REVIEW: ‘About You’ exhibit explores consciousness

The artwork in “About You” captures the banality of life with poignance and grace. The exhibit was open from Sept. 13-27. (Sinead Chang | Daily Trojan)

A winding pathway constructed from black fabric, paint and photographs is the opening scene of Austin Dalgleish and Bardia Soltani’s new photography exhibit, “About You.” The exhibit, which opened on Sept. 20 at the Helen Lindhurst Fine Arts Gallery, is filled with art that takes viewers from scenes of mundane board game pieces to vast horizon landscapes.

Dalgleish, an alumnus, and Soltani, a current student, attempt to seize on “the frivolity and richness of the everyday” and “explore the source of consciousness” in this joint project, according to the event description. An image of two people sitting on a plane, one of the first photographs at the start of “About You,” is emblematic of the theme. It is decidedly unremarkable; there is no unusual framing or  unexpected action.

Dalgleish and Soltani set the mood for the rest of the showcase with this photograph — a truthful representation of life and all its mundanities.

The photographs noticeably shift in scale toward the end of the first pathway. The pictures become larger, grander and less specific. Where the first photographs clearly show people’s faces — with some using faces as focal points —  later images deliberately conceal faces and body parts: A woman in a bathtub turns her head to hide her face, and a group of people expose their chests from behind wooden slats. All hint at the theme that the show really is “about you.” These   aren’t just photos of strangers, but they are pictures of anybody and everybody as they move through life.

Beyond the faceless photos,  the pieces grow in scale. Through twists and turns, the structure of exhibit highlights the focus from architecture to abstract curves and lines before the photos zoom out to focus on broader landscapes, with clouds, rocks, lakes, trees and horizons.

The exhibit evolves from being peaceful and introspective to questioning the everchanging nature of love. The art is accentuated by soft bird chirps, mechanical humming and miscellaneous nature sounds accentuate the art, forming the soundtrack of everyday life. Throughout, the exhibit’s lights shift from standard yellow bulbs to multicolored lights, and the monotonous black background is accented with swirling swaths of white paint that get thicker and appear more frequently.

It’s not until the final room that Dalgleish and Soltani finally delve into “the source of consciousness.” There is an opening in a black cloth positioned so that the finale isn’t visible until viewers walk through the makeshift doorway.

The ceiling gets higher, as white and black swirl together on all four walls, until the white overpowers the black in a ripple-like effect. Faux candles and rocks pave the way directly to a basin with a single candle above a pool of water filled with stones.

This is where “About You” narrows its focus to only one person. The exhibit applies the broad spectrum of life it has been showing directly to the viewer, as they stare at their own reflections in dim candlelight.

Throughout, “About You” expressed a strong theme by focusing on the ordinary, often-overlooked details that make life meaningful and universal.

The exhibition could have been longer and the final piece could have been more subtle, but it is still a quietly powerful portrayal of the mundane. The exhibit comes full circle with one of its first pieces, a blurry image of a tile from the board game “Life,” a metaphor for what the exhibit successfully conveys — the mundanity, blurriness and tediousness of life.