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INTO THE PRIMITIVE BY ALEJANDRA FERREYROS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Kim Anderson S arasota, Florida May, 2009
ii Table of Contents List of Illustrationsiii Abstract .iv Introductio n....1 History ....1 Process 4 Influences 6 My Work ...12 2 D Collages .12 3 D Collages 13 Dioramas ..15 Faux Scientific Clas sification Drawings .18 Shadow Boxes..19 Objects .20 Museum Gift Shop Souvenirs ..21 Installation of Work.22 Conclusion ...23 Bibliograp hy25 Plates 26
iii List of Illustrations fig. 1 Fred Wilson, Metalwork 1793 1880. Detail from Mining the Museum Installation at the Maryland Historical Society, MD. fig 2 Fred Wilson Cabinetmaking 1820 1960. Detail from Mining the Museum Installation at the Maryland Historical Society, MD. fig. 3. Fred Wilson Mine/Yours. 1995, Whitney Museum. fig. 4. Mark Dion, Ichthyosaur. 2003, South London Gallery. fig. 5. Mark Dion in collaboration with Dana Sherwood, Portrait of Mark Dion after William Beebe, courtesy of the artists fig. 6. Elliot Hundley Hyacinth (detail) 2006, corkboard, paper, photographs, plastic, fabric, pins, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, charcoal p astel, string, ceramic, shells. 244 x 216 x 38.1cm, Saatchi Gallery, London fig. 7. Elliot Hundley, Hyacinth (detail) 2006, corkboard, paper, photographs, plastic, fabric, pins, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, charcoal pastel, string, ceramic, shells. 244 x 216 x 38.1cm, Saatchi Gallery, London fig. 8. Hannah H ch, Schnitt mit dem Kchenmesser Dada durch die letze weimar Bierbauchkulturepoche Deuschelands ( Cut with the Kitchen Knife: Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer belly Cultural Epoch of Germany ) 1919 20 1919 collage of pasted papers, 90 x 144 cm, Staatliche Museum, Berlin. fig. 9. Alejandra Ferreyros, Flora 2008, Collage, 3"x5." fig.10. Alejandra Ferreyros, Civilized Man 2008, C ollage 4"x6." fig.11. Alejandra Ferreyros, Jungle Scene 2008, M ixed Media Collage,10"x13." fig.12. Alejandra Ferreyros The Plains (detail) 2008, Mixed Media Collage 10"x11 fig.13. Alejandra Ferreyros, Civilized Man, 2008 Mixed Media, 9"x19." fig.14. Alejandra Ferreyros, Dignified Warrior, 2009, Mixed Media, 8"x 10"x8 fig.15. Alejandra Ferreyros, Red Cloud Ritual, 2009, Mixed Media, 8"x 10"x8 fig.16. Alejandra Ferreyros Sun Ceremony, 2009, Mixed Media, 8"x 10"x8 fig. 17. Alejandra Ferreyros, Spirt Animals 2009, pencil on paper, 18"x24 fig. 18 Alejandra Ferreyros, Flora, Fauna and Civilized People 2009, mixed media collage, each 4"x6." fig.19 Alejandra Ferreyros, Petrified Shell (from Kula Ring), 2009, shell, 4"x7.5." fig. 20 Alejandra Ferreyros, Souvenirs 2009, Mixed Media, each 1"x1"x2.5." fig. 21 Alejandra Ferreyros, Into The Primitive Installation View 2009. fig. 22 Alejandra Ferreyros, Museum Floor Plan Map 2009, Inkjet Print on Paper, 8.5"x11 fig. 23 Alejandra Ferreyros, Healing and Ritualistic Plants 2009, pencil on paper, 18"x24
iv INTO THE PRIMITIVE Alejandra Ferreyros New College of Florida 2009 ABSTRACT In my thesis, I utilize the conventions and methodologies of art and science, and reappropriate its language to examine the ways in which institutions like Natura l History Museums or National Geographic magazine shape our understanding of history and the natural world. Through various creative formats including drawing, diorama, and collage I draw attention to how these institutions construct stories about othernes s and objectify other cultures. I hope that my thesis encourages my audience to re evaluate the way they perceive other cultures. Kim Anderson Humanities
1 Introduction National Geographic has long been a window to exotic peoples and places Through National Geographic magazines readers could travel to distant lands and discover the earth's oddities and wonders Like a museum of natural history National Geographic offers a kind of cabinet of curiosities a collection of the earth' s natural specimens The photographs of National Geographic depict an enticing world unlike the mundane suburban America many of its readers are used to. Like so many others I was drawn to National Geographic for these reasons National Geographic phot ographs are one of the most culturally valued and potent media vehicles shaping American understandings of and responses to the world outside the United States (Lutz and Collins 1993) Initially the National Geographic photograph seems like a straightforw ard kind of evidence about the world a simple objective mirror of reality in actuality it is much more complex and interesting (Lutz and Collins 1993) History In order to understand the images of National Geographic it is important to understand the history of the publication National Geographic is one of the most trusted sources of information and images of the outside world for people in the United States It covers a wide range of topics including wildlife and nature stories exploration of s pace
