Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Artificial Curiosities Curriculum Project ARE 6148

Artificial Curiosities the ASU Show
I am in the process of creating a show for the downtown campus of ASU. The works featured range from large format abstract works, found object abstract works, mixed media objects featuring photo elements, a few works I refer to as specimen trays, and finally a few Cornell type works.
I will update this page as the show goes up, opens, and as classes use the curriculum I have created for the show. I have contact with one school that is interested in working with me as an artist/musician and they will attend the show along with the other educational activities we have planned. As these things materialize I will post info here about them. In a few days I should have another short clip showing me working on the projects, the works for the ASU show, and further explanation of the student activities. For now here is an outline of the project with some images to illustrate the project.
There is also a narrated slide presentation which features some of the works in progress to be featured in the show below

Artificial Curiosities Curriculum Project ARE 6148 
My idea is to bring in the history of museums and how museums have changed through history. Discuss found object artists Joseph Cornell,  Louise Nevelson, Fred Wilson and Jean Tinguely http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4iXF-LIYi0 
Activity and discussion of roadside attractions as forgotten museums of the 50's. Historic and archaeological preservation in a disposable society. Students will discuss and create their own curiosity cabinet.
The big ideas 
Who writes history and why? How does knowledge and our perception of it change? Why do museums work or bore us?
Do museums ever tell the truth or an imagined truth? Where did museums come from?
History is on going. What history have the students lived through their families their grand parents?
All objects tell a story have a history.
Specimen Gathering
Find a small object to be used as specimen tray or box. Gather three to six small items from your home, the ground, goodwill, or that you have kept. Arrange the items in the tray.
Play with the arrangement until it is pleasing to look at. How can you arrange them to tell a story? Let the others in the class try to figure out your arrangement and the items in the tray.
Explain the items what they mean where they came from, if they are important to you why. Select one object to be the tall tale object. In your explanation have one object be of exaggerated or purely fictional origins. See if the class can decide 
which one it is. Repeat the process throughout the class. How is it that we create histories for objects? 
Did some of the stories get elaborate? Were they all true? How important is context and provenance to viewing objects how does knowing the story of an item change the way we view an item?
Assessment and discussion
Imagine a museum where you have to simply guess what you are looking at?
Talk about the way science works, gathering specimens information data putting forth theories. Is specimen gathering cruel, zoos, killing jars, and dissection? Talk about the way museums work researching documenting curating items. 
How have museums changed from shrunken heads and stuffed animals to hands activities and children's programing. Reference the book, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads, A, Stephen (2001)
Big ideas 
Is science cruel? Why do we collect things? Berger in his writings talks about the need to possess the subject of a painting and the need to show status and wealth through oil painting (Ways of Seeing, Berger, J. 1973, Penguin Books). Do museums still need to collect?
Brief discussion of the book The Museum in Transition Hein, H. 2000. 
Research component optional
Pick your favorite item from the example above and research it find out what you can about how it was made where it was made and of what it was made. Talk about the mining the museum exhibit.
Roadside Ruin Idea 
Louise Nevelson in her found objects glorified and Jean Tinguely and his made contraptions. 
Both deal with pop culture to a degree one uses the junk of our culture to create beautiful forms the other leaves the object as junk unrefined but turns them into new machines. 
In the 1950's an extension of Curiosity Cabinets, medicine shows, and circus sideshows sprung up the roadside museum. Like many of the elements of our past most of these once grand attractions have closed or fallen into ruin.
Look for an "undisciplined local collection," a roadside or homespun museum in your area. Reference the book Offbeat Museums, Rubin, S. 1997. 
Is there an old part of town in your town? Is there a highway that has been replaced? Are there old attractions, museums, or tourist traps in you town? How do the students feel about these old areas and why?
Research component 
Gather images of abandoned or ruined buildings in your local area. Gather images of ruins around the world from the internet magazines etc..
Talk about what the Coloseum in Rome or Mesa Verde in Colorado must have been like before they were ruins. Visit the UNESCO world heritage site, what are they up to?
Why do we save things and places that are connected to famous people or events? Are some types of history valued more than others?
Are some peoples history valued more than others? 
Activity Instant Ruin.
Find scrap wood (home depot usually has a free or cheap pile) junk from a junkyard, look around your neighborhood for rusted old items, bits of wood, or visit goodwill (free is better of course). 
Using the junk create a small sculpture draw from Tinguely and Nevelson if you like but think in terms of a ruin or an abandoned building or object. Imply or leave, age and decay or hide the decay as Nevelson does. Crackling effects, painted on rust, sandpaper can be used to imply age and erosion. 
