April 8, 2019 Pop-up Museum Tells Story of Student Experiences through Archeologists’ Excavation

Sphere at a distance

Prof. Brian Ambroziak and students, in conjunction with McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture,  displayed a pop-up museum titled “1-452: Embodied Sphere Project” (ESP) in Circle Park on Apr. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

ESP activated a critical discourse about the role of the museum in contemporary culture. Ambroziak’s exhibit, a transparent sphere, served as an active performance space that told the story of archeologists’ role in excavating history (conveyed as student experiences) in eleven acts, from surveying the site to digging, researching and presenting their findings. The ESP also included a new composition by the Columbus-based composer D. Turner Matthews titled “m64_Mroot_M64_M64; repeat.”

The event focused on a choreographed sequence performed in eleven acts that included

  1. 001 Inflate ESP
  2. 002 Fasten ESP
  3. 003 Suiting Up and Equipment Pre-check
  4. 004 Entry Sequence
  5. 005 Survey Site
  6. 006 Identify Dig Site
  7. 007 Excavation
  8. 008 Specimen Recovery
  9. 009 Tagging and Bagging
  10. 010 Presentation
  11. 011 Journal Entry

1-452:ESP was an active performance space that embraced the present tense. A scripted act served to uncover the images of a diverse range of participants and slowly uncover their stories. It relied on the idea that there is something quite magical about watching an object be unearthed. Quite common to the contemporary museum experience is a room where scientists, equipped with microscopes and brushes, slowly remove a fossil from a substrate. Why are such acts so engaging? Perhaps because they provide a focused and intentional act that directly counters the speed of modern existence.

The choreographed score by Matthews served as one part of two distinct soundscapes. One drew upon the active dig site and amplified the subtleties of unearthing and the act of discovery. The other was an accelerated rhythm created through the collision of two objects, in this case 2x4s.

Background

The 1-452: Embodied Sphere Project activates a critical discourse about the  role of the museum in contemporary culture. As the philosopher Baudrillard writes, “we live in a world with more and more information and less and less meaning.” If this is true, then what consequence might digital preservation evoke for the future archeologist?

The curator, by nature of the available real estate housed in a physical structure, must rely heavily on the processes and acts of editing. As such, it is likely that any contemporary exhibit runs the risk of telling less stories whereas a linear narrative is forced upon a rich tapestry of cultural data points.

The alternative digital gallery knows no bounds but often times falls short in that its server has trouble letting go and allows everything to be sacred to a certain point. Perhaps there is middle ground between these two contemporary models: one that presents a refined collection with physical constraints and one that brings a diverse cultural element and tells the stories often discarded in the design of exhibits and museum catalogues.

Sites like Instagram provide an interesting precedent as they include “selfies” in front of historical works as the core of their curated collection, the past becomes an active participant in the present. 1-452: ESP privileges the selfie, the human and seemingly random connection, as a next major step in the evolution of the museum. Polaroids, selfies, of individuals that have played an active role in McClung Museum are buried within a landscape of pink packing peanuts. Archeologists slowly unearth the images, tag them, and then hang them around the circumference of the transparent sphere, thereby yielding an embodied space.

The archeologist begins searching for these faces and then tagging them. But it is a new archeology that doesn’t reside millions of years apart but is instantaneous and puts forth the question: What role does time play in creating value? Can identity and culture be studied in real time?