2 and the oceans geographic and cultural wonders from around the world, and peoples and cultures of third world countries The subscription rate for National Geographic is the third largest for magazines in the United States The high quality printing and binding of the magazine is closer to an encyclopedia than a monthly magazine and as a result they are often collected instead of discarded, frequently ending up in used bookstores and attics The National Geographic Society was formed in 1888 by Gar diner Greene Hubbard a wealthy lawyer and member of a prominent Boston family The founders of the National Geographic Society belonged to the upper class elite Their interest in dispersing geographic knowledge was similar to other educational philanthro py in the form of museums and public libraries In 1898 Alexander Graham Bell, who was married to Hubbard's daughter, took over the magazine He believed that people would only read National Geographic if it was light and entertaining. The society framed its mission as science but also entertainment Bell hired Gilbert Grosvenor to help increase circulation in 1899 and advised him study other popular magazines of the time It is interesting to note that while National Geographic is a scientific institutio n it is still a commercial magazine dependent on sales and popularity The magazine maintains a position as both scientific and popular Early in the publication's history Gilbert Grosvenor the editor at the time, established the "Seven Principles" polic y that underlined the importance of avoiding
3 controversial topics and focusing on "only what is of a kindly nature (Lutz and Collins 1993) The principles outlined what should be printed in the magazine: an abundance of beautiful instructive and artistic illustration, and nothing of a partisan or controversial character Text and pictures were restricted by Grosvenor's principles of veracity fairness and optimism They were to be beautiful artistic and instructive At the same time, National Geographi c presents the photographs as if they are photographic evidence The photographs supply the articles with what Barthes termed the prestige of denotation (Lutz and Collins 1993) They create the illusion that the objects presented actually occurred in natur e in the ways they were photographed (Lutz and Collins 1993) The photographs are then viewed not as metaphors of experience but as sections of reality The photographers at the magazine are asked to follow certain guidelines when taking a picture They re ly on photographs that are sharply focused and easily readable The goal of the editorial staff is to print pictures that are "straightforward" (Lutz and Collins 1993) Picture editors dislike photographic techniques that draw attention to themselves or r eveal too clearly a photographer's point of view (Lutz and Collins 1993) Instead they prefer pictures that hide the labors and point of view of the photographer, which gives the viewer the sense that his or her contact with the photographed subject is un mediated (Lutz and Collins 1993) With the advent of color photography the pictures of National Geographic changed dramatically Color photography allowed National Geographic to render the exotic and picturesque
4 even more spectacular and further emphasize their beauty The pictures inside National Geographic began to resemble postcards or tourist snapshots Process When I began this project I knew I wanted to work with the idea of a collection, and I soon began to consider the acquiring, organizing, cata loging and displaying associated with museums. I also knew that I wanted to work with collage and that the source of my clippings would be old National Geographic that I had collected over the years. Up to that point I had never really thought about why I always used National Geographic in my collages or why I was so drawn to the magazine. It was not until this project that I slowly realized that many of the reasons why I was attracted to National Geographic were the same reasons I was fascinated by museums ; both lay out the wonders of the world select the most compelling things and group them in meaningful ways and explain their significance with labels In order to create my own collection I examined the typical modes of presentation, experimenting with glass display cases or vitrines, shelves, pedestals and frames. The effect of putting a glass case over an object completely changes its context. By placing an object in a vitrine or display case it automatically "museumizes" it. The glass creates a physi cal barrier between the object and viewer; not being able to touch the object confirms its value. The fact of being exhibited in a museum bestows an object an impression of importance, authority and significance. A collection also establishes authority ov er the subject often the people represented by the objects. It is the collector who classifies everything and chooses what to include and what to exclude.
