Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Museum Topics (page 2 of 30)

Where was your last museum visit?

One of the assignments in my Exhibition Planning course is to share about an interesting exhibition that we went to see. Most of my classmates tended to share about the most recent exhibition that they saw, myself included. Whether in-person or virtual, as museums start to open up more and more it’s been wonderful to be in gallery spaces again.

For myself, my last visit in-person was to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond, Virginia to see the Sunken Cities exhibition. 

Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

This traveling exhibition was the last stop before these artifacts returned to Egypt and it was focused on the ancient cities of Thonis-Heraclion and Canopus which are located under the sea, along the coast of Alexandria.

I really have enjoyed learning about underwater archaeology in the course of my studies at Tufts, and I had never seen an exhibition that included a focus on how these artifacts were excavated. With Sunken Cities, this was really one of the major aspects that the exhibition focused on. Visitors got to see footage of the excavations and learn about where these cities were and how much is left to excavate. There’s still quite a lot of work to do at these sites, yet there are already enough artifacts to have an entire exhibition! As a visitor, this was really exciting.

I would say the other major focus of this exhibition was the cosmopolitan culture of these ancient port cities, especially the religious ceremonies. An entire section of the exhibit walked visitors through the mysteries of Osiris, religious ceremonies that took place at a certain time of year.

image

British Museum, “The Mysteries of Osiris”

It was really wonderful to go and see this exhibit, and I’m looking forward to going to museums again as things open up now that we are getting vaccinated!

What was your last museum visit? Are there any exhibitions that you are looking forward to visiting in the near future? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Activate the space: A conversation with Flor Delgadillo

Image 1.  

Flor Delgadillo is 2nd year master’s student at the School of Museum and Fine Arts.  Flor Delgadillo is a Mexican interdisciplinary artist working in painting, drawing, print, digital fabrication, performance, and video as her media. Delgadillo’s vibrant installations activate spaces using multiple methods of video display, surprising surfaces, and objects.  

In the interview Flor reflected on her artistic practice with a primary focus on the recent solo exhibit at SMFA, Mission Hills campus.  MORPHOLOGY, Delgadillo’s latest installation reflects on her diagnosis of epilepsy at the age of four. The artwork has sourced imagery of Delgadillo’s brain waves using an electroencephalogram machine (EEG). These waveform recordings of Delgadillo’s brain activity during sleep, are projected onto gallery walls. The artist was subjected to routine tests throughout her life. In the artwork MORPHOLOGY, Delgadillo reclaims her self-care by monitoring and isolating her own Theta, Gamma, and Delta brainwave activity during sleep. Her routine testing was done in Guadalajara which required constant migration between the U.S. and Mexico.  

 Sayyara  

Art is not what you see but what you make others see (Edgar Degas).  What is your response to Degas’s quote? 

Flor 

I very much resonate with the phrase because I think as artists, we often feel a responsibility to address certain things. I think that it’s important to allow the viewer to read what they want. Especially with issues of identity, race and gender, since those are individual experiences. I think that’s why I am able to use the body in the way that I do which is very much in like the tools that I use. That’s why I like to use different mediums.  

Sayyara  

How would you describe your core mediums?  

Flor  

Color, reflection and the body 

Sayyara 

What attracts you most about those mediums?  

Flor 

I think of color as a language and the body as a vessel to experience the sensory properties like light, color projection and reflection.  

Sayyara  

In the Morphology installation you used projection which penetrated through a cut out plexiglas form of human brain. Can you talk a bit about that? 

Flor 

I like to think of the human brain as the battery of the body. I wanted to show that by transforming it into an objects/sculpture form, where transparency and the reflection was important. The light from the projector bounced from and through the plexi and was reflected across the room, floor and the walls. Much like, how brain sends signals to all parts of the body, the objects in my installation communicated with one another and together activated the space. Additionally, the projection was not static, as the viewer could see the movement of the line of brain activity juxtaposed with the image of the brain.   

For this reason, I think of this installation as a performance with the objects, images and the locations have been choreographed. Nevertheless, there was not an overchallenging amount of stuff in the room, which was intentional. I left the space open for viewers to respond to the installation by moving around it, however their body felt comfortable. I also intended to mobilize the peripheral vision of the viewers by ensuring there was something to look at regardless of the positions in the space.  

This is basically, a manipulation of the tools and imagery to test human reactions As a young child, my sleep was monitored, as part of the EEG test. In comparison, viewers of my work have the full control of the interaction, which is inherently not as invasive, as a medical test would be. 

Image 2.  

To some the light may be overwhelming, yet, others find the space meditative. Color is its own language.  

 Sayyara  

What makes you say the brain is the battery of the body? 

