This past Sunday and Wednesday’s second annual Notebook Show, “Choose Love Over Fear,” featured everything from sketches and poems to soda bottle wrappers, all confined within the pages of students’ personal notebooks. The first such show debuted last year, several months after a conversation between Jack Zellweger ’17 — also Photography Editor for Collegian — and Alan Zack ’19.
“I wrote my college essay on how hard it is to start a notebook,” said Zellweger, who used to keep a notebook himself before turning to photography. “I’ve always loved the idea of notebooks and notebooking.”
The Notebook Show, which took place in the lower Horn Gallery, provided a look into the inner workings of students’ minds by displaying their work on paper. To create this exhibit of their peers’ sketchbooks, journals and composition books, Zellweger, Zack and Matt Garrett ’18, who helped run the event this year, propped sheets of plywood against the walls of the room to use as shelving. Attendees wandered in and out of the exhibition to the sound of soft acoustic music, often taking advantage of the Horn’s supply of pillows to find a spot in the room to sit down and turn through the pages of a notebook.
Visitors had the chance to grab donuts and write notes to the owners of the notebooks to place in mason jars in the middle of the room. After the show Zellweger, Garrett and Zack pasted the notes into the notebooks of the people to whom they were addressed in order to make the exhibit more personal and promote interaction between the artist and viewer. Despite the high volume of visitors that came in and out over the course of three hours, the show provided room for viewers to move around freely throughout their time there.
“There isn’t really a framework, there isn’t really a standard for how you’re supposed to write in a notebook or draw … and people have really different strategies, so it’s fascinating to get to look at everyone’s [notebook],” Emma Brown ’17, who submitted work and attended the show, said. “It’s basically an insight into how their brain works.” Brown said she would consider herself somewhere between mathematical and spontaneous with her notebook. Hannah Porter ’19, who submitted several notebooks, considers her style to be the result of her current feelings and the materials she happens to have lying around.
This year, Zellweger decided to take the project a step further by curating a photo essay for the Collegian Magazine focused on student notebooks featured in the show. “For me it’s not about the notebooks themselves, but the feeling you get from reading somebody else’s notebook and being able to relate to what they’re saying and connect with that person on a deeper level,” he said. He hopes that in the future, the Notebook Show will bring these universal experiences to the surface and enable people to connect with each other.
Brown added that sometimes it is the mystery that adds to the universal appeal of the notebook. “I think everyone kind of has coded ways of expressing themselves … But it’s nice not to know everything, to wonder a little bit,” she said.