5 Thinking about the ways in which museums present and display information led me to consider the power that institutions like museums and the National Geographic Society have over their audience as well as the cultures represented by their objects and in their images. Museums decide which objects are important by choosing to display certain ones over others, and they decide what stories to tell with them. The context that the objects are placed in, as well as how the objects are classified, determines their meaning and value. Objects that are placed in glass cases under brighter lighting are instantly deemed more valuable. Museums have a profound impact on the audience's perception and understanding of different cultures, history and knowledge. The fact that the objects displayed are authentic, combined with the fact that these institutions are establi shed institutions with credible reputations, museums possess an illusion of authority so that the stories that the curators create are presented as the truth. Interestingly, the National Geographic Society was founded shortly after the inauguration of th e American Museum of Natural History and the expansion of the Smithsonian Institution In these contexts photographic or material traces of the colonized world were relocated to new spaces in the West Once appropriated and transferred, they provided the materials from which new stories about the world would be created (Lutz and Collins 1993) In the book The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography Literature and Art James Clifford states that collecting and displaying are crucial processes in forming Western identity Like the natural history museums National Geographic takes the images of Africa Asia and Latin America from their historical contexts and arranges them in a way that addresses contemporary
6 Western concerns (Lutz and Collins 1993) In choosing systems of classification or explanation both magazine editors and museum curators provided an illusion of adequate representation and an opportunity to construct stories about otherness (Lutz and Collins 1993) Influences Many art ists are interested in investigating the methods used by museums in presenting an "official" cultural and historical overview (Putnam 2001). A number of contemporary artists such as Fred Wilson, and Mark Dion use the traditional museum as a site for artist intervention. They use the museum to question issues of wealth, privilege, gender and cultural prejudices (Putnam 2001). In these exhibitions the artist acts as both guest curator and as the creator of a site specific installation. Conceptually Fred Wils on and Mark Dion's installations inspired my work. Wilson's 1993 installation, The Museum: Mixed Metaphors at the Seattle Art Museum and his 1992 installation, Mining the Museum at the Maryland Historical Society provoked me to think about the sovereignty of these institutions. In his Mixed Metaphors installation he temporarily reinstalled some of the Seattle Art Museum's permanent collection as a means of interconnecting different cultural perspectives (Patterson 1993). Wilson appropriates curatorial prac tices and subtly restructures the museum by displaying works that have long been in storage, adding new objects and incorporating videos and documentary photography within the permanent installation (Patterson 1993). The meaning of the works of art is alte red by the labels, texts, commentary and lighting. As a result of Wilson's careful observation of the
7 museum's existing modes of interpretation and presentation he was able to achieve a discreet interweaving of his own work with the objects on permanent di splay so that the two categories are almost indistinguishable to the average visitor (Patterson 1993). For example, in the Mining the Museum installation at the Maryland Historical Society, Wilson juxtaposed unlikely objects to reveal the hidden history of the museum's collection (Patterson 1993). For one of the pieces entitled Metalwork 1793 1880 (fig. 1), Wilson took a display case with silver vessels in the Baltimore repouss style of the 1830s and added metal slave shackles that were also made in Baltim ore around the same time. This juxtaposition suggested that the opulent 19 th century lifestyle of Baltimore high society was built on slavery (Patterson 1993). In another piece titled Cabinetmaking 1820 1960 ( fig. 2 ), Wilson took a slave whipping post fr om the Maryland Historical Society's storage and placed ornate Victorian chairs facing the post. By taking an object from the museum's storage and placing displaying it for the public, Wilson is making a statement on how traditional displays choose to excl ude displeasing aspects of the historical record (Patterson 1993). Wilson's groundbreaking work at the Maryland Historical Society received critical acclaim. He was even chosen to represent the United States in the 1992 Cairo Biennale and the 2003 Venice Biennale (Stein 1993). In an Art in America review of his work at the Maryland Historical Society, Judith E. Stein writes: Mining the Museum was seen by thousands of museum professionals within its first few weeks. Both locally and nationally, the exhibi tion elicited an overwhelming show of interest and its duration was extended through Feb. 28, 1993, for a total of 11 months. It has been the most popular show in the 150 year history of the MHS. (Stein 1993) While Wilson's work has received a great deal of praise it has also met its fair share of negative criticism, more so for his non site specific installations such as his 1995
