, that party atmosphere created problems in the past, and last week’s Catalyst operated under requests from the UCI administration regarding stricter rules and hours. Thursday’s showcase saw sparkling Martinelli’s apple cider replacing the usual alcoholic beverages, but the exhibit also addressed the restrictions on a larger scale.
Beyond a crowded corridor full of undergrads and grad students smoking and socializing, the exhibit took place in one 10 by 10 foot room. The walls had been painted white, with a single strip of black, bold-faced type stretching around the room that read “Catalyst will not break the rules. Catalyst will not break the rules.” On a shelf rested 14 red apples, separated into two groups of seven.
It seemed obvious that the exhibit meant to pointedly address the administration’s restrictions, suggesting that the new rules reduced the art party to a boring, placid affair. Instead of color, action, or life, show-goers found only the five blank walls and stark black type. All stimulus has been removed, except for the apples. Not only representing a Biblical definition of temptation but also acting as symbols of teaching and thus supervision, the apples seemed to imply a conflict between the pleasure of an art party and authority’s controlling hand, further amplified by the passionate red of the apples.
Student PJ Fong explained that the exhibit was a “geeky joke” for art students, an attempt to light-heartedly poke fun at the administration without inviting the “snobby artist” judgment.
However, Fong also mentioned that she believed the exhibit could have a real impact, influencing attending grad students and faculty members to reconsider future parameters for the show.
Responding to concerns that the back story might be lost on some attendants, Fong felt that most visitors would understand the joke and would be more likely to return for later shows in which more substantial or serious issues might be on display.
Utilizing this joke, the art students employed simplicity in their attempt to challenge an audience of both authoritative figures and show-goers, ultimately producing an effective exhibition by pairing a direct message with a direct artistic endeavor.

Catalyst meets every other Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the ACT Building.

Erin Johnson contributed to this article.