For M.F.A. animation student Justin Zielke, art installations have the power to express complex concepts without shortchanging authentic emotions. That sentiment is what Zielke, a native of Wichita, Kansas, hopes to evoke in those who wander through his performing arts installation, CHET.
CHET, according to Zielke, will exhibit the memory of Zielke’s grandfather in a unique gallery setting Friday, May 12 through Saturday, May 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. at WELMONT Venues. The topic first interested Zielke, because he never truly knew his grandfather before he died. The exhibition name, CHET, is actually short for Zielke’s grandfather’s name, Chester.
“All the memories I have are a construct of my family’s interpretation of him,” Zielke said. “So they’ve basically built up this idea of who a person is, but in truth, the memories that I have of my grandpa are dealing with his death. I have just a memory of him, because on one-half I have a beautiful memory of him my family tells me about, and on the other half it’s kind of a stark reality.”
When Zielke started developing CHET last year, he did not envision creating a two-part installation piece. Once he became more invested in the process, the idea expanded across different mediums.
“It slowly transitioned from a film, because it was at one point more of a film-based idea,” Zielke said. “I think it lost a little bit of its authenticity. I wanted to transition more into an installation, and plus I love installations, like being able to walk into a space, and have the artists kind of trigger the emotions that they want you to or invite you to have.”
Zielke said he was ecstatic about creating an installation in which viewers are both involved and invited to walk through a physical space to experience a psychological shift in tone.
“I always have been fascinated by philosophy and existential phenomenology,” Zielke said. “I just find it really interesting because it’s a part of trying to understand how we think and how we interpret how other beings think and how that reflects in why we exist.”
One of Zielke’s specific interests in philosophy includes discussion of intuitive logic more emotionally driven and analytical logic focused on reason. These psychological elements will appear subtly throughout CHET in multiple mediums.
“There’s been a bunch of ways to explain it,” Zielke said. “It’s like thinking versus feeling or intuitive versus sensing. Then in philosophy, some people call it qualitative versus quantitative, so qualitative is the quality of an experience that you’re having and then quantitative is how you can describe what it is and break it down.”
Zielke said CHET aims to exhibit both the emotional and logical side of memory. As guests walk through, Zielke wants them to experience an emotional pull where they do not necessarily understand the logic behind it.
“It’s more of a feeling that’s being emoted,” Zielke said. “In that part of the installation, I am having a cellist perform with a couple things that I don’t want to say because it’s going to be a ‘when you get there’ type of thing. I am curious about what all I should say because I do want it to be a little bit of a surprise.”
Zielke said he hopes CHET will transform WELMONT into an immersive space for different types of feeling and reflection based on guest’s mood shifts as well as interactions and reactions to objects displayed.
“A museum is way different from a gallery,” Zielke said. “With this exhibition, it is about trying to get people to feel that feeling, my grandpa’s time period, cello music, other things, and also the two-part installation, where one part is revisiting a film. It’s not really a film, it’s more of a motion picture. It does represent a logical aspect of rethinking something, rethinking a memory in specific.”