8 Mine/Yours ( fig. 3 ) installation (Cotter 2004). In this installation he pairs an old photograph of an African American family next to a family of collectible cartoon ceramic figurines of "mammies, Uncle Toms, and watermelon eating children (Cotter 2004)." The arrangement of the figurines on the right mirrors the photograph, functioning as the three dimensional counterparts of th e family in the photograph. The two family portraits could not be anymore different, the photograph captures a proud group of related individuals whereas the figurines capture a racist and stereotypical depiction of an African American family during slaver y. The mother is depicted as an overweight woman with exaggerated lips wearing a servant's apron and bonnet. Obviously the use of these controversial and offensive figurines is risky and raises many important questions and criticisms: How important is it f or the audience to know that Wilson is of African American and Caribbean heritage in order to understand his use of black collectibles? Is it still ok for Wilson to use these racist objects even if he of African American heritage? Mark Dion's installation s are modeled on the Wunderkammers or cabinet of curiosities that existed in Europe during the sixteenth through eighteenth century. Wunderkammers were the precursors to modern day museums and included exotic collections of objects that belonged to the cat egories of natural history, geology, archeology, ethnography and religion (Putnam 2001). Freaks of nature and abnormalities were especially popular, and accordingly many natural history specimens were altered to create unique composite creatures such as me rmaids, basilisks and unicorns (Putnam 2001). Mark Dion combines taxidermic animals with books, scientific artifacts, and laboratory equipment to create fantastical and magical installations reminiscent of the pre enlightenment cabinet of curiosities (Putn am 2001). In his 2006 exhibition
9 Microcosmographia for example, Dion included a life size resin replica of a beached ichthyosaur ( fig.4 ), a giant prehistoric sea creature that was half fish and half lizard. From the split open belly of the creature spill s an assortment of objects such as paleontology books, artifacts, fossils, manuals and lab equipment that reference the confusion of palaeontological classification in the early nineteenth century (Turner 2006). Dion's work plays with the role of specialis ts from archeologists to ethnologists, from historians to art curators (Turner 2006) In a collaboration with Dana Sherwood he literally assumes the role of a naturalist by having taking his picture dressed like William Beebe the naturalist and explorer ( f ig. 5 ). He invites the audience to question their own ideas about archeology, scientific classification and knowledge of the past (Graziose 1997) Like National Geographic, Dion's work attempts to converge the two disciplines of art and science. Through t he use of early natural history display techniques, museum methodology and preserved specimens, Dion's work also reflects a concern for wider issues like ecology, conservation and the extinction of species (Graziose 1997). Formally, the artist Elliot Hund ley influenced my work. Hundley creates eclectic collages ( fig. 6 ) made from personal photographs, drawings, magazine clippings and objects like string and fabric (Garcia 2006). Hundley's pieces are like fantastical worlds full of cryptic personal meaning and symbols that allude to classical drama and mythology through their titles (Garcia 2006). Although my work is very different from Hundley's, I was inspired by certain elements of his work. Hundley's collages are epic visual narratives filled with thous ands of clippings and fabrics delicately held in place by pins (Garcia 2006). His use of pins in collage inspired me to experiment with pins and prompted me to transition from two dimensional collages to three dimensional
10 collages( fig. 7 ). I was also inter ested in Hundley's chaotic, obsessive collection of clippings and photographs. The fantastical worlds that he creates filled with all sorts of different things are also similar to a cabinet of curiosities. For this project I decided to work in collage a m edium that is historically well suited to social critique Collage techniques date back to invention of paper in China around 200 BC (Taylor 2004). Collage was very popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods in19 th century (Taylor 2004). It was no t until the 20 th century when collage became a distinctive part of modern art. Picasso and Braques coined the term "collage" and were the first to use collage in painting (Taylor 2004). The Dadists furthered the collage techniques developed during the cubi st movement and included all sorts of different objects from everyday life like tickets, maps, wrappers and images from newspapers and ads to comment on modern life (Taylor 2004). The collages of the Dadaists, particularly Hannah Hch strongly influenced m y work Hannah Hch is best known for a group of photomontages she produced during a short span of time at the beginning of her artistic career during which time she was the only woman among a group of artists that made up the Dada circle in Berlin (Lavin 1993) The Berlin Dada group formed shortly after the conclusion of World War I as a radical anti art movement, whose goal was to undermine and revolutionize the traditional, bourgeois society that they perceived as being responsible for World War I (Lavin 1993) The Berlin Dadaists preferred the term photomontage rather than collage or photocollage to describe their work because they enjoyed the mechanical and proletarian connotation associated with the term (Lavin 1993) Photomontage is also associated wi th the German word montieren, meaning "to assemble" or "to fit". (Lavin
11 1993) Montage in German means fitting" or assembly line" and monteur means mechanic" or engineer (Lavin 1993) The Berlin Dadaists realized the possibilities of signification an d the subversive potential of the medium H ch's most famous work, Schnitt mit dem Kchenmesser Dada durch die letze weimar Bierbauchkulturepoche Deuschelands ( Cut with the Kitchen Knife: Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer belly Cultural Epoch of Germany) 1 919 20 (fig 8) is an astute critique of the bourgeois German culture and Weimar government and traditional gender roles (Lavin 1993) Hch offers an entire social landscape of the Weimar Republic including every important political, military, and cultural figure of the time (Lavin 1993) Hch and her fellow Dadaists were critical of technology and felt it was inhumane Hch includes several images of machine parts, particularly circle motifs such as gears, gauges, or automobile tires, which are common symb ols of progress and modernity She lifted her images from the popular mass media, which glamorized new technology and encouraged the commodification of domestic life (Lavin 1993) The image of women in this photomontage is important, they are the protagoni sts in the Weimar Republic The women that dance throughout the piece seem to be celebrating their new political liberation and can be read as physical freedom The women are represented positively and associated with Dada and the New (Lavin 1993) Hannah H ch's use of photomontage to critique the Weimar Republic influenced me to use collage as a medium for social critique.