Flor  

Well, I think it’s arguably the most important muscle and it is resilient in its ability to function. I can’t help but think of it, as the battery that we depend on, as it ensures the overall functionality of my body.   

Sayyara  

My belief is that many people will enjoy being in this space because of its vibrance and liveliness. What do you think people can learn with Morphology installation?  

Flor  

As adults we are more encouraged to learn by reading and writing things on paper rather than using interactive activities. Morphology installation offers an active way of learning through observation and movement. Also, It reminds me of how I learned as a child through play, when I was permitted to move, react, interact, and make mistakes as and as a result creating my own meanings. This is what I want the visitors to walk away with, their own perception of the artwork.  

 Image 3. 

Sayyara  

Is there anything you want to add for a wrap up? 

 Flor  

The last thing that I will say is I find it very important to use play and humor in serious situations. This might be just my personal preference and coping mechanism.  

I think it’s important for us to grow as individuals while staying aware of our inner innocent children. I don’t want to say things get uglier, but as adults we’re no longer sheltered or blind sighted. Therefore, I like to approach certain issues with, I don’t want to say fun, but in a more vibrant way. Sometimes, I find it to be the only way to talk about important issues, which otherwise can be neglected. I think I’ll leave it at that.  

Note 1. EEG : An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp. The brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even during sleep. The activity can be viewed as wavy lines on an EEG recording known as Morphology (description by the artist). 

Note 2: Morphology installation is not currently on display however the video documentation of it can be seen below:

Stay tuned on Flor’s upcoming projects, exhibitions, pop-ups follow her account on social media.  

Instagram  – https://www.instagram.com/florsshow_arte/  

Information on former projects and be found from the website.  https://arte-flor-delgadillo.myportfolio.com/performance  

The interview was conducted by Sayyara Huseynli, 2nd year master’s student in the Museum Education program at Tufts University. Sayyara establishes connections between individual experiences and objects through engaging and interactive programing. 

 

My Home is a Museum: Balance

Layla Gabulova

Baku, Azerbaijan

For me one form of balance, is depicted on the Strength card which is the highest arcana of the tarot deck. It shows a woman who is taming a lion with her bare hands. The image stands for the balance of strength, wisdom and kindness. One needs to have inner strength to avoid break downs in sight of challenges. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a healthy balance of forces, otherwise one will turn into a victim or a tyrant.

The characters and their actions also serve as symbolical representation of balance. The lion stands for human passions and fears, while the woman symbolizes awareness and the higher self. If the woman treats the animal with cruelty, the latter can cause unpredictable destructions. Thus, taming the lion needs strength and understanding, power of will and goodness. The infinity sign above the woman’s head, informs of her connection to supernatural. There needs to be a harmony of consciousness and subconscious.

 

Prashant Mishra

Pune, Maharashtra, India

“Mirror on the wall, here we are again through my rise and fall you’ve been my only friend”
When Li’ll Wayne says that in a song, I am reminded of this piece of balance hanging on my wall. Every day I wake up and right before I walk out into the world, it makes me stop and look for a second, doing away with any doubts about myself, assuring to walk out with confidence.

Then once you are through our day, it is the same you reflected in the mirror there. Knowing this brings me back to myself, overlooking the scars on the surface and bringing the focus back to myself. After all, when I look back at the reflection, I hear Wayne’s voice.


“I see the truth in your lies
I see nobody by your side
But I’m with you when you’re all alone
And you correct me when I’m looking wrong”

The Museum Experience

Now more than ever, museums seem to be striving towards creating memorable experiences for visitors. The pandemic necessitated the use of technology and virtual tours so that exhibits could still be enjoyed. Suddenly you didn’t need a plane ticket to take a tour of the Louvre or ancient Egyptian sites. Personally, I did not often seek these online experiences out — while of course it is incredible to be able to take “tours” of museums from the comfort of your home, it mostly just made me long to be there in those spaces in person and seeing the artifact with my own eyes. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. 

However, after viewing the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibition, “The Salem Witch Trials, 1692,” I was rather impressed with the quality of the experience. Of course, I still would rather have been able to go in person. But at least I could still view an exhibit that I had planned on visiting and feel that I had a pretty good sense of the exhibit itself and what it would have been like to have gone in person. I was also able to learn just as much as I would have if I had physically been there, as all of the text, artifacts, and art that were on display were available for the virtual experience as you “walked through” the exhibit. I felt very impressed, and felt that by “visiting” the exhibition in this way, I hadn’t missed out on any aspect of the visit had I been able to go in person.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.

