Jonathan Gitelson: Are You Here?

March 19 - June 13, 2016


Jonathan Gitelson’s Are You Here? is essentially a mindfulness practice with a sense of humor. The billboards depicted in Gitelson’s photographs ask travelers barreling down roads both to locate themselves in time and place and to consider, however fleetingly, the implications of being present. It is meditation without a yoga mat or a pew.

That still photographs of the philosophically provocative billboard are displayed inside a museum pushes the concept even further. The photos urge us to look more carefully, consider more deeply, reflect more fully on the objects of contemplation before us, and on our thoughts and feelings about them.

Showing the photographs of Gitelson’s billboards in Vermont—a state that banned the roadside behemoths in the 1960s—adds a layer of historical irony to a show that artfully combines wisdom and wit.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

Are You Here? is a public art project consisting of a series of identical roadside billboards installed throughout New England and upstate New York. Fourteen billboards are installed to date, and more are planned for the coming year.

The billboards’ question, referencing the phrase “You Are Here” that is often found on highway rest area maps, is meant to engage passersby on multiple levels. Besides its literal geographical meaning, “Are You Here?” is also a metaphysical question meant to encourage motorists to be more fully present and mindful of their experience at the moment they encounter the message. Highway driving is often a time when we use distractions—we listen to the radio or another audio device or attend to our own thoughts and worries, paying little attention to the changing sights and sensations whizzing by.

My hope is that the extreme simplicity of these billboards, and the unexpected and unexplained question they pose, will startle viewers into at least a fleeting moment of “being here.”

— Jonathan Gitelson

This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of a Keene State College Early Career Summer Research Seed Funding Grant and a Keene State College Faculty Development Grant. The artist would also like to thank the following individuals for their support: Benjamin Arnow, Kathi Arnow, Florence Baur, Wendy Blumenthal, Tara Bogart, Will Brooke-deBock, MaryAnn Camilleri, Jennifer Chrzanowski & Matt Dal Santo, Ian van Coller, Joy Drury Cox, B K Dhillon, Elizabeth Essner & Nils d’Aulaire, Joshua Farr, Samuel Fox, Mark Frankel, Archie and Olive Gitelson, Diane and David Gitelson , Rod Gorme, Sharon and Chuck Griffith, Branden Harding, Tommy Henry, Matt Hogan, Steven Hudosh, Aaron Krach, Brandt Kurowski, Kate Lerner, Michael Messina, Georgia Morgan, Robin Morgan, Alexi Morrissey, Greer Muldowney, Tim Nylander, Bob Parks, Stuart Pilkington, Jennifer Eplett Reilly, Suzanne Révy, Brian Saroken, Benna Shelanski, Accra Shepp, Margaret Siber, Spoon&Sailor Letterpress, Nicole Stanner, Bryan Steiff, Rachelle Steinberg, Janice Stockman, Craig Stockwell, Marin Sullivan, Brett Swinney, Brad Temkin, Sonja Thomsen, Jason Tors, Mel Trittin, David Welch , DDee Wilder, and Teri Zobel.


Photo Gallery