Big ideas 
There is often a lot of beauty in forgotten abandoned things. Why are we so quick to throw things away? One persons junk is someone else's treasure. Once historic things fall into ruin you have to imagine them back, is this how history 
and archaeology are written? Isn't it easier to save things then recreate them? All objects have history even if they are personal items. Talk about the idea that junk transformed into art might be displayed in a museum is it still junk? why or why 
not? Museums are part entertainment and the roadside museums of the 1950's were mostly entertainment. How much car culture are we left with from the 1950's (drive-ins and drive thru, highways and road trips)
Assessment and discussion
Are there abandoned neighborhoods towns or buildings near by in your hometown or city? How did they fall into ruin and why? Did the car culture of the 1950's lead to these ruins? 
Curious Curios
Imagine living in a world and time where you would pay a nickel to look at a display of relics from history or the far side of the world? Hard to imagine in the internet age of limitless information. 
Present curio cabinets as a concept. How did these cabinets lead to museums? "The birth of the mercantile and first middle class gave rise to a collecting mania by about 1650", leading to curio or cabinets of artificial and natural history curiosities from Museums Objects and Collections, Pierce, S. (1992) Smithsonian Press.
Research component
Discuss Charles Wilson Peale, did he create the first American museum? The origin of the word museum, where did it come from? 
Present information about the history of museums, from curios to the Smithsonians. Visit the Smithsonian website reference The Official Guide to the Smithsonians (or other Smithsonian literature as available)  American Alliance of Museums http://www.aam-us.org/about-museums/museum-facts for further discussion on what a museum is.
How have museums changed? Wifi video screens wireless headsets all add to the modern museum experience as do museum websites and hands on activities. How does this contrast with the old school museums (things in boxes, stuffed animals and pickled heads)? Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads (The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums) Asma, S. (2001) Oxford Press.
Personal history cabinet activity
Find a small to medium size box, decide if you want to paint the box sand it down weather it to make it look old etc..
Gather objects from the ground, goodwill, a junk drawer, the garage or objects you have saved for yourself as important. 
The final portion is tying it all together. 
Talk about the artist Joseph Cornell. 
Using the methods of Cornell create a small personal cabinet.
Decide what story about yourself or an imagined narrative you want to tell using the objects you have gathered if the objects are worthless how does that change your approach? if they are precious keep sakes how do you treat them? 
decide if it is to be display to yourself a personal curio cabinet or an imagined self? If personal does it tell the story of your life? some event in your life? Your family? Your community or town?
Present the cabinets without explanation let the class imagine their meaning or create them. What does your cabinet say about its creator real or imagined? Have people throughout time created their own history?
Give the example of the Egyptian pharaohs of how once they came to power they created their own fantastic history. Shaman of the Yanamamo upon encountering bananas revised their creation story to include them. 
Assessment and discussion
What is the difference between a good tale, tall tale, history or myth? By the way things are presented (or not presented) do museums tell their version of history? How important is context? A mining lamp, a lunch pail and shovel do not really put 
you into a mine, how much imagination is needed to fill in museum displays? If we are using our imagination is it really history or our version of it, imagined version of it? deeper discussion talk about the book or paper, Mining the Museum: An 
Installation by Fred Wilson, Corrin, L. (1994) The New Press.
Offbeat Museums, Rubin, S. (1997) Santa Monica Press.
Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson, Corrin, L. (1994) The New Press.
Making Museums Matter, Weil, S. 2002) Smithsonian Press.
United States of America: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties and Handmade Bitters, Reighley, K. (2010) Harper Colins Books.
Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads (The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums) Asma, S. (2001) Oxford Press.
The Museum in Transition, Hein, H. (2000) Smithsonian Press.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, Weschler, L. (1995) Pantheon Books.
Ancient Pueblo Peoples, Cordell, L. (1994) Smithsonian Press.
Museums Objects and Collections, Pierce, S. (1992) Smithsonian Press.
Official Guide to the Smithsonian, no author listed, (1996) Smithsonian Institute Press.
Do Museums Still Need Objects?, Conn, S. (2010) University of Pennsylvania Press.
Museums and American Intellectual Life, (1998) Conn, S. University of Chicago Press.
Ways of Seeing, Berger, J. (1973) Penguin Books.
The Manila-Acapulco Galleons: The Treasure Ships of the Pacific, Fish, S. (2011) Authorhouse Press.
Out the East (Spices and the Medieval Imagination) Freedman, P. (2008) Yale University Press.
1493 (Uncovering the New World Columbus Created) Mann, C. (2011) Vintage
UNESCO World Heritage website (http://whc.unesco.org)
ICOM International Council on Museums website (http://icom.museum)
AAM American Association of Museums website (http://www.aam-us.org)
Smithsonian Institute website (http://www.si.edu)

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