“What It’s Like to Sleep”
Undergrad Ocampo explores intimacy through art
Gabrielle Ocampo is a 2014 design graduate of UNCG. Last semester, she was awarded first place in the category of Visual Arts at the Undergraduate Research Expo for her piece entitled “What It’s Like to Sleep.” The installation was based on a poem of the same name that Ocampo wrote after reflecting on an intimate experience she witnessed between two friends at a party. She took this poem and made a fully experiential art piece which incorporated visual, auditory, and tactile elements. Ocampo sat down with UNCG Research to talk about winning the Expo, her artistic process, and what is in store for her post-graduation.
On creating the original installation: “The installation itself consisted of a series of really big, long, sheer sheets that I suspended from the stairwells. By sewing string through the sheets and then pulling them with tension, I was able to hang the sheets whatever way I liked. As the sheets were suspended in the stairwell, I projected the poem, line by line, to the cadence of it being read onto the sheets in white text. The viewer was invited to remove their shoes, lie down on a bed beneath the sheets, and soak in the experience of the video playing, the sheets suspended, and the audio of the poem being read. It was me reading the poem, along with about 4 or 5 other people, all overlaid together. It almost became this sort of ritualistic kind of sound. That added to the effect of it because it felt almost subliminal in the way that our interactions feel subliminally comforting or disturbing.”
“The actual set-up took me an entire weekend, where I would just be sewing and hanging things in the stairwell for hours nonstop. It took one whole weekend [and] was up for only three hours on Monday morning. Then I had to take it down.”
On the piece’s implications: “It is an installation that talks about the attempt to fill emotional voids, through physical interactions, particularly lustful interactions, and how the consequences of those are not fulfilling. “What It’s Like to Sleep” graphically talks about specific sexual interactions, to place the viewer in a mindset of what it’s like to experience or recall those interactions. It has definitely been an interesting experience, and [it is] one of the projects I thought of most and have been most invested in studying.”
On her personal artistic process: “I think it is very interesting that you can create a narrative just by the organization of certain sounds or objects. And I think it’s interesting that we as individuals can manipulate that and make or force people into a specific experience. That’s one of the things I love about my art. I feel like you don’t need to be in a specific mindset to understand what I’m trying to say…I feel like my piece spoke for itself. It can be difficult to read art sometimes, so I like to step outside my art so that it becomes a subjective experience. I try to be as universal and well-rounded as possible in translating the messages that I want to. I’m coming to find that art is basically a reflection of the individual. That’s why it is so powerful sometimes. It puts us in a very vulnerable place.”
On winning the Expo: “That was amazing! [Even though] I got the email, I didn’t realize I had won until I read a text message from a friend wishing me congratulations. I jumped on my bed and called everyone. I couldn’t believe it. For it to be first of all, a competition, second of all, a juried competition, and finally, the undergraduate expo, it all just felt very prestigious. It was an amazing opportunity that has actually given me a lot of others. It was like a ripple effect. After I had won, I was offered all of these different opportunities: to speak at the 52nd annual class reunion of The Women’s College… [and] to speak with one of my professors (who was also my mentor) and the department head around the state at different high schools to try and recruit other art students… So a lot of opportunities have opened up, and I think that is because of my winning in the Expo.”
Life after graduation: “Post-grad is hard. Growing up is hard. Leaving the safe nest of college projects and friends is hard. But it is invigorating. I am lucky for it to be difficult in this way: for me to have more ambition than I know to do with, and more avenues to take than I can count on one hand–I am blessed to suffer this struggle. I am now finding out that it is all about narrowing your focus and being okay with the little steps it takes on the way to that one goal. Picking one thing at a time and just going with it. This is what I am currently doing. Focusing my goals, finding my passions, and going for it, as passionately as I can until I obtain them. I am pursuing being a teaching artist, a hobbyist seamstress/crafter, and a full-time go-getter. Contract work, assistantships, and residencies have kept me busy in between since graduating. It’s taken me a few months, but I have finally realized that becoming full-time in leading, learning, and helping is my ultimate goal.”
Photography by Ananya Huria and Nicole Du Bois
Edited by Mary McLean and Sangeetha Shivaji
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