The show has a clear and passionate point of view.
Looking at the photographs in "Inside at Night: Origins of an Uprising," I felt like the events captured happened ages ago, or just last week. Such is the funny sensation of revisiting recent history. The show, which opened Friday night at Tamarack Studio & Gallery, documents the Wisconsin Capitol protests of early last year, with a special focus on the building's occupation, through the eyes of nine photographers.
The show's installation is itself like a small-scale recreation of the protest environs: blue tape, heart-shaped Mylar balloons, Ian's Pizza boxes fashioned into protest signs, as well as many now-iconic images like the blue solidarity fist.
The photographers (John Riggs, Matthew Apps, Willie Hausner, Nataraj Hauser, Katie Jesse, Brent Nicastro, Tom McInvaille, Douglas Bosley and Leslie Peterson) have documented scenes both panoramic and intimate, from the Capitol rotunda packed to the brim to individual protestors catching some shuteye during the 17 nights the building was occupied.
As a fundraiser for the current recall efforts, this is a show with a clear and passionate political point of view. Viewers can buy prints of the photos or a book, with the majority of profits going to the recall. As such, viewers' impressions will be colored by their feelings about Gov. Scott Walker and his allies. The atmosphere on Sunday afternoon, with coffee and treats set out for viewers in the homey, sunlit space, was more political coffee klatsch than traditional gallery show.
Personally, since these events are so recent and the recall effort pushes on, I have a difficult time seeing these photos as art, though some are surely artful. There is not much differentiation between the various photographers' styles, and this is essentially documentation of events that are still unfolding. This history of this movement continues to be written.
The real value of these photos -- and their kin on Flickr, Facebook and elsewhere -- will, I believe, emerge over decades as a record of a remarkable protest movement. Whether or not one agrees with its overall aims or specific tactics, what happened here last winter has had powerful ripples nationally -- such as in the defeat of Issue 2 in Ohio, which would have drastically restricted collective bargaining for public employees, and in the Occupy movement. "Inside at Night" offers a detail-packed chronicle of the formation of that movement.