Last Friday, an exhibition of student art was held in Evered Hall. The event, entitled “Sailing to Byzantium,” was a unique collaboration between the faculties of English, theatre, and visual arts, and combined the aspects of poetry, performing arts, and visual arts under one banner.
The two-hour exhibition began with a reading of the poem Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats, after which the event is named. The reading was done by professor Andrew Gutteridge, who read the poem twice, so that listeners could take in the imagery of the poem more fully. Gutteridge then shared his analysis of Sailing to Byzantium with the audience. Afterward, each of the three department heads involved in the exhibition shared their own interpretations of Yeats’ famous poem. While each of the professors had their own take, a common theme was emphasis on the spiritual side of existence, that which exists beyond the realm of rational perception, and for which many of us have a nameless yearning that nothing material can truly satisfy.
Following the professor’s presentations, students did readings of their own work before the audience. These readings not only reflected the literary art, but also the art of performance, which was as unique to each presenter as apparent by their written work. Each of the four presenters had a particular style of reading and writing, and if one listened closely, one could tease out the various themes and perspectives of each person, ranging from the lighthearted and sunny, to the dark and bloody. Each one gave an intense and gripping performance. Any notion that poetry is dull was put to rest by these performances.
The final component of the arts trio, visual arts, came last. After the readings, presenters and visitors were free to mingle, and to admire and study the artworks displayed around the room on easels and pedestals. Most of them were paintings, but there were examples of drawing and sculpture as well.
In all, Sailing to Byzantium was a fairly basic, and rough and ready affair, largely due to delays in setting up, and because only about a dozen artists in total presented work. Even so, it was a highly enjoyable experience. The three academic departments intend for this to be the first of many such events at UFV, and we can hope to look forward to more presentations by our university’s writers, actors, and artists.
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.