Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Tag: interview

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. 

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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. 

 

Reflections on Reopening from Nick Pioppi, Senior Educator at the New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium, along with many of Boston’s other cultural institutions, reopened on July 16th with pandemic-specific precautions. The Aquarium now has a one way path throughout the building, reduced capacity, additional sanitation stations, and requires visitors to wear masks. Now that the Aquarium has been open for almost a month, I checked in with Nick Pioppi, Supervisor and Senior Educator at the New England Aquarium, about the process of reopening.

Nick Pioppi conducting a virtual visit to the New England Aquarium.

How have things been at the Aquarium since reopening?

“Things have been very good. We feel very confident that we have established a safe, fun, and engaging experience for visitors. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some things that we’ve worked on or refined in terms of our process. We always come up with ways to become more efficient or make the process run a little bit more smoothly so we’ve definitely tweaked things as we’ve gone along.”

When the aquarium was closed, what were some strategies you used to reach your audience?

“We took a look at what we offered virtually and came up with some strategies to create new virtual content that was fun and engaging and kept people feeling connected to the aquarium, but also continued to foster and promote our mission. I think that was really important because we wanted people to understand that there were a lot of things that were still going on, like animal care and research efforts. We wanted to work hard to put those out front and use those as a way of connecting with visitors.”

With reopening, what are some challenges you’ve found with running educational programming?

A California sea lion reminds visitors to social distance.

“We are not leading any of our normal presentations on microphone. We are trying to avoid elements of an experience that might cause people to crowd and have difficulty maintaining physical distance from each other. Any sort of educational content or interpretation is happening on a one-on-one basis. We have staff that are stationed throughout the building with the primary goal of providing a logistically smooth and safe experience for visitors, but we’re slowly starting to integrate points of interpretation.”

“We’ve really had to just be a little bit more selective about that and focus more on safety and logistics and making sure the one way path is being followed. We’ve even had to close down elements of the aquarium, like the touch tanks or one particular exhibit called “The Science of Sharks” that is very interactive, just out of an abundance of caution.”

Speaking to the animals, how are they adjusting to having visitors again?

“For the most part, we are not noticing significant differences in behavior of the animals. Most of their daily routines were still going on during the closure. They were still getting fed regularly and the life support systems that keep them comfortable were being maintained. If they aren’t particularly reactive to our presence outside of their tank, then things are the same for them. There are a few exhibits that we’re noticing some subtle differences. To prepare the penguins, a week ahead of time we placed speakers around the exhibit and played crowd noise to get them accustomed to visitors again.”

Do you have any advice for museum educators during the pandemic?

“From my own experience, now is the time where it’s important to remember a lot of the basics of education, such as the customer service element and providing a nice alternate experience for visitors than what they’re having any given day. But this is also a time where innovation and trying new things out can be really beneficial. Trying to think of new ways to connect to people.”

“I think for institutions, it’s probably really scary to innovate and experiment because you’re worried about losing what little you have right now. But I think now is just a good a time as any to be innovative and stand out. Provide something that other museums and institutions aren’t necessarily providing.”

The New England Aquarium highlighted the work of the aquarists and researchers during the closure.

Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?

“I think the community of educators is so important right now. I think it’s important right now to think about ways to connect. Connect with teachers that are struggling with virtual learning in the fall. Connect with people who may have been laid off from an institution because of budget cuts. Connect with people who might be educators but are doing a type of interpretation that’s really different from you. We can all learn from each other and support each other.”

Thank you so much, Nick, for meeting with me to chat about the Aquarium’s reopening. Follow the New England Aquarium’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for tons virtual content and updates. Also, the Aquarium is still fighting for COVID-19 relief funding, so use this link to contact your representative about providing crucial funding for both animal care and operating costs.

Interview: Culture in Peril

Welcome to a new occasional series on the Tufts Museum Studies blog. We’ll be interviewing all sorts of interesting people with intriguing perspectives on museums and issues that touch upon museums. If you would like to conduct an interview or suggest someone to be interviewed, let us know!

First in our series is Nicholas Merkelson of Culture in Peril. Nicolas holds degrees in religion, archaeology, and cultural heritage. He’s worked with both the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museums of Kenya, and is currently interning at Adventures in Preservation, a non-profit sustainable historic preservation company specializing in hands-on volunteer opportunities to conserve the world architectural heritage. His blog is a fascinating overview of preservation issues faced by cultural sites around the world.

Without further ado, let’s get to the questions!

The title of your blog is “Culture in Peril.” How do you define culture, and at what point do you consider it to be in peril?

I realize that after nearly a full year of blogging at Culture in Peril, I haven’t yet provided my readers with a definition of ‘culture.’  Frankly, I’ve never felt obligated to endorse a single definition or even to come up with one of my own.  I’ve read Geertz and Levi-Strauss and Durkheim, so my thoughts draw heavily from social-cultural anthropological theory, and I’ve also practiced field archaeology and studied material culture, which demands a more objects-based perspective.  I hope my readers recognize that ‘culture,’ as it’s used in the title of my blog, applies to both tangible and intangible human creations (or “cultural property,” as it were).  If I had to give you the most simple of definitions for my blog, ‘culture’ is constituted in “things and thoughts.”  These “things and thoughts” become imperiled when one or more factors compromise their status, quality, or nature — e.g. a historic building collapses, a language is lost, a painting is stolen, or a tradition is no longer practiced — the end result being a loss to all of humanity.

What do you see as some of the biggest issues worldwide facing cultural objects?

The issues facing the world cultural heritage are interrelated, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a single one, but I think one of the biggest problems is that of loving it too much — by which I mean humans are the greatest threat to protecting our past.   As with the condition of the physical landscape and the environment, humans are hugely responsible for degrading our heritage landscape in irreversible ways.  We visit archeological sites, we photograph street performers in foreign cities, we purchase reproductions of museum objects — no doubt, as a global population, we are ravenous consumers of heritage resources.  These acts are socially, economically, and culturally virtuous, but the opportunity for genuine appreciation to become mass exploitation is too real.  Today we can find observable proof of our over-consumption in the form of unsustainable tourism, illegal production and distribution of property, and a global market for stolen and fake artifacts.  Combine the exhaustion of heritage resources with a seemingly willful ignorance of the harmful affects we inflict on sites and communities and you find us in our present state.

How do you see museums helping to save cultural objects?

I don’t necessarily think museums “save” cultural objects, because one might infer that everything in museums is in some sort of danger.  This is clearly untrue.  For centuries museums have been excellent at gathering objects (collection) and either conserving them in an archive (storage) or displaying them to the public (exhibition).  But in the last few decades, with the passing of major international legislation on rights to cultural property — a very basic human right, I think — museums are increasingly seen as institutions for the masses and not just the wealthy and the educated.  Museums are very democratic like that, so as much as we say they are “saving” objects museums are also responsible for establishing identities, engaging principles of humanity, and conveying who we really are.

What do you think the next big step needs to be? How can we help?

The next big steps involve money money money — or is that too obvious?  Not enough funding is devoted to cultural heritage preservation and education initiatives.  I suppose you could say the same of a lot of things, but there needs to be a more substantial investment of human and financial capital from both the private sector and state governments.  Our heritage resources will literally continue to crumble without the support of a well-funded, sustainable, long-term management plan.

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