An Object’s Crusade for Immortality

I visited the new ‘Dundee Preserves’ exhibition with Sharron, a member of the ‘McManus Creative Team’ and a group of visitors from a Broughty Ferry residential home. The new exhibition offers visitors insight into what the museum does with its objects.

 

Group photo
Lorrette Lorente, Sharron Phin, Pat Wood and Marget Poustie stand with the Atlantic Walrus

 

We walked around the ordered displays and we gained a better understanding of how curators and conservators care for; research, store, document and conserve the City’s collections.[1] In the crusade of immortalising objects on the battlefield of time, the ‘McManus’ understands its mission and recognises its enemy as the ‘Agents of Deterioration’.[2]

Fire

Light

Pests

Water

Neglect

Physical Force

Incorrect Humidity

Theft and Vandalism

Chemical Deterioration

Incorrect Temperatures

 Unexpectedly, we found the exhibition displayed “Moths from the Robertson Collection”, presenting the body parts of a slain enemy! The humble clothes moth ‘Tineola bisselliella’ is considered a pesky foe in the museums world.[3] The display highlighted how this historic collection holds import information about genetic profiling of the specimens, their environment as well as the underling motivation and attitude of its collector, Dr A Robertson.’

 

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 The Death’s-head hawkmoth on dispaly in the “Moths from the Robertson Collection”

 

“It is regarded not as the creation of a benevolent being, but the device of evil spirits—spirits enemies to man—conceived and fabricated in the dark, and the very shining of its eyes is thought to represent the fiery element whence it is supposed to have proceeded. Flying into their apartments in the evening at times it extinguishes the light; foretelling war, pestilence, hunger, death to man and beast.” Moses Harris (Entomologist 1840) [4]

Its perfectly reasonable for the McManus Museum to protect their objects from destruction. Understanding why and how an artefact deteriorates gives the museum a fighting chance in the crusade for an object’s immortality.

 

 

[1] Uknown Author. (2017). Dundee Preserves. Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/exhibitions/dundee-preserves. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

[2] Arenstein, R.P. (2011). The Ten Agents of Deterioration. Available: http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Ten_Agents_of_Deterioration. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

[3] Uknown Author. (2007). The Clothes Moth – Museums’ No.1 Insect Pest. Available: https://museum.wales/articles/2007-04-05/The-Clothes-Moth—Museums-No1-Insect-Pest/. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

[4] McCarthy, E. (2014). 12 Facts About the Death’s-Head Hawkmoth. Available: http://mentalfloss.com/article/57940/12-facts-about-deaths-head-hawkmoth. Last accessed 25th June 2017.

Museum Stories In-between

“It would be a mistake to think that an “object” as other simply seizes us, making us passive while it is actively dominating.”[1]

clockOver the past few weeks I’ve joined a variety of activities at the McManus Galleries, attended by groups of senior citizens from Dundee. While wandering around the displays, I have had the pleasure of listening to their stories. Allowing the memories of the past to be brought to life by objects found in the exhibitions.

I began to think about the relationship we have with these selected objects. Once placed in a display cabinet they become more that a mere object; placed beside ‘other’ chosen objects, each display tells a story, an object is a sign, a copy of itself, removed from the past and framed behind glass. The object transcends into artifact.

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“Although materially, these remain as they were, they become, on the plane of meanings facsimiles of themselves. They announce distance between what they are and what they were through there very function, once placed in the Museum, of representing their own pastness and, thereby, a set of past social relations.”[2]

The visitor who shares their story by observing a museum artifact, reveals their personal experience of an object. Reconnecting the past to present, the artifact to the everyday object, by placing a story in-between.

 

 

[1] Desmond, W (1995). Being and the Between. New York: State University of New York Press. P11.

[2] Bennett, T (1995). The Birth of the Museum. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. P129.

 

 

 

Juteopolis

Juteopolis, an intervention performed at the McManus Museum and Galleries, as a part of the Festival of Museums on the 20th May 2017. The performance celebrated the launch of the new ‘Ship Models’ exhibition, presenting an impression of ‘The People’s Story’ through the collection of shipping history, found at the museum.

A story about the flow of culture connecting museum objects, to the people of Dundee.

Lada1 copy

THRIVING DEMANDS

lise-lada

CRAFTMANSHIP

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WOODEN VESSELS

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FISHING COBBLES

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MANY OUTSTANDING SHIPS

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THEY SAILED THE WORLD

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The philosopher Theodor Adorno argued that objects, once inside a museum, are removed from the flow of culture where connections can be established. In contradiction, the artists, Lise Olsen and Lada Wilson used this performance to argue against Adorno’s theory by creating a new story, engaging with the ‘Ship Models’ collection in a variety of different ways.

Photo Credit: A big thank-you to Stuart McAdam for taking such beautiful images.

