“What is irreplaceable to you?” Capturing diverse answers from the local community, a public art installation will grace Dohm Alley, near the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon Streets, beginning the week of April 12. The Princeton University Humanities Council is partnering with the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) to host the exhibit. It will feature portraits and stories arranged by ACP Artist-in-Residence Robin Resch, a Princeton-based photographer who earned her Master’s in Architecture from Princeton University in 2003.
Photographic triptychs will each display a participant, what he or she shared as irreplaceable, and his or her story behind this choice. Resch described the documentary series as a collaboration meant to invite reflection and healing amid challenges like COVID-19, racial injustice, and social reckoning.
“At a time when our country feels so torn and disconnected, this project aims to reconnect and place trust with those we don’t know,” Resch said. She emphasized the initiative’s goals of connecting people, sharing stories, and inviting participants to spend time together in a contemplative spirit.
The installation will constitute the Princeton edition of Taking Pause, a national project that Resch began in 2018. She interviewed people on a cross-country road trip until 2019. As the coronavirus shut down the United States from 2020 through 2021, she depicted the denizens of her own town.
Taking Pause delves into enduring questions about the human condition, like what we most cherish and why. It examines the extent to which we may adapt our beliefs amid difficult circumstances.
“Have our values changed? Would we answer the question ‘what is irreplaceable to you?’ differently today than a year ago?” Resch asked.
Humanities Council Chair Eric Gregory (Religion) praised the exhibit for presenting concrete dimensions of experiences largely unseen and unheard. “By encountering a selection of the faces, voices, and prized treasures of our town, just across the street from Joseph Henry House, visitors will join a dialogue about what matters most,” he noted.
Free and open to the public, the installation will last through October. Viewers will have the opportunity to submit their own reflections on a virtual response wall at takingpause.net. Resch expressed hope that visitors will sustain an online dialogue from wherever they go in the world.
In the coming months, public programming for Taking Pause will be announced. The ACP website will soon provide details.