12 My Work Two Dimensional Collages The series of two dimensional collages were the first pieces I created for my thesis. Even though they differ greatly from the later work, I decided to include them in my exhibition to show the evolution of my project. When I began this project I did not have a clear concept; I knew that I was interested in the idea of cataloging and collecting, so I s tarted out by trying to create my own collection from the photographs of old National Geographic magazines. At this point I was not really sure why I using these particular magazines as my main source material, or how using them contributed to the meaning of the collages. I came up with broad categories such as people, vegetation, clouds, mountains, etc., and created a series of collages for each category. All of the pieces have a blank white background reminiscent of the sterile backgrounds of bug, coin or stamp collections. I also felt that the compositions of some of the pieces were already so complicated and busy that they needed a blank white background to balance them. I was not sure if I wanted them to have a clean, orderly scientific aesthetic or i f I wanted them to look as if they are part of a messy, obsessive, eccentric collection. As a result, some of the collages particularly those of vegetation ( fig. 9 ) have more cluttered compositions, while others ( fig. 10 ) exhibit neater compositions. T he more complicated pieces, such as the vegetation collages, are composed of a multitude of abstract shapes Instead of cutting along the edges of an image of a tree, for example, I cut out shapes from inside the image of the tree. I did this with many dif ferent types of vegetation and then arranged them in various compositions. As I experimented with cutting out different abstract shapes I
13 treated each little shape as a specimen, I continued working with this idea in the three dimensional collages. Three Dimensional Collage Elliot Hundley's work and an interest in entomology inspired me to pin my collages like insects. Using T pins and satin pins I pinned the magazine clippings to white archival foamboard, making the clippings look like scientific specime ns. For this series of pieces I expanded on the two dimensional collages and worked towards a cleaner and more scientific aesthetic. With these three dimensional collages I mimicked what is in fact the subjective role of a naturalist or a museum, collectin g everything that I personally wanted from National Geographic In this way the three dimensional collages speak to the power of museum curators and National Geographic editors in choosing which objects, photographs, and information to display. Within the three dimensional collages, two types of cutting are evident. Sometimes I cut out an entire figure or object ( fig. 11 ), and sometimes I cut out parts of images to create abstract shapes ( fig. 12 ). The people and animals are cut out whole, following their outline, but the landscapes are made up of abstracted shapes cut from the photographs of hills, trees, or ocean. The way I chose to represent all of the landscapes through simplified shapes is meant to parallel the power museum curators and national geogra phic magazine editors have to depict a culture, an event or place a certain way. The shapes that I am choosing are entirely subjective in the same way that museums depictions are subjective. I have the power to say that these abstracted shapes depict hills mountains, waves, trees, or grass. Of course this seems like a frivolous use of power but
14 that is the point: to comment on the absurdity of the illusion of objectivity and adequate representation in these institutions. Another important issue addressed in the three dimensional pieces is the objectification of other cultures. In most natural history museums there are halls devoted to the native people of Oceania, Africa and America. These halls feature dioramas with models of South Pacific, African, and N ative American people. The museums construct ideas about which people should be viewed through glass. In the piece Civilized Man ( fig. 13 ) I attempt to draw attention to this issue by using the people who are usually on the other side of the glass. The pi ece is composed of various magazine clippings of white Westerners pinned to a white foam board. The images of the people actually came from National Geographic pictures of museum visitors, so they are literally the viewers. Compared to the usual exotic peo ples of Africa, Oceania, and South America that are represented in museums these people look strange. We are not used to seeing ourselves behind the glass. Civilized Man is presented next to another piece that is also made up of people pinned to the foam b oard; however, the people in this collage are from the cultures that museums usually depict in their exhibits. The placement of the two pieces next to each other is intended to make the viewer think about several things, such as: Why are people from only c ertain cultures in museums? Why are people even depicted in Natural history museums? Which kinds of people "belong" in museums and why? Which people do not "belong" in museums? Originally, I planned to display these pieces by hanging them on a wall but I realized that by following typical picture hanging conventions the pieces would be predictable and ultimately less interesting. When hung traditionally the pieces would also
15 less scientific and more like regular pieces of art on a wall. But by displaying them on a table or low shelf and having the audience view them from above they not only look more scientific but are, more importantly, also more perceptually interesting. It is worth mentioning that I am cutting images from National Geographic from the 1 960s through the1980s rather than contemporary ones. The images in the older issues tend to be more obviously idealized and I also prefer the color of the older images for aesthetic reasons. Just like a painter chooses the color of his or her paints, I cho se my color palette by using older images of National Geographic Dioramas It is not about how realistic' Western images of the world are but about the imaginative spaces that non Western people occupy and the stories that organize their existence in W estern worlds (Lutz and Collins 1993). Both National Geographic and museums perpetuate the myth of The Primitive. The images of National Geographic depict indigenous people of the Americas, Africa and Asia as either noble savages who are in tune with nat ure or as dark, mysterious and spiritual tribal people, capable of human sacrifice, witchcraft or cannibalism. They present a dual image of the natives that is attractive and repellant, grotesque and beautiful. This is not surprising as both the magazine a nd museums depend on profits they receive for providing entertainment. The combination of scholarship and entertainment in National Geographic creates an interesting predicament when determining the content of the magazine The editors concerned with the s ales and subscriptions of the magazine prefer images that glorify the ritualistic aspects of primitive societies sensationalized photographs of head hunting cannibalism mutilation or tattoo
