Undisovered Amerindians

Undisovered Amerindians
In order to address the widespread practice of human displays, Fusco and Gomez-Peña enclosed their own bodies in a ten-by -twelve-foot cage and presented themselves as two previously unknown "specimens representative of the Guatinaui people" in the performance piece "Undiscovered Amerindians." Inside the cage Fusco and Peña outfitted themselves in outrageous costumes and preoccupied themselves with performing equally outlandish "native" tasks. Gomez-Peña was dressed in an Aztec style breastplate, complete with a leopard skin face wrestler's mask. Fusco, in some of her performances, donned a grass skirt, leopard skin bra, baseball cap, and sneakers. She also braided her hair, a readily identifiable sign of "native authenticity."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two Naked Men Jump into Tracey's Bed

Tracey Emin's  My Bed, exhibited in the Turner Prize show at The Tate, 1999

Yuan Chai and J J Xi are Chinese born, British educated performance artists who are known for their interventionist performance of jumping on Tracy Emin's bed while it was on exhibition at The Tate.  

During their performance they took off their shirts and jumped around on the bed. They had various "ism" written on their body including: "Internationalism", "Freedom" "Anarchism", "Idealism", "Optimism",  and "Anti-Stuckism"

Chai & Xi said that they thought Emin's piece was strong, but institutionalized, and that they wanted to "improve" it -"We are simply trying to react to the work and the self-promotion implicit in it."

Visitors to the exhibit at that moment said, "Everyone at the exhibition started clapping as they thought it was part of the show. At first, the security people didn't know what to do."

News Media often dismissed Yuan Chai and J J Xi as "art students", but they were practicing artist and  43 and 37 years old respectively at the time. 

They continue to make performances together under the name Mad for Real. Other performances have included putting up fake signs to mislead visitor trying to get to the Venice Biennale, and attempting to reclaim Duchamp's urinal for it's original function, which they reportedly failed to do but possibly caused the museum to enclose the piece in a vitrine.

Performances by Cai and Xi use the body as an agent between historical, geographical and institutional frameworks. The unspoken barriers of cultural protocol, class, taste and national loyalty are all dissolved in their work but the appeal of much of their 1999–2005 projects still lies, ironically, in its Britishness. It is the specific cultural references, the focus on larger symbolic aspects of British culture and their absurdity, which makes it accessable to a broader public – a public which is not ensconced in the narrow elitism of the art world. The My Bed intervention, which launched them into the public eye six years ago, was a classic moment of British popular culture, which has become insinuated into institutions of British life such as University Challenge and Have I Got News for You. The bed incident is regurgitated by the press when the Turner Prize comes round year after year. Ironically, this work is democratic. By being critical, it opens a conversation with both the establishment itself and with ‘foreigners’, young people and those outside of the mainstream.                  -Katie Hill

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oregon Martime Museum

I visited the Oregon Maritime Museum on a Sunday afternoon. I had seen the old steam boat from bridges crossing the Willamette, but had never really noticed this entrance until I went looking for it. It seems to be one of those thresholds that one wouldn't cross without intent...not entirely inviting as a walk-in type of place, although during my visit, some people did prove me wrong by doing just that.

Upon entering, you walk down a ramp and board the ship, with no immediate greeting. I followed some laminated signs until I entered the main deck of the ship, which was converted into a small gift shop, and a display area for various artifacts. I wasn't sure what to expect on this museum-boat hybrid, but it did in fact have some "exhibition" qualities to it.

As soon as I entered, I was greeted by the two volunteers on duty that day. One at the register, one at the ready to give me a tour, despite the fact that I was the only one there. I thought that was pretty nice. The docent's name was Charlie and he was clearly passionate about this boat. That was a reoccurring theme through out my visit - the museum has no issue getting volunteers, because people are very passionate about it's history and it's future. It is completely volunteer run, and Charlie told me that there are roughly 100 volunteers, about 50 of which are considered "active". This includes both docents and other "museum people" as well as a number of certified steam engineers who still work on the mechanical aspects of this boat to keep it in running condition. While it is usually docked, it still runs, and hits the river a couple times a year.

Just as Charlie started up my tour, some other people trickled in and were invited to join us. During my span on the boat, I mostly saw families with small children, although Charlie told me they can't really pin down their "type" of visitor. The tour consisted of a balance between historical background, addressing of the artifacts on the main deck, and quite a bit of the ship itself. I found this to be a very interesting concept as far as museums go - the space that holds the "museum" also being a part of it..an artifact in and of itself.

There was a very personalized touch to the tour. Charlie was very open to answering questions. He told me in our one on one conversation later that he finds it very important to emphasize the ship itself, as well as the dedicated "river pilots" who still come in twice a week and keep her running. There seems to be a fissure between the attitudes of the "museum folk" and the old guys working on the engine downstairs. They each see the boat as theirs. He also noted that we live in "such a litigious society that it's a bear to keep a captain", although the boat is certified to sail with 100 passengers.

The presence of those river pilots is felt, despite their literal absence that day. Their coffee mugs hang in a break area, their chairs still arranged for meeting. There was really no sectioning off between those "living" sections of the boat, and those meant more for display. The entire lower deck holds the engine, and we spent just as much time down there as we did looking at ship models and old divers helmets upstairs.

When I asked Charlie what he thought the museum needed, one of his first off the cuff responses was "We really need someone who speaks Spanish" as a docent. He then went on to explain to me that the institute of the museum actually owns many many more artifacts than it has space to show on this boat. He told me there was once a mainland component, but that now much of the collection lies in a basement storage facility somewhere. They want to move the boat to Centenial Mill, and convert that space into a larger museum to showcase their collection, but as is expected, they have funding problems there. They receive no state funds, so they rely entirely on the small admission fees and donations. Charlie told me that they do get some contributions from large local corporations as well, from time to time. I personally think they could use a more informative website, but other than that, I understand the limitations they face.

I think the most striking part of my experience, besides spending 3 hours speaking with Charlie and the other very nice volunteer, Davey, was the moment I was about to leave. Three visitors came through the door with service dogs - all three were blind. As I thanked the volunteers for their time, Charlie set out to give a tour to the blind visitors, addressing the more "tactile" features. I was unexpectedly moved by this...the fact that the museum COULD still be interesting to these visitors on information and tactility alone, and that Charlie did so without hesitation.


Oregon Maritime Museum
$5 for adults ($1 off with AAA membership)
Located on the westside of the Willamette between the Morrison and Burnside Bridges
Wednesday - Sunday 11:00am - 4:00pm

Monday, February 8, 2010

Please add your Mueum presentations

Hi kids,
Please post your fabulous museum presentations here so we can all enjoy them. Perhaps a narrative blog post and a few pics?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Welcome to Museum Museum

Welcome. This is a blog to archive the research & findings of Mark Dion's Museum Museum class at PSU, Winter/Spring 2010. Feel free to add content, authors.