Center for Creative Photography
Biber Architects, with Michael Bierut of Pentagram, designed the traveling exhibition "Indivisible: Stories of American Community", organized by the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. The show recorded the everyday lives of Americans across the country, with participating photographers taking images of their own communities.
Employing a sustainable strategy the exhibition consists of selected images on postcards in racks, displayed on the crates in which they shipped. Visitors were encouraged to take postcards from the racks and mail them to spread the show's impact. Three million postcards were distributed during the tour. The exhibition also included interactive computer stations that allow visitors to record their own stories of community.
The exhibition was installed in a variety of public spaces and crossroads, such as train stations, libraries, university student unions, and airports. Stops include many of the communities represented. To extend the show's reach, a second, identical set of crates was built for an additional tour route.
At each stop the crates are opened up and assembled into postcard racks. Letterforms on the crates spell out the word "Indivisible" and suggest children's building blocks, just as the photographs themselves coalesce into a larger vision of American community.
The exhibition is essentially about everyday life all over the country, as well as individual stories within the larger communities. The anonymity of the crates opens up to reveal the personal nature of the photographs, just as individual stories emerge from their larger communities. The show concerns communication and storytelling; the crates are the containers conveying the stories. The photographs are given away as postcards and travel with visitors, and the shipping crates, the means of display, are about transport as well.
The form of the show inverts the frequently passive relationship between art and the viewer by requiring interaction in order to experience the work. Any notion of art on display as aloof or distant is transformed by the humble nature of the wooden crates and the familiar sight of postcards in racks. The show's message is carried by its form as well as its content.
Apart from concept, the use of the crates benefits the show's bottom line, combining the means of display with the means of shipping. Assembly is easy, which is an important factor for stops in locations without gallery personnel.
The show won a Juror Award in the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) 2001 Design Awards.