16 (Lutz and Collins 1993). The magazine presents these images as "true facts" and the images are given a scholarly veneer These sensationalized images are validated and heightened by its presentation as scientific fact The editors of National Geographic are free to construct their own particular vision of the non West ern world and they choose to create a picturesque vision of the world relatively free of famine violence poverty and conflict With the diorama pieces I wanted to re create the romanticized non Western world that National Geographic and museums construc t, and to play with these myths of The Primitive. I used the most stereotypical, sensational pictures from the magazine and created six scenes including a hunting scene and ceremonial scenes. The diorama format is meant to allude to the famous dioramas of the Museum of Natural History in New York. At first glance these dioramas seem to depict typical hunting scenes or ritual scenes, but upon further inspection they are completely inaccurate and offensive. For example, in Dignified Warrior ( fig. 14 ) there is a stereotypical indigenous native, a cheetah, a totem pole, little plastic model trees, a North American bison, abstracted shapes that make up the grass and vegetation and a man riding a horse. I decided to use cheap, plastic model trees to allude to the artificiality of the diorama. Although the diorama evokes the general feeling of a typical natural history museum diorama all of the images inside the diorama such as the totem pole, the native, and the cheetah and the cowboy come from different cultures. I chose to include elements from different cultures in one diorama to comment on how often times different cultures are lumped together as one, like all the different Native American tribes. The inaccurate dioramas are also meant
17 to draw attention to the p ower of the institution to shape the audience's perception of other cultures. My work is very different from that of other artists working with similar themes, like Fred Wilson. Obviously the tone of Wilson's work is much more serious, as he deals with ac tual museum objects and artifacts. I am playing the role of the powerful museum, trying to collect the world. I am collecting my own objects and artifacts from the pages of National Geographic magazines. I hope that this playfulness is evident in my work. Unlike the other pieces in my thesis, the dioramas contain narratives. The dioramas tell stories about otherness. Using the most popular kind of National Geographic imagery of ceremonies, rituals, magic, nature and women, the dioramas depict the savage O ther. Dignified Warrior portrays the native as a noble savage, an innocent and pure "pre civilized state of humanity that worships nature gods and whose naturalness and authenticity is set in contrast to the decadent west." (Flam 2003) In this diorama nat ure surrounds the native and he appears peaceful, suggesting that he is one with nature. The Red Cloud Ritual diorama ( fig. 15 ) presents another idea of the Other as more sinister and mysterious. The diorama revolves around a witch doctor performing a head shrinking ritual. What I find most interesting about the diorama pieces is how they were created based on romanticized imaginary ideas about the other. National Geographic has been around for over 120 years and in that time has established itself as an i mportant and reliable interpreter of third world realities. It is one of the leading sources for viewing "primitive" peoples for Western perusal.
18 It is my intention that the viewer realizes that the images pinned inside the diorama create a deliberately s tereotypical depiction of the non Western world as primitive. If the viewer does not see the problems with the diorama and believes that they are simply quaint little dioramas then their labels should make my intentions more apparent. On the pedestal wher e each diorama rests there is an identification label that explains what is happening in the diorama (For example: Sacred Mountain ; The Great Hunt ; Men of the Land; Dignified Warrior ; Red Cloud Ritual ; Sun Ceremony ) All of the labels are meant to convey t he idea of non Western cultures as spiritual, mystical, and connected with nature. The dioramas also function to critique the way museums objectify the people of certain cultures such as Native Americans. Sun Ceremony ( fig.16 ) for example was inspired by the dioramas at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History that were criticized for their insensitive depictions of Native Americans. The university's zoologist, Robert Butsch, created the dioramas without talking to any Native Americans, and ins tead used National Geographic as his main source. Through the diorama pieces I hope to provoke the viewer to question how institutions like museums and National Geographic present and display information. Additionally, I hope to encourage the viewer to qu estion how we perceive other cultures. Faux Scientific Classification Drawings Illustrated charts or drawings are a critical part of museum exhibitions. Accordingly I wanted to include my own illustrated charts. These drawings mimic the format of classi fication drawings in which rows of different species are identified and
19 classified. There are five classification drawings: of trees, leaves, animals, primitive tools, and people. Underneath each drawing there is a label that explains what each drawing is. The title of the drawings drastically changes their meaning. For example, the drawing of the animals is titles Spirit Animals (fig.17) The titles of the drawings, like the titles of the dioramas, are meant to play with the perception many Westerners have of other cultures as magical, exotic, and mystical. The classification drawings work in similar ways as the dioramas in that both create narratives about the Other. The images I chose to draw were the most sensational, striking and exotic. For example, with the animal drawings I choose wild animals: a bear, a tiger, and a lion. The five drawings depend on each other in order to get their message across. The drawings of trees and leaves do not tell a story about other cultures on their own; it is only whe n they are placed next to fierce animals, dangerous looking weapons, and traditionally dressed "natives" that a narrative about different cultures forms. It is also important where the drawings are displayed in relation to other pieces. The drawings are f ramed and hung on a wall behind the dioramas. Because the drawings and dioramas function in the same way, I wanted them to be displayed close to one another. Shadow Boxes The shadow boxes explore many of the same ideas as the three dimensional collages. There are three boxes ( fig.18 ): the first contains people, the second animals and the third plant life. The images inside the shadow boxes are pinned against a white background. These pieces comment on the desire and power of museums to collect and
2 0 order the world. Millions of little clippings of people, animals, and plant life are erratically pinned to the white board as if the collector is trying to make sense of all of these objects. The acts of collecting presenting and displaying are significant T hey help create illusions of possession of stability and of the possibility of ordering the exotic and the foreign (Lutz and Collins 1993) In her book On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature the Gigantic the Souvenir the Collection Susan Stewart argu es that in collections, "desire is ordered arranged and manipulated not fathomless She claims that like Noah's ark, those great civic collections, the library and the museum, seek to represent experience within a mode of control and confinement. One cannot know everything about the world but one can at least approach closed knowledge through the collection. (Stewart 1984) Objects Inspired by Fred Wilson's reappropriation of objects, I wanted to change the context of an object to change its meaning. I chose to create a display that contained three cases with different objects; one that contains shark teeth, another that contains a petrified shell, and the last that contains several small shells. The shells were just ordinary shells that I found by the bay but by placing them inside a glass box they are instantly infused with importance and meaning. I found this concept very interesting. The petrified shell piece ( fig.19 ) includes a label that reads "Petrified Shell (from Kula Ring)." A Kula ring is a c eremonial exchange system conducted in Paupa New Guinea. The Petrified Shell (from Kula Ring) also reinforces the idea of the exotic other. However, it is my intention to reinforce the idea of the exotic other in order to force the viewer to think about ho w they perceive other cultures and to re evaluate their understanding of other cultures.