Experiences like these seem to be on the rise in museums, starting with virtual visits like this one at PEM, but also expanding to include increased use of technology and VR experiences for visitors who go to the museum in person. For instance, the wildly popular Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has traveled to numerous cities and advertises its experience, described as allowing visitors to step into the artist’s paintings. With 360° projections, use of virtual reality, and gigantic screens, the event is certainly immersive. I am curious as to whether exhibitions like this one offer much of an educational outcome for guests, or if it’s meant to simply impress with the quality of the technology and use of Van Gogh’s work to create an attraction. 

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience - Washington

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Recently, I visited a museum that seems as though it is in some ways similar to the Van Gogh Immersive Experience. And it was largely used as an opportunity to get cool pictures for visitors’ Instagram profiles. The Museum of Illusions at the Walk of Cairo did have explanatory text for the numerous visual illusions that guests interacted with, and we were given a tour of the first floor to explain these optical illusions as well. The focus was definitely placed more on the experience than anything, and I definitely had more of a feeling of visiting an amusement park than a museum. The more interactive experience did remind me of children’s museums I had visited when I was kid, but every station served as a photo opportunity for a cool picture. Unsurprisingly, the museum’s Instagram page is filled with people’s pictures.

Ames room

The Ames Room at the Museum of Illusions, Walk of Cairo

It was definitely fun, and my recent experiences at the Museum of Illusions and the PEM’s Salem exhibition — while very different from each other — have made me more interested in these experiences that museums are advertising now more than ever. While I was initially skeptical, I think these experiences have the potential to attract visitors who usually might not choose to visit a museum exhibition, and can create memorable educational experiences for visitors to enjoy by taking advantage of the technology available.

What’s With All the Gay Penguins?

Ronnie and Reggie, two Humboldt penguins at ZSL London Zoo.

Over and over again, zoos and aquariums around the world are making headlines for their same-sex penguin couplings. One of the most iconic couples was Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins who began performing mating rituals at the Central Park Zoo in 1998. After successfully incubating a rock and then a dummy egg, zookeepers decided to give the loving couple a real, fertilized egg. Roy and Silo hatched a baby, a female penguin named Tango. Tango then grew up to form a partnership with another female penguin named Tanuzi.

Skipper and Ping, two king penguins at Zoo Berlin.

The list of gay penguin couples goes on and on and spans a wide range of species. Harry and Pepper were a pair of Magellenic penguins at the San Francisco Zoo. Sphen and Magic are a pair of male Gentoo penguins at SEA LIFE Aquarium in Sydney who hatched their first chick in 2018. Electra and Viola, also Gentoo penguins, are raising a chick at the L’Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain. At Zoo Berlin, two King penguins named Skipper and Ping have been trying to become fathers, unfortunately with no luck. Ronnie and Reggie are a pair of Humboldt penguins in London. In the Netherlands, a gay African penguin couple recently stole an egg from a lesbian penguin couple. The list goes on. Even in Parks and Rec, Leslie Knope hosts a wedding for two male penguins at the Pawnee Zoo.

The lives of male and female penguins are not as different from each other as we may expect. Regardless of sex, a parent’s responsibilities are similar—both invest equally in raising their chick. Aside from reproductive barriers, there is no reason why same-sex penguin couples cannot be successful parents. Penguins often lay more than one egg, though only one is likely to survive. In captivity, a same-sex penguin couple can adopt any extra eggs (though sometimes they steal eggs instead.) It’s likely that this happens in the wild too—though it’s harder to say. Visibly, male and female penguins really only differ in size, and not by much. That means it’s difficult to tell male and female penguins apart and even more difficult to identify any wild mating pairs as homosexual.

Rocky and Marama at SEA LIFE London.

In late 2019, mothers Rocky and Marama hatched a baby Gentoo penguin at SEA LIFE Aquarium in London. This baby Gentoo made further waves after the aquarium announced that it would not be assigning the chick a gender. The chick is identified with a gender-neutral purple tag rather than the usual gendered name and color coded tag. Beyond that, the penguin’s life will be the same as any other penguin at the Aquarium. Gender means nothing to penguins, so why have we continuously assigned it to them? The General Manager of the aquarium, Graham McGrath comments that the decision to raise a genderless penguin is following an increase in conversations around human gender neutrality. I applaud SEA LIFE London for taking a look at their practices and making changes based on a more nuanced understanding of gender.

The genderless penguin at SEA LIFE London, identified with a purple tag.

Besides, the animal kingdom is constantly subverting our expectations for both gender and sex. Male seahorses famously carry the young while they develop, and are the ones who eventually give birth. Bluehead wrasses all hatch as female. As they mature, some develop into males. These stories should be highlighted more. Most zoos and aquariums stick pretty exclusively to scripts around environmentalism and conservation. While those are incredibly important topics, I would like to see these institutions branch out. For example, a common argument against LGBTQIA+ rights is that “it’s not natural.” Zoos and aquariums have an opportunity to step in and say “actually, that’s not true.”

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