“Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.” – John Berger
In the last CTS session, we started out with this quote, which I quite like. We had been asked to bring an object to class (anything we’d like to talk about) and this quote was meant to help us with that. I believe it was picked to remind us that objects are not just shapes, colours and whatever-purpose society gives them. There’s a whole world in an object — we just have to find it.
After presenting our objects to one another, we were asked to reflect on them once more, as a group. We had to dip further and analyse our objects. I wrote down a few questions that helped us with this task:
Questions you should ask yourself when analysing an object
- What’s the object’s gender?
- What’s its value?
- If it was displayed in a museum, what would change?
- Would it be more valuable?
- Would it be less valuable?
- What would you then think of it?
- Do the words (that is, the meaning behind the object) change your perception of it?
I shall explain how this goes: my object, for example, was a mug – which I think it’s genderless. Being a mug, it doesn’t have much value, as there are plenty of mugs all around the world – it is a very common object. However, it does have a great emotional value to me, as it was a gift from my best friend. If this mug was displayed in a museum, it would add more value to it; it would be one of the few mugs displayed in museums and I would think this mug must had been special, because not all mugs make it to exhibitions. I would most certainly get interested and try to find the reason for the mug being displayed. Also, I believe the story behind this mug changes how other people see it. To them, it is just a mug but to me it is a metaphor. And the only way they can understand my perspective of it is through my words of explaining.
We then read a very long but rather interesting passage of the book Museum, Media, Message (Collecting as medium and message – Susan Pearce) and gathered some ideas on cataloguing and collecting.
We were also asked to set up a small exhibition in class with our objects. You may be thinking “Alright, that’s pretty simple…”. Wrong. Setting up an exhibition is a lot more than just displaying objects. You have to decide how you’re going to display them and why. You can catalogue them by date, origin, function, etc. Most importantly, you have to find a connection between different objects – which, in our group, was the most difficult “problem” to solve, since our objects seemed to have nothing in common. It may or may not be the obvious – for instance, you can say two objects are related because they’re both manmade; however, you can go further and find a deeper meaning between those two objects – it is really up to you.
To conclude, I found the whole experience of setting up an exhibition – and giving it a reason to be, an explanation – very helpful and I think it may be interesting to visit a gallery and do the exact opposite – deconstructing an exhibition; that is, trying to understand the way curators organized the exhibition in a certain way and why; to separate all objects from the whole and find the connections between them. That’s for another post, though.