21 The shell is not actually from a Kula ring so the viewer is also meant to question the museum's power to present anything as fact. Museum Gift Shop Souvenirs The m useum gift shop souvenir pieces ( fig. 20 ) consist of a series of small plastic rectangular shaped containers that display various National Geographic images such as a shrunken head, a ceremonial mask, a wolf, a native, etc. The images are printed on plas tic so that they resemble the cheap plastic trinkets sold at museum shops. The plastic images also have a little hole on the top similar to the hole in charm pendants adding to their cheap, souvenir like aesthetic. National Geographic like other collec tions, can be thought of as a souvenir its images collecting the world between its covers Additionally it depends on the photograph, a technology that miniaturizes the real world Through the museum gift shop pieces I explore these ideas by taking the N ational Geographic images and making souvenirs out of them. The conversion of National Geographic images into souvenirs is a direct reference to the objectification of non Western cultures. In this commercialized and industrialized modern world, many peop le look to indigenous cultures and idealize and aestheticize their lifestyle. They believe that they are pure and authentic, untainted by the corrupt modern world. Souvenirs are objects of desire, they are objects without any real need or use value (Stewa rt 1984). Souvenirs are attached to the exotic, they are attached to locations and experiences that are not for sale (Stewart 1984). They reduce the monumental three
22 dimensional into the miniature, so that they can be enveloped or consumed by the body (Ste wart 1984). The audience will be able to consume the souvenirs as they can actually purchase them, a price tag will be included so that the audience is aware that the souvenirs are for sale. Installation of Work The presentation and display of my piece s is a major component of the work. In order to effectively comment on and raise questions about how institutions like natural history museums or National Geographic magazine shape our understandings of history, knowledge, and the natural world I wanted t o re create the museum environment. This involves paying special attention to the way objects are displayed, the lighting and the wall text and labels. There are several different types of museums that each have their own distinct modes of presentation. A rt museums tend to be sleek and modern with white or black frames and pedestals while ethnographic museums, history museums, and natural history museums are less sterile and include more natural accessories. In trying to re create a natural history museum, I chose to use black frames and wooden looking shelves and pedestals. The pedestals are white gallery pedestals covered with fake wood grain contact paper, giving them an intentionally artificial feel in order to comment on the artificiality of natural hi story museums. The objects in natural history museums are placed under glass display cases or vitrines. In order to "museumize" my objects I am displaying them under plexi glass displays that I built. The three dimensional collage pieces are presented
23 on custom shelves, the dioramas rest on pedestals and the drawings and early two dimensional collages are hung on the walls. In order to fully re create a natural history museum, I will also be including a guide map that I designed ( fig. 22) which provides t he viewer with a floor plan of the "museum" and explains where the different exhibits are located. Even though the labels are small and they play a major role. The information on the label helps to direct the viewer to interpret the piece as I intend. Wit hout the labels, the meaning of the work might not be quite so obvious. Consider for example the difference the label makes in Healing Ritualistic Plants (fig. 23) : without the label the drawing would just be leaves, whereas with the label the leaves are t ransformed into magical plants that are used for mystical, spiritual and healing rituals. The title of the exhibition Into the Primitive actually comes from the first chapter of the Jack London novel The Call of the Wild The novel deals with a civilized m an getting in touch with his animal instincts, and is often criticized today for its racist views on other cultures. Referencing this novel is also meant to address the commercial and entertainment aspect of museums and National Geographic. The title comes from a fiction novel, a form of entertainment. Conclusion I hope that my work provokes the viewer to think about the ways institutions like natural history museums and the National Geographic Society shape our understanding of history and the natural wo rld but perhaps more critically the way we think about other cultures. However, my thesis is not simply a critique on the shortcomings of museums
24 and publications like National Geographic in their attempts to provide the objective, unbiased information the y pretend to. My focus on these institutions originated from my fascination with them I enjoy going to museums and I like looking at National Geographic and will surely continue to do so despite the issues that I've pointed out. Even though these kinds of institutions are far from perfect and sometimes offensively and damagingly so they do help to instill in their audiences a sense of wonder and curiosity in the world. Perhaps the real problem is that they purport to be objective reporters, when they might communicate more effectively if they were to acknowledge their own biases and the biases of their audiences in their presentation of information. I should also mention that National Geographic has evolved considerably since the 50s and 60s and star ting in the 70s began to push for more controversial issues, depicting tension and conflict. This being said, the issues presented in my work are still relevant because these institutions continue to occupy this peculiar and problematic space at the inters ection of entertainment and science and will continue to face these problems until they make some kind of changes like acknowledging their subjectivity.
