STREETERVILLE — Chicago can look very different depending on the lens through which you view it.
The latest exhibit unveiled last week at the Museum of Contemporary Art explores the impact of perspective with a exhibition centered on "Chicago," a film from New Yorker Sarah Morris that profiles the city with sweeping visuals.
"The funny thing is, I actually first saw Sarah's 'Chicago' film in Berlin," said MCA Manilow Senior Curator Dieter Roelstraete, a recent transplant himself, who curated the exhibit. "I saw that film a week after I had first visited Chicago in my life, in April 2011. ... Watching the film, I was actually struck by the fact that a lot of the things I had seen also caught her attention."
In addition to a looped screening of Morris' 70-minute movie, Roelstraete culled photos, collages, and other artwork from the museum's archives for "City Self," featuring local artists and Chicago-centric work from visitors to the city.
When he moved to Chicago the following February for his new position at the MCA, Roelstraete said his perspective began to shift.
"For people who have lived here for a long time, it's odd to notice that Sarah Morris, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth — that those artists kind of feel attracted to a certain atmosphere of alienation that they feel to be present in the city," he said of the pool of artists with no personal ties to Chicago.
"Catherine Opie's photographs and Thomas Struth's are pretty much people-less: There's no life in them, they're kind of deserted cityscapes, quite ghostly," Roelstraete said.
But in the artwork of Chicago residents and natives profiling the city they call home, Roelstraete says he noticed "a deeper empathy" in the photos and artwork from the museum's archives.
"You have [Jonas] Dovydenas, Art Shay, bringing a bit more of a human interest [perspective], in a way," the Woodlawn resident said.
Roelstraete said he hopes his unique position as someone who's played both roles helped create "an exhibition that serves both longstanding Chicagoans, people who have lived here their whole lives, and also tourists who would have an interest in seeing their gaze resonate in the selection of work."
"City Self" will be at the MCA through April 13. On Dec. 10, Roelstraete will lead a tour of the exhibition at noon, free with the cost of museum admission.