“All museums must be prepared for war,” states director Alexander Sokurov during his ongoing narration of his latest film, Francofonia, a meditation on European cultural heritage and conflict via the Louvre. Continue reading
When a museum exhibition ends, all we’re left with are memories.
Well, that and a catalogue.
Museum exhibitions are collaborative projects, culminations of the work of many people with a variety of skills: Continue reading
I presented this paper at the 2015 Ecrea Media & The City conference at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Zagreb.
You can read the abstract below.
The multisensory experience of museums is becoming increasingly relevant to curators, the visiting public, and academics, with many museums even beginning to include participatory activities based on listening to their own soundscapes in their public engagement programs. But what does it mean to listen to a visual environment? What are some effective strategies for engaging with a museum soundscape? Could listening to museums lead to the development of new cultural institutions devoted to sound? In my artistic practice, I have spent the last five years making sound maps of several museums and archives including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (shortly before the Arab Spring revolution), the British Library’s Sound Archive, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern, and The Pitt Rivers at Oxford. Eschewing a top-down, Google Maps API approach, my sound maps exist as immersive sound compositions that lead the listener through an audio tour of a different kind, a cognitive map that juxtaposes the sounds of objects and environments in new configurations and contexts much like museum curators juxtapose items in exhibitions. In addition to the sound maps, I also make blind listening sketches of museum soundscapes in situ, closing my eyes and drawing the sounds I hear for a predetermined duration using a system of mark making that is gradually becoming a lexicon of museum sound symbols. My research into the sonic experience of museums presents these soundscapes as cognitive maps, my personal journeys that are moving closer and closer to an attempt to define the authentic essence of what museums sound like. In this paper, I document the inspirations and thinking behind my museum sound mapping strategies along with a selection of their results, including sound compositions, videos, and drawings that map my acts of listening to various museum spaces, archiving them for the future.
In working towards the establishment of a sound museum, it becomes essential to define what such an institution must collect, as the collection of objects has historically been viewed as essential to the mission of museums (Wittlin 1949, Macdonald 2011). While this notion has been gradually evolving to embrace intangible culture (Conn 2009, Gurian 2006), and work is developing related to the curation of sound in a museum context (Lobley 2015), I feel it is useful in the long term to propose an object-based methodology for sound curation centring around what I refer to as the acoustic object.
Egypt’s current Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim is planning to file a formal complaint with UNESCO, declaring that a replica of the Sphinx built at a recently opened Chinese amusement park “harms Egypt’s cultural heritage.” The life-sized Chinese Sphinx replica was completed in April 2014, but judging by a photo of it, I would be hard pressed to call it an exact replica of the original. It’s close enough, however, to have angered the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. There appears to be no evidence of the Chinese attempting to pass off their Sphinx as the original, particularly since it sits within an amusement park instead of a pyramid complex, thereby cut off from any of the cultural context that would usually give the Sphinx its meaning.
Or is it? Continue reading
I’ve spent much of the past year co-curating this exhibit marking 20 years since the fall of apartheid for the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University. Today the Daily Northwestern published an interview with Esmeralda Kale, Erik Ponder, and myself about our motivations behind the curation of the show.
Judging by my quotes in the article, I allegedly spent most of the interview muttering variations on “Oy, the kids these days”.