The Mediated Objected in the Museum.

What is CONTEXT? ‘The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood/the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify it’s meaning’ Exert from Dictionary.com

Jacqui wants us to begin to understand/challenge the context of our own individual disciplines, but her questioning was a little muddy. Could I clarify her method of questioning by looking at synonyms of the word itself?

Context – surroundings, situation, environment, setting, background, scene, climate, atmosphere, ambience, mood, feel, factors, conditions etc.

Does this mean that I have to explain the reason why I am choosing to study Textile design? Are my surroundings responsible for the type of designer I wish to become?  Are certain situations responsible for the person I am? What factors have been a source within history to make the practice as it stands today? Am I relevant?

How can I interpret my source material to create something in context? How do I go about standing myself apart from everybody else? Are multi-sensory experiences important? Are they necessary to create? I have found a way to exploit a single-sensory method of working…….TOUCH DRAWINGS (Omitting sight), AUDIO DRAWINGS (Omitting real subject matter/replacing with non-material subject), SMELL DRAWING (Omitting touch/sight/sound). This is not a new phenomenon, but how I choose to interpret and experience it is.


Our first task was to read a paragraph from a book called MUSEUM OBJECTS: Experiencing the Properties of Things by Sandra H. Dudley (Page 5). If I looked away could I write out the author’s idea? Would I need to look up words that I did not recognise? Paraphrasing. Taking an idea of another and re-interpreting it in my own language so not to plagiarise.

The truthful answer was No, I found it rather difficult to remember the idea at all. What I could clearly remember was the basic premise of things being physical and non-physical. Material characteristics of things and it’s relationship to sensory experience describe texture, shape, colour and density but when looking at non-material objects within a museum/material culture context these often do not have a fixed 3-D material form such as digital images, songs or dance performances.

Objects and things are interchangeable and can have distinct and opposite meanings according to Bill Brown and Hood and Santos.

Bill Brown – Thing Theory (2001) & Hood and Santos – Psychological Object Theory (2009). What on earth is Psychological Object Theory?  A psyche developed in childhood in relation to environment. Patterns in this early developmental stage can be restructured by later experiences, but these ‘objects’ wield strong influences throughout life.

What defines an object within my own practice? What is it’s purpose/function? For example, what is the purpose of wallpaper? Not only is it decorative, but it covers a plain and uninteresting wall. Is it’s purpose to employ a cohesive room with which to bond other elements of design? What would the design and colour suggest? Is it purely aesthetic or can we dig deeper? How do we interpret and experience? Do we experience wallpaper as a material and non-material object? The idea to create and make are both the same and opposite. Non-material objects are the ideas we have and material objects become the process of making.

Where does value lie in objects? Is this what ‘we’ as humans project on the object? How is it’s worth calculated? What factors make it so valuable?

Take for example a meteor, how can it possibly be valued? It being outside the system of value (otherworldly). Systems of classification are imposed and  value attributed via a narrative, date and contextual history. Rarity (Supply & Demand), colour, aesthetics and malleability all attribute to the value of an object.

If we look at what museums do to objects and how they are taken out of context and put into an institution, we begin to realise that the displays are never neutral, but rather curated to make the individual/viewer think. How do we interpret? Imagine a museum without labels or a narrative, there would be no sense of accuracy. Interpretation is a wonderful idea, but can be exploited to create fantasy; objects can be ambiguous, they are slippery and not fixed. How can an object be elevated in status or value? Can it be framed or put on a plinth? Does this automatically make it more special? Is this a prime example of humans creating a hierarchical structure where they are at the centre?

How do I curate a chosen object? Find out it’s history. This is necessary for the job to be completed properly. Photograph it. Why am I drawn to it? How is it relative to my practice? These will all be explored next week when I choose my one object @ The National Museum, Cardiff.


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