Curating the IN GALLERY (Week 8 – Mushin Museum objects of Anaesthesia)Posted: December 5, 2014
I found doing this display really exciting as we loaned some medical objects from the Mushin Museum which is part of Cardiff University Medical School. The display ran for 2 weeks as constant editions were made throughout this time. The objects were displayed alongside Matt Beese’s fantastic paintings. (To see more of his work visit http://mattbeese.wordpress.com) Matt was creating them throughout the time of the display so more were added as he finished them. This really made the display exciting as people could notice new paintings appearing. I found the objects themselves provoked feelings of unease and Matt’s paintings accentuated this feeling. I chose to display each painting of each object next to the real object as I liked the way you could see both versions of the object alongside each other. It was interesting to see the translation and how they interacted with each other. I particularly liked how the Magill Apparatus was displayed with its painting behind it. This meant that you were looking at the painting of the object through the actual object. There was something intriguing about this and I liked how parts of the painting were obscured by the real object. Ironically the hidden part’s could make the viewer notice and really look at the painting more clearly as they are made to work for it. The viewer would likely seek to see the whole image and have to move around the cabinet to look at it from a different angle. The paintings lied flat also lead the viewer close to the object to look down and see the painting laid next to it for example with the Boyle’s Bottle’s. I tried to make the paintings complement the object and visa versa with their interaction, ie. with the bottles the painting was hinting at a shadow of the object. During the display another addition was made.
I purposely didn’t tell the viewer the real identity of the objects throughout most of the duration of the display as the objects for me were so evocative as aesthetic objects, I wanted other people to be able to experience them and feel like they can. I instead asked people to write or draw their response to the objects and I then displayed the responses in the cabinet alongside the objects.(See pics above)
It was fun to look at all the varied responses, from torture to milk bottles. Lot’s of people guessed they were something medical but were not sure what they did. Then on the last day I revealed their real identity. It was great to compare peoples responses with the explanations. Below is the explanations I put up.
It was a brilliant experience to create this display. I learn’t a lot during this time which included making quick decisions and making the display interactive. I was also extremely lucky to be able to meet Salma Caller, who is a curator at the Pitt River’s Museum in Oxford. I got the chance to discuss the display with her and she gave me lots of advice on things that a curator has to think about, which included the decisions that have to be made and the techniques that can be applied to steer the viewers feelings. We discussed what the objects make us feel and tried to come up with a theme which became unease. That was the feeling we all felt. The objects look sinister and as a guess, we all thought they looked medical. This also makes you feel uneasy as many people are quite scared of going to hospital or the doctors as it is the uncertainty of giving someone else control. The objects for me definitely provoked feelings of uncertainty and unease which matches how I feel when I go to the doctors. We played around with the placement of the objects and their paintings and discussed the aesthetics of the display. Overall I got some really valuable advice on how to think about curating and display.