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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Hannah Noonan’s ‘Crate Human Awareness’

 

 

On the morning of Jan. 30 Hannah Noonan, a senior double-majoring in Art and Mathematics, and her fiancé unloaded a hulking crate into the campus quad, noticeably heavier after sitting uncovered in a truck bed during the previous night’s rains. Inside is a plaster woman. She barely fits, curled in a sort of half-fetus position. Beside her is a bucket of what looks like feces. Propped against her legs is a teddy bear.
Noonan’s unauthorized installation, “Crate Human Awareness,” remained in the quad from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Noonan was asked to take it down at 9 a.m.)
What was the genesis of “Crate Human Awareness,” and what was the process like getting it from your head to its final form? Did the piece change much from your original idea?
The idea for “Crate Human Awareness” began in my Public Sculpture class with Professor Daniel Edwards. The first week of class, Dan asked us to come up with a topic for a public sculpture. Overall the reason I create art is to call into question things I find problematic in our society. I do not intend to push my opinion on the viewers, nor to provide an answer. Instead I intend to present an avenue for the viewers to call [into] question their own beliefs and feelings toward the issue.
That being said, I knew I wanted to create something that would make people stop and think about the world outside their own personal problems. Human trafficking has been an issue that has never sat well with me. In my opinion it is the ultimate form of disrespect to reduce an individual to an object. I ran the topic by Dan and he was enthusiastic in agreeing that it is a major problem that society should address.
To make the woman alone took several weeks. She is made out of plaster wrap and to make her I had to wrap the wet cloth-like material around my friend, wait for it to dry, cut the sculpture off of my friend’s body and reassemble the pieces. It was a process I’ve never used before so I learned a lot as I was creating.
When I initially finished the whole piece, the woman did not have a head and she was unclothed. I wanted anyone to be able to place themselves in her position, to be able to imagine themselves as victim of human trafficking. Yet after much deliberation and upon discussing the artwork with all of the professors in the art department, I decided it would be more personal and realistic for the woman to have a head. Furthermore, since I did not have permission to display “Crate Human Awareness,” I clothed the body because I figured it would be more of an issue if I was displaying a piece with nudity. I also played with the idea of not having a sculpted body and instead having someone act the part of the victim. Unfortunately, I thought it would lead to the piece being taken down much sooner than I desired.
Did you always intend for the displaying of the piece to be a surprise? How did the Art Department respond to this surprise?
Yes, I intended from the beginning for the piece to be displayed as a surprise. I feel as though the element of surprise pushed my intention for the piece to the next level. Had people known when and where “Crate Human Awareness” was going to be displayed it would not have had as much shock value. As for the Art Department, each semester students who are in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program are required to have a review. In this review each student presents their artwork to a panel of art professors who decide if the student is producing quality work and should continue in the program.
As part of my Fall 2013 BFA review I presented “Crate Human Awareness” among other pieces. So all of the art professors had seen the piece and knew I intended on displaying it at some point, but most were unaware of when. Overall the art department was very supportive of the surprise. I am a pretty quiet person who goes by the books so many of the art students were shocked that I actually went through with displaying it without permission.
My one big worry about the installation comes from the surprise factor – that no matter the noble intentions of its confrontational approach, it may trigger an anxiety or panic attack within a previous victim of abuse who, unsuspecting, happens upon the exhibit. Was that ever a worry for you?
To be honest I hadn’t considered much of how a previous victim would react. I know that sounds exceedingly insensitive of me, however if I display it again I will ponder it more. Millions of people are trafficked each year, so it was a possibility […] but I think I would have been more concerned had I displayed it in Southern California or even Sacramento. Just last year we sadly made national headlines with the story that young women were being sold for sex in houses in Stockton, Sacramento, Chico, Yuba City and Fairfield. Los Angeles is among the top three points of entry into the United States for human trafficking and slavery. Human trafficking is very prevalent in our state, and if I display “Crate Human Awareness,” I do not think I will be able to in the same fashion I did this time around. I will have to have it cleared by the proper authorities so that I avoid this highly possible scenario.
What kinds of responses did you receive from students?
I received a variety of reactions from students. I sat in the quad to see students reactions and many people just walked by like there was nothing there. I found this ironic because it really does parallel how people treat human trafficking. Many people know it is happening and don’t agree with it but don’t concern themselves with stopping it. Others were intrigued. One student even said something along the lines of, “You know its out there but you don’t see it like this.” Most students called it disgusting, gross, sad or scary. From the videos I have most students gasped and backed away from it.
I know your piece got picked up by Jezebel; do you have any sense how much awareness you received from this? Have any comments, critiques or words of praise made their way back to you?
I did not see the piece on Jezebel and when I looked for it I could not find it. The Turlock Journal did print an article about the exhibit, a reporter from Fear Net did a piece about it, a blog called Roadtrippers (Editor’s Note: This is the blog Jezebel linked to) and many other websites. Instagram and Facebook helped spread awareness too.
I think that the internet and social media only furthered my intention [of] creating awareness. I had family and friends all over the country that sent their praise and appreciation for making a statement. Many people I did not know commented on the Turlock Journal’s and Fear Net’s Facebook post. All in all I am very pleased [with] how the media was used to create further awareness.
So you feel the installation was successful in raising awareness?
Yes, I think it definitely raised awareness. It brought a clear reality of the inhumane, animistic treatment of millions of trafficked victims.

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Hannah Noonan’s ‘Crate Human Awareness’