Mississippi Heard explores unfamiliar culture


By Yunxin Xing

Staff Writer

On Friday, January 15, the University Art Gallery presented Mississippi Heard, an exhibition of a cross-cultural, multi-media project by Hanna Miller (C’13), Katya Korableva, and Stephen Barton. Writer, filmmaker and audio creator Miller turned her Fulbright grant to Russia into a two-year journey discovering how her two homes — Mississippi and Russia — intersect.

The exhibition, Mississippi Heard, documents her cultural exploration. Miller rode a train across Russia with American colleague and photographer Barton, and the exhibit presents the thoughts, interviews, and images of how Russians define and understand themselves. The art show also demonstrates Miller’s walk through the state of Mississippi with Russian colleague and photographer Korableva, providing an interesting comparison between these two cultures.

As an exploratory project, Mississippi Heard reproduces two seemingly unrelated cultures in the form of images, text, and audio collected during the thirty-day train ride across Russia and a six-week walk across Mississippi. The exhibit alternates between the familiar and the foreign, the individual and the political, to compare these distinct places and prompt visitors to reconsider their perceptions of people and places near and far. With the juxtaposition of the documentary photographs and the notes taken by the artists, the art show serves as a visual portal by which two disparate cultures communicate with one another. The project also reminds the modern viewer of On the Road, displaying the adventurous spirit of American youth embarking on self-directed journeys for refreshing cultural encounters.

“The social network is what made this happened, especially for the walk across Mississippi river,” says Greg Candy, the curator of the art show and the director of Mississippi Modern, an organization dedicated to empowering and facilitating the art, artists, and cultural dialogue rooted in Mississippi. Stephen Barton also talked about how this project could serve as a means of activism when he related the journey across Mississippi to his previous experience of road-biking across the United States. In close encounters with the people and places, the artists gained a refreshing experience that helped to dismiss misunderstandings and certain biases. This multi-media project would not have come into being without the help of the warm-hearted Southern Mississippians. Meanwhile, the project artfully connects people from different places and reveals their thoughts and feelings rooted in their culture yet unfamiliar to the public.