25 Bibliography Blom, Philipp. To Have and To Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collec ting New York, NY: Overlook Press, 2003 Cotter, Holland. Pumping Air into the Museum, So It's as Big as the World Outside The New York Times 30 April 2004, New York ed.: E. Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature and Art Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press Flam, Jack Primitivism and 20 th Century Art: A Documentary History. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2003. Garcia, Kathryn. Fragile Pleasures Artnet Magazine 18 August 2006 http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/reviews/garcia/garcia8 18 06.asp Graziose Corrin, Lisa et al. Mark Dion: Contemporary Artist London: Phaidon Press, 1997. Lavin, Maud. Cut with the Kitchen Knife: the Weimar Photomontages. New Haven and London: Yal e University Press, 1993. Lutz, Catherine A. and Jane L Collins, Reading National Geographic Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. Patterson, Sims. The Museum: Mixed Metaphors Fred Wilson Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1993. Putnam, James. Art and Artifact: The Museum as Medium New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 2001. Rubin, William. Primitivism in the 20 th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art, 1984. Stein, Judith E. Sins o f Omission Installation Art by Fred Wilson, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore Maryland Art in America (October 1993): p.110 114 Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection Baltimore and L ondon: John Hopkins University Press, 1984. Taylor, Brandon. Collage: The Making of Modern Art London: Thames and Hudson, 2004. Turner, William. Mark Dion: Microcosmographia: South London Gallery Modern Painters (Dec 2005/Jan 2006): p.126.
26 Plates fig.1. Fred Wilson, Metal Work 1792 1880 1992, Detail from Mining the Museum Installation at the Maryland Historical Society, MD. fig.2 Fred Wilson Cabinetmaking 1820 1960. 1992 Detail from Mining the Museum Installation a t the Maryland Historical Society, MD.
27 fig.3 Fred Wilson, Mine/Yours 1995 Whitney Museum. fig 4. Mark Dion Ichthyosaurus, 2003, South London Gallery.
28 fig.5 Mark Dion in collaboration with Dana Sherwood, Portrait of Mark Dion after William Beebe, courtesy of the artists fig.6 Elliot Hundley, Hyacinth (detail) 2006, corkboard, paper, photographs, plastic, fabric, pins, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, charcoal pastel, string, ceramic, sh ells. 244 x 216 x 38.1cm, Saatchi Gallery, London
29 fig.7. Elliot Hundley, Hyacinth (detail) 2006, corkboard, paper, photographs, plastic, fabric, pins, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, charcoal pastel, string, ceramic, shells. 244 x 2 16 x 38.1cm, Saatchi Gallery, London fig.8. Hannah Hch, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany 191 9, collage of pasted papers, 90 x 144 cm, Staatliche Museum, Berlin.
30 fig.9. Alejandra Ferreyros, Flora 2008, Collage, 3"x5." fig.10. Alejandra Ferreyros, Civilized Man 2008, C ollage 4"x6."
31 fig.11. Alejandra Ferreyros Jungle Scene 2008, Mixed Media Collage,10"x13." fig.12. Alejandra Ferreyros The Plains (detai l) 2008, Mixed Media Collage 10"x11
32 fig.13. Alejandra Ferreyros, Civilized Man 2008 Mixed Media, 9"x19."
33 fig.14. Alejandra Ferreyros Dignified Warrior, 2009 Mixed Media, 8"x 10"x8 fig.15 Alejandra Ferreyros, Red Cloud Ritual, 2009 Mixed Media, 8"x 10"x8
34 fig.16. Alejandra Ferreyros Sun Ceremony, 2009 Mixed Media, 8"x 10"x8
35 fig.17. Alejandra Ferreyros, Spirit Animals 2009, 18"x24,"pencil on paper
36 fig.18. Alejandra Ferreyros Flora, Fauna and Civilized People 2009, mixed media collage, each 4"x6." fig.19. Alejandra Ferreyros Petrified Shell (from Kula Ring), 2009, shell, 4"x7.5."
37 fig.20. Alejandra Ferreyros Souvenirs, 2009 Mixed Media, each 1"x1"x2.5." fig.21. Alejandra Ferreyr os Installation View of Into the Primitive 2009
38 fig.22. Alejandra Ferreyros Museum Floor Plan Map 2009, Inkjet Print on Paper, 8.5"x11 ." fig.23. Alejandra Ferreyros Healing and Ritualistic Leaves, 2009, 18"x24," pencil on paper