The stadium started to whir with excitement as the first of the graduates filed in, slowly and surely, with an earnest awe. Parents craned their necks to find their grown up child, now more darling than ever. Grandparents whipped out the smartphones no one knew they had, wanting to #insta it all. The easy, low, discordant hum of the band grew into a tremendous, rising crescendo and suddenly, the magnitude of the event became too much to ignore. A graduation ceremony, a rite of passage, the start of something big – hopefully. And something meaningful – ideally. It could go any way from here, really. All we knew for sure was that it was, if nothing else, the end of something.
As the rows of chairs filled up, we could make out some familiar faces. Names and people that fit into the puzzle. Little brother, twin sister, mom, long-distance boyfriend. Old roommates, dance team members, the lab partner, the secret crush. As the crowd settled, more details could be made out. The roommate was taking pictures of her class, of the crowd, of the stage. The dancer stuck her arm out, remarkably without grace, way above her head to capture the bleachers of people; all of them there to watch her, watching herself, as the moment unfolded.
Here was a collisions of worlds where everyone was new and still familiar, every voice in the crowd important and still trivial. And all trying to capture a moment in time. It begs the question: what is the spectacle here? Thousands of doting parents and family members watching their darlings find their place, taking pictures. Thousands of anxious graduates, fidgeting in their seats, watching the enormous crowd grow with excitement, absorbing the enormity of the occasion, also taking pictures. Who is the audience? Who are the spectators?