"How present are you in a situation?" asks Patrick Kahn, curator of Snap! Orlando's annual photography event. Judging from the stoplight-texters and glazed-over humanoids streaming in and out of blandly themed restaurants we see these days, for many the answer is: not very.
With You Are Here, Kahn's monthlong series of art exhibitions, artist talks, films, lectures and workshops, the present has arrived. Orlando Weekly recently caught up with Kahn to discuss this year's happening and how it's intertwined with Orlando's ascendancy in the Southeastern art scene.
It would be virtually impossible to be present for every piece of this mosaic during the month of May. Snap!, which has grown every year since its 2010 inception, has developed from a weekend in a warehouse into a multi-venue kaleidoscope of photography. For You Are Here, Kahn has commandeered virtually all of the art venues from Florida coast to Florida coast.
"Orlando has finally connected the dots and become a big city," he chuckles. "We are now exporting our talent to other towns as well."
In addition to the main exhibition at Snap! Space, You Are Here shows and events will pop up at Orlando Museum of Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the Alfond Inn, Maitland Art Center, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Enzian Theater, Flying Horse Editions, Timucua White House, the Gallery at Avalon Island, Falcon Bar & Gallery, CityArts Factory and Canvs; not to mention the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa. (Check snapyouarehere.com for a full list of events and venues.)
Social awareness – even, in some cases, advocacy – is a theme of this year's event. On May 7 at the Orange Studio, Richard Johnson's rather brutal Weapon of Choice exhibit reveals the invisible hurt of the bullied. Inside the gallery, the viewer walks through the hurting words that we all steel ourselves to ignore, and the wounds of the bullied are made tangible. May 9 brings a #NOH8 photo shoot to the Parliament House; visitors can pose for a portrait with official No H8 photog Adam Bouska to support the campaign promoting marriage, gender and human equality. Father-daughter team Kyra and Jeffrey Hartog present Underwater, a photo series and lecture on marine conservation May 12 at East End Market. Award-winning photojournalist Hilda Perez lectures on her work with Food for the Poor May 19 at CFAM, reminding us of the dark side of our food web with photos that nevertheless render humanity gorgeous.
Less pointed in social advocacy but no less sharp in social commentary, two Andy Warhol shows are here: Southeast Museum of Photography displays a selection of Warhol's Polaroids through May 16, and Orlando Museum of Art shows Andy Warhol & Friends, intimate photographs of the artist shot by his close friends William John Kennedy, Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg. And May 31 brings the Central Florida premiere (at Enzian Theater) of Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary tracing the shadowy story of the Chicago nanny and surreptitious street photographer whose thousands of intense images were only discovered after her death.
The beating heart of all these far-flung events is Life in Real Time, the exhibition installed at Snap! Space throughout the month. In work by 11 artists (including the images accompanying this story, as well as the cover photo), Life in Real Time portrays the multifaceted human condition, baring the souls of real people in real places.
Orlando's star is rising, and artists who stuck to this town through the bad patches are emerging in a vibrant cultural scene that's the envy of the Southeast. Kahn's theatrical approach to the arts is a part of this success, and it is exciting to see visitorship to Orlando for spaces that aren't theme parks. Be here, and be present.