Here’s how it worked: six visual artists from L.A. were invited to work with curators to make selections from the collections and create installations from them.
Abstract artist Ed Moses, for instance, takes totems from Africa and Papua, New Guinea and displays them, according to the curator, "exactly as we house them in our collection storage facilities." Moses refers to his exhibition as "Bound and Gagged" and strives to personify these objects by comparing them to prisoners held against their will in the bowels of the museum. He writes, "Totem-like creatures strapped, gagged and bound / Discovered in the bowels of the museum; / Stored, held prisoner-captive out of sight-eye."
I was impressed that the museum allowed him to do what he did, as it makes me compare the NHM to the Iraqi prison complex Abu Ghraib. It also makes me sick to think of the fate of artists’ creations – are they really destined to be imprisoned in storehouses? Artistic creations are meant to be seen. It’s a haunting testament to a potential artist’s fate.
This idea is not lost on W. Warner Wood, Curator of Anthropology. "It causes me to reflect, with some ambivalence, on how museums take objects out of circulation, restrain them in collection storage, and effectively end their traveling biographies as cultural objects."
However, it effectively begins a conversation.
The Natural History Museum is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., in Los Angeles. Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call (213) 763-3466 or visit the Museum’s web site at www.nhm.org. Price: $9 for adults, $2 for children ages 5-12, $6.50 for students, children under 5 are free. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounted rates by calling (213) 763-3218.