I spent all day in New Brunswick, NJ, which really isn’t all that bad to do – it’s a nice enough place to visit, and it was extra pretty with the sudden snowfall.
Anyway, I was there because I won one of the printmaking fellowships at the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, aka the Brodsky Center. It’s great – they’re going to print an edition of prints with me, and I get to work with a master printer and in whatever printmaking medium I want. But I took this picture because lately I’ve been really interested at watching people and their body language, and the way there are all these unspoken rules about how to stand, how to act, etc., social cues that we absorb and don’t even realize it, and then how those things are extra magnified at a place like a gallery or museum.
So the story is, the director of the space called everyone together so that she could introduce the artists who won the fellowships. It was a fairly well-attended event, but the space was huge so there was certainly room for everyone. As soon as she tried to gather everyone up, they formed a semi-circle around her, with about 6-8′ space between the outer perimeter (which they were forming) and the center (the director) and then the artists behind the director. I could only sneak in one photo without being incredibly obnoxious, and given that all these people were standing around and politely applauding for me having won the thing… well, I really didn’t want to be obnoxious.
It was such a strange moment, though. I know they were doing it so that everyone could see and so that no one would be treated rudely, but it was odd – I mean, the semi-circle was near perfect, and it just formed spontaneously. That one guy who’s standing there with a soda or whatever was there for about two seconds before he started to feel really weird and stepped back a bit to join everyone else.
I’ve come to love watching people who go to museums and stare at the paintings on the wall while holding one of those recorded tour things to their ear. That’s got to be one of my favorite unconscious gestures ever. But this one comes pretty close.