Archive | Exhibition reviews

Two-Dimensional Dancing

Amanda Thai, Junior undergraduate majoring in Anthropology and Gender Studies, NYU.
Coaxing the Spirits to Dance is an exhibition of Papuan Gulf art displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition is ensconced in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas gallery on the first floor, as a cool grey box amongst the relatively chaotic three-dimensionality of the gallery itself. The main emphasis of the display is the masks, boards and objects collected from Papua New Guinea, kept in glass cases and complimented with text below and photographs. This choice of representation sets the atmosphere of the exhibit, and reveals the contrasting nature between the exhibit and the pieces on display.
There are five cultural groups from the Gulf province represented: the Elema speaking group in the east, the Purari Delta group, the Urama Islanders, the Era River group, and the Kerawa group in the west which includes Goaribari Island.…

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Pierre Bourdieu in Algeria: Testimonies of Uprooting

April Strickland, PhD student, NYU Anthropology
This exhibition of Pierre Bourdieu’s photographs from Algeria is part of a collection of over 1,000 images taken by Bourdieu as part of his field research, 1958–1961. Though never intended to be museum objects, the images lend insight into the Algerian struggle for independence from France, and provide evidence of the quotidian effects of displacement that many Algerian peasants experienced in the 1950s. They also provide an interesting visual record of the methodology and praxis of Bourdieu, who was then in his twenties and a fledgling sociologist.
The exhibition has traveled to Smith College, where it will remain until March 25, 2007. It was accompanied by a faculty seminar and a public symposium. A corresponding exhibit is now on display at Goldsmiths, University of London where it will be on view until May 2007.…

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The National Museum of the American Indian

Fanny Wonu Veys, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
After a research visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, I decided to visit another Smithsonian museum: the National Museum of the American Indian. Ever since I saw the building works in progress in 2003, I tried to keep updated on what was happening in the museum. It was a unique opportunity for me to see the museum now that it had been open for a little over two years.
Architecturally, the museum building built in hand-cut Minnesota goldstone, with its curvilinear forms and its surrounding garden which includes one hundred and fifty native species contrasts with the other stark white, rectangular buildings on the National Mall and other parts of the city.…

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A Future for the Past: Petrie’s Palestinian Collection

22 calcite fish jar2.jpg
Calcite fish shaped jar, used for holding perfumed oils or unguents, Middle to Late Bronze Age (1650 – 1150 BC)
Image Courtesy of the Institute of Archaeology, UCL

The exhibition highlights the extraordinary finds made by the archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, who was Professor of Egyptology at UCL and spent many years working in the area around modern Gaza in the 1920s and 30s. The sites he dug are now divided between the modern states of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They include major towns and trading centres which flourished over 5000 years ago. He found beautiful pottery and jewellery and a huge variety of tools. This is the first time that many of these unique artefacts – housed in UCL’s Institute of Archaeology – have been on public display.…

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Vik Muniz

Haidy Geismar, NYU
Whilst of course, all art is material culture, Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist, who I saw in September at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery in Chelsea, New York is one of the few contemporary artists whose work resonates profoundly with material culture studies in its own right, without needing the meditation of critical discourse.
Muniz himself outlines the importance of materiality in his own artist’s manifesto:
“Basically, we artists make art so we can evidence the materialization of an idea, to test it in the material world, only in the end to transform it back into actual visual stimuli, making a connection between ourselves and the world we live in” (Vik Muniz, Reflex: a Vik Muniz Primer, 2005, Aperture Foundation, page 22)

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From East to West: The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (New York City, NY)

Gabrielle Berlinger, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University and editorial assistant, Museum Anthropology
With the close of Chinese year of the pig (2007), the Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) will also close its exhibition galleries on the 2nd floor of a retired, century-old school building. It will open new doors in 2008 at 147-151 Lafayette Street on the west side of New York City’s Chinatown. Although architect Maya Lin, renowned for Washington’s Vietnam Memorial, is presently at work designing the new space, MoCA’s past will remain present on Mulberry Street for one more year. I recently visited the Museum to grasp this past and imagine its future. While not grounded in its physical space, MoCA remains grounded in meaning and mission.…

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Snapshots: Portrait of the Mobile

Larissa Hjorth, Games and Digital Art at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

1. Snapshots: Portrait of the mobile explores the ways in which we imbue mobile technology as an extension of ourselves; both in terms of self-expression and self-identification but also as an object inflected by the particularities of the socio-cultural. In this project we are greeted by portraits of mobile phone users. But rather than face portraits, we are met by their mobile phones. On the one hand this work explores the rhetoric around the personification of technologies, most notably the mobile phone. On the other hand, the work investigates how much one’s mobile phone can tell a story about their user/ owner. Can the mobile phone be symbolic of one’s lifestyle?…

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Freud’s Therapeutic Boxsprings

The Couch: Thinking in Repose, Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, Austria, Exhibition Review 5 May – 5 November 2006
Martina Grunewald, PhD candidate in Design History and Material Culture, University of Applied Arts, Vienna
On Sunday, 5 November 2006, the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna closed the doors to “The Couch: Thinking in Repose,” a special exhibition commemorating Freud’s 150th anniversary this year. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, curator Lydia Marinelli focused on literature, art, science, and design from the mid-nineteenth century until today in an illuminating exploration of the most intimate and complex relationship between neurology and—well—a divan conspicuous by its own absence. The exhibition encompassed paintings, sculpture, photographs, books, furniture, china, and tableware as well as interviews and music. The original psychoanalytic couch, however, was missing.…

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Review: Prelude to Totems to Turquoise – Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest

Nicky Levell, PhD student, UCL Anthropology
On Saturday 30 2004, the Totems to Turquoise exhibition debuted at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The opening ceremony, from 12.00 – 5.00 pm in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, began with a special welcome by representatives of New York’s local Native American community, including Sidney Hill, the spiritual representative of the Iroquois Confederacy. Ceremonial leaders of the Haida and Navajo nations then gave their blessings for the exhibit and the afternoon concluded with dance performances by communities from the northwest and southwest.
Having spent the past two years touring the States (New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles), the exhibition is being brought to the Pacific Northwest. As a prelude to the opening of the exhibit, the Vancouver Museum and its sponsor, the Bill Reid Foundation, organized a ceremonial announcement of the exhibition that took place in Vanier Park on Wednesday August 23, 2006.…

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