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PROJECT(ion) brings off-the-wall art to Oxford

Most people are used to seeing films and images projected on a flat, white screen, but what happens when they’re splashed across brick walls and alcoves?

That question will be answered at the first-ever PROJECT(ion) event taking place this Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m. in the breezeway next to Uptown Coffee. The brainchild of local artists John Rash and Valerie Polgar, PROJECT(ion) will be a collection of work from 11 video artists, photographers, animators, filmmakers and more, all of whom hail from Mississippi and Memphis.

Rash said he first learned about events like this while living abroad in Shanghai, China.

“There actually is some precedent for events like this around Europe and Asia, and in those countries they actually call it ‘BYOB,’ which stands for ‘bring your own beamer,’ because beamer is the word for projector in England, where these events started,” Rash said. “In America, we can’t really call it BYOB, because that’s a totally different thing.”

Since moving to Oxford last year, Rash explained that he wanted to get more involved in the arts community. After connecting with Yoknapatawpha Arts Council director Wayne Andrews and Misbits founder Valerie Polgar, it was determined that, rather than a standalone event, PROJECT(ion) would fit in with programming for the Art-er Limits fringe festival.

The event will be like no other hosted in the LOU community, according to Rash.

“It’s not a film festival and it’s not a photo exhibition – It’s somewhere in between those worlds,” he said. “It’s a really free format that, even with some of the artists, we had to open them up to the idea that this is really about transforming a public space into an art space for a one-night experience.”

PROJECT(ion) will be free and open to the public, something both Rash and Polgar said was an important part of the execution of the event. Just as the exhibiting artists use different techniques and mediums, the audience must be willing to open their minds to different possibilities, Polgar said.

The uneven surfaces may mean that observers have to search for artwork, peeking around corners, overhead and even underfoot depending on the artists’ whims. One exhibit in particular, Polgar said, will take advantage of the surfaces in a new and unexpected way.

“I have a student who was playing around with datamoshing, so she created these pixelated-looking videos with interesting transitions between frames,” Polgar said. “It was really interesting to see in class, and now working with brick walls, having the blocky transitions will translate in an interesting way. Art doesn’t have to be in a gallery, and it isn’t exclusive. It’s a welcoming practice and people should try it.”

Rash said he encourages residents and visitors alike to attend the event, because it will give them a new perspective of a place they walk through every day.

“You’ll really expect to be in a tunnel of light as you walk through this,” Rash said. “Everyone who lives in Oxford has been to the Square before, but you haven’t seen the Square like this. Maybe you’ll notice something different that you haven’t noticed before.”