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Ohio State professor Robert Ladislas Derr’s ‘Discovering Columbus’ voyages to OSU Swing Space

Courtesy of Robert Ladislas Derr

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and several cities were eventually named after him. One artist has taken those cities and the idea of time to create “Discovering Columbus,” an exhibit to alter how people view time and to change the ideas of discovery and exploration.

Ohio State associate professor of photography Robert Ladislas Derr began his initial research for the project in 2010 and finalized it in 2012. “Discovering Columbus” is scheduled to be displayed Monday through Nov. 16 at OSU Swing Space, located at 1556 N. High St., in association with the “Across the Sea” exhibit.

Derr’s interest in history, cartography and exploration led him to explore 10 towns named after Columbus, including Columbia, Md., Columbia, S.C., Columbus, Ohio, and Washington D.C.

Derr used constellations, which were often used to navigate in the 15th century, to help create the exhibit.

“I utilized the constellations that appeared above each town (at) night,” Derr said. “It was incorporated to plot my route through the streets and plot a route through each park.”

He visited each town and kicked a ball resembling a globe through the streets and parks of the towns, making a path of a constellation that can be seen in the night sky of that particular city. He used video cameras and different angles to enhance the perspective the viewer will have of him and the routes he takes through the streets and parks.

The entire exhibit features a mixture of media including photographs, video and sound from vocalists. Derr said his favorite part about the exhibit is the way the combination of these elements will come together for the audience.

“The viewer takes on the role of discoverer,” he said. “I am most excited about how one experiences the different media in the entire exhibit.”

Derr enlisted the help of other teachers and professors as well as vocalists in each town he visited to complete the project. He also asked teachers from each location to write an essay that reflected their interest in the exhibit. Those who wrote essays shared overlapping research interests, Derr said.

John Richardson, assistant professor of art education at OSU’s Newark campus, wrote one of the essays to accompany Derr’s exhibit. Richardson said his essay focused primarily on “how time is implicated by thought and creative process.”

“We can expand, complicate and hopefully come to a more complete understanding of our own experiences generally and moments of exploration and discovery,” Richardson said in an email.

The vocalist for the Columbus portion of the exhibit was Ryunosuke Matsui, a third-year in photography. Matsui had taken two of Derr’s classes and heard he was looking for vocalists to include in a project. Matsui sang “Christopher Columbus,” a 1950s pop song by Guy Mitchell.

“I had to sing this song without any background music, so it was very interesting and a little difficult to perform just by myself,” Matsui said.

Matsui has not seen the entire project yet but plans to.

“It will be cool to see how my part fits in with the rest of the exhibit and all the other elements,” he said.

When people come to the exhibit, Derr hopes that they leave with a new sense and understanding of discovery.

“I would like for people to consider that the spirit of discovery is vital in keeping one engaged with life, and seeing things from a new and different perspective increases understanding,” Derr said.
 

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