Davis Center turned art gallery: Nyiko Beguin ‘Caught on Tapes’

New gallery-style lighting illuminated old VHS and cassette tapes. Heavy with paint and repurposed as art, they sat showcased on the third floor of the Davis Center. On the ordinarily white walls, peculiar shadows were juxtaposed to “frame” each piece from junior Nyiko Beguin’s exhibit “Caught on Tapes.” The exhibit, which used outdated technology to explore themes of permanence and obsolescence, ran from March 16-23. Though the “canvases” used were a somewhat too obvious example of such themes, as Beguin rolled out black VHS tape haphazardly around the room, his ability to transform an otherwise unnoticed space into something intriguing was commendable. VHS tapes containing what Beguin described as early attempts to preserve something fleeting, hung on the opposite walls. “[As a] child of the ‘I’ generation … VHS and cassettes were a symbol of viewer independence,” Beguin said of the once miraculous technology. “What happens when they are deemed obsolete?” This was the technology that at one time redefined that particular period. Now it’s iPhones, iPads, i-this and touch-that. “I am exploring what happens when the material patterning of the VHS tape is accepted and denied, as well as how well the format works for rendering full scenes, opposed to static individual objects,” Beguin said. On 12 tapes Beguin divided the focus between paintings of definite figures related to water and those that were more abstract, landscape layers of rich yellows to sallow blues. “[You can ] press it and move it, leaving the movement open,” Beguin said of the thick layers of paint . The VHS paintings with figures in canoes, moving toward a foaming waterfall, had a neat feature accessed when the tapes were taken off the wall. Behind the plastic window tape is normally wound, Beguin created differing collages. “You can move the collage inside, change what it’s like … a constant change, evolution to something new,” he said. And this is exactly what he has done with humanity’s past innovations — changing, reforming and redesigning them into something that pokes at the instabilities of technologic progress. Davis Center curators Nicole Constantine and Phil Morin were impressed and excited for what Beguin’s work brings to the UVM community. “I love seeing work in different mediums using anything as a canvas,” Constantine said. “It’s sort of nostalgic.” The team appreciated the level of professionalism it added to the student space, showing that student art and culture has a place in the student center. Think of the Davis Center as repurposed.