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'1997-2047': Student art exhibit showcases Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall is a peaceful form of protest originally used in Prague in 1980. At the exhibit, Post-it notes filled with messages lined the walls.
Photo by Photo by Courtesy of Miriam Kim | The Daily TargumThe Lennon Wall is a peaceful form of protest originally used in Prague in 1980. At the exhibit, Post-it notes filled with messages lined the walls.

Michaela Lozada, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior, showcased “1997-2047,” an exhibit at the Mason Gross Galleries, from Feb. 15 to Feb. 22 in a small, quiet room on the fourth floor. It had just one painting covering a side of the room and many different Post-it notes of all colors clinging onto the walls adjacent to it. 

At first impression, “1997-2047” is an exhibit that may seem simple. But after examining the motifs and messages that were wholeheartedly written on the notes by visitors and learning about the background on the large painting in the room, you’d see that the room speaks in a different type of volume — as if the entire room was filled with people’s voices.

These voices are the same ones that have inspired this exhibit, representing the Hong Kong protesters who have been fighting for their democratic rights. Perched on the far end of the room, “Human Chain'' is an oil painting by Lozada that showcases the kind of demonstration that has connected Hong Kong democracy supporters across the globe. 

The artwork features people joined together by hands in an underwater backdrop. The setting was influenced by the attitude of the people she had met at discussions about the protests, which she recalled to be a “very strong resolve,” Lozada said. The metaphorical meaning of the ocean in the picture is to “let the water rise over our heads, but we’re never going to stop standing for what we believe in.”

I also asked her about the meaning of the human chain. “I think the most important aspect of human chains isn’t the physical connection, but more a sense that people need to stand united ... I have a lot of respect for that as a form of very powerful but peaceful protest,” Lozada said.

The other major feature of the exhibit was exactly the kind of peaceful protest that is popular among Hong Kong democracy supporters, the Lennon Wall. The collection of Post-it notes placed on the wall by visitors is called a Lennon Wall, originally used in Prague in 1980 as a form of expression against the Communist regime, according to The Guardian

Many of the motifs common in the Hong Kong protests, such as Pepe the Frog and LIHKG Pig, were vibrantly created through the colorful square papers. A popular phrase that was used throughout the Lennon Wall was “Hong Kongers, add oil,” written both in English and in Chinese characters. Symbols of peace and liberty were added to the wall, demonstrating the hope that these ideas will be granted in Hong Kong’s future.

But peaceful protests too are under threat, as educational institutions in countries around the world become the focal point of the international outcry against oppression in Hong Kong.

Lennon Walls are a visual representation of democracy, but their physical aspects are vulnerable to consequential harm. In many incidents, Lennon Walls are completely defenseless against opposition and anger.

Such was the case several months ago when North Carolina State University’s Lennon Wall was vandalized by Chinese international students, who were covering the wall with glaring red spray paint like blotches of blood, according to the university’s Reddit post.

It is truly something to be thankful for that the “1997-2047” exhibit was protected. The messages were peacefully left to last until they gently parted the walls at the conclusion of the exhibit.

Knowing the vulnerability of these displays, I asked Lozada about her motivation for assembling this exhibit. 

“I know people from Hong Kong (at) Rutgers who have been trying to get permission to have Lennon Walls on campus for years. But, it’s always been considered too controversial by the higher-ups in the University,” she said.

Even after approximately a year, Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and completion of the five demands is far from over.