 

Dundee’s Oldest Onesie

Last night I joined the ‘YAG’s’ (the Youth Action Group) for a wander around the ‘Dundee and the World’ exhibition located in the magnificent Albert Hall at the McManus Galleries. The group wanted to sketch and discuss some of the things on display. However, I did not expect a discussion to be focused on “Dundee’s oldest Onesie”, a quote from a member of the group.

onesie

This ‘Onesie’ is not an adult sized babygro but an early 20th century costume worn as a disguise, by members of the Nigerian Ekpe secret society, made from Netted string and Raffia.[1] Yet the discussion provoked themes of youth culture and the fashion of wearing a giant romper suit. The interaction between the group and the object began to build their sense of identity by exploring something from the past and comparing it to present fashion culture, highlighting;

“The passage of time, which operate predictability on the objects themselves, can do strange things to their meanings, and the importance of some will change as a result.”[2]

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The museum carefully archives artifacts with specific historic details and dates to preserve valuable objects, a value created by a society it represents. Yet a different time and culture can randomly change meanings. In the future, will people venture into a museum to see the ‘Onesie’ on display? What meaning will it transcend? And will they think we are a society of big babies?[3]

[1] The McManus. (Date unknown). Masquerade costume for ‘Ekpe’ Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/content/collections/database/masquerade-costume-ekpe Last accessed 17th Feb 2017

[2] Matarasso, F (1997). Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts. Stroud: Comedia. P84

[3] Graham, L. (2013). Babygro Britain. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2275285/Onesie-The-fashion-phenomenon.html#axzz2JffrmPI9. Last accessed 17th Feb 2017.

Khalkha Mongol Headdress

A story about the restoration of a Khalkha Mongol Headdress (pre-1900), loaned to the McManus Galleries in Dundee by L J Miller (1931).[1]

The Khalkha Mongol Headdress has been selected, restored and cared for by the McManus. The conversation reveals an object expressing meaning beyond its physical presence within the history of specific events; Mongolian trade routes, craftsmanship and the possible design influence of a headdress worn in Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

The vocal sound creates meaning found outside language and the spoken word.[2] Inside our perception, the vocal sound allows you to hear the affect the headdress’s journey has had, on the speaker’s feelings.

“Feelings may also link feelings, and this superimposed relationship leads us to an in-between of in-betweens…”[3].

What we hear in tone and vocal expression reveals emotion. To listen and contemplate to the story, bridges us between our personal and shared feelings towards treasured objects. Binaural microphones were used to create an intimate listening experience, locating us in-between the self and the other. And the reverberating sounds of space in the museum, places us from our physical location to the museum, in-between here and there.

[1] Uknown author and date. Khalka headdress. Available: http://www.mcmanus.co.uk/content/collections/database/khalka-headdress. Last accessed 6th Feb 2017.

[2] “… as Ricoeur says, meaning or significance is already both perception and word.” Ihde, D. (2007). Listening and voice: Phenomenologies of sound. 2nd ed. Albany: State University of New York Press. P148

[3] Asenjo, F. G. (1988). In-between : an essay on categories, Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology & University Press of America, Washington, D.C P139

Feeling In-between

In-between my reasoning and the real,

I hear the discrete and unrepeatable experiences of illumination.[1]

A soundscape in space-time with sweet gestures placed on my imagination.

Memories of old ambiance upon new ambulation.

 

In-between my head and the sonic,

I receive the distance perceived as a separation from over-there.[2]

A fantasy world bound to subjective questionnaires.

Treasuries of old attention upon new intention.

 

In-between myself and the other,

I bridge an audible world where objectivity and subjectivity meet.[3]

A thing heard, not composed carrying the weight of an archived street.[4]

Subjectivity is an old demanding upon new attending.

 

In-between my silence and the absent,

I listen to a formless stream, emanating from a boundless space.

A walk will allow the appropriate sounds to appear in place.

Accessories urging old emotions upon new happenings.

 

In-between my space and the sound,

I see a place as the symbol and the sound as the meaning.[5]

A form of feeling adds something unique to my perception of dreaming.

Histories of old feelings upon new feelings

 

“Leading us in-between the in-betweens…”[6]

 

[1] Casey, E.S. 2002, Representing place: Landscape painting and maps. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. P76

[2] Voegelin, S. 2010, Listening to noise and silence: Towards a philosophy of sound art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. P5

[3] “Listening to sound is where objectivity and subjectivity meet: in the experience of our own generative perception we produce the objectivity from our own generative perception we produce the objectivity from our subjective and particular position of listening, which in turn is constituted by the objectivity of the object of a prior movement of hearing, subjective and particular.” Voegelin, S. 2010, Listening to noise and silence: Towards a philosophy of sound art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. P14

[4] Voegelin, S. 2010, Listening to noise and silence: Towards a philosophy of sound art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. P23

[5] “Thus for the poet in his ecstasy- or perhaps, agony- of the composition the trees are the symbols and the words are the meaning. He concentrates on the trees in order to get the words.” A.N Whitehead 1985. Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New York: Fordham University Press. P12.

[6] Asenjo, F. G 1988, In-between : an essay on categories, Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology & University Press of America, Washington, D.C P139

Darkness Veils a Debatable Zone

The space could be to the place what the word becomes when it is spoken…”[1]

rowan-gorilla

An undefined duality of place is concealed in the embellishment of night, hiding an industrial heritage and windswept Tay Estuary.

The sound merges space into place, sea into waves, oil rig into steel.

Darkness veils a debatable zone, with a cloaked identity of signification of a location. A possible plot or a new vision can be seen, in the form of renewable energy manufacturing.[2]

[1] Merleau-Ponty, M (1974). Phenomenology Of Perception. 6th ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD. P173.

[2]“Dundee Port is an active deep water port with direct access to the North Sea. The Port has also been identified as the most strategically important and suitable port location for marine renewables.There are 25 hectares of available quayside land for renewable energy manufacturing.” Uknown Author (2016). Port Development Land. Available: https://www.dundeewaterfront.co.uk/zones/port/portdevelopmentland. Last accessed 13th Nov 2016.

copyright © Olsen 2016