On Consensus

On the heels of reading Serrell, our class was introduced to an exhibit that did not spring from the same framework. Rather than defining a simple, digestible theme and working from there, this exhibit works as a cabinet of curiosities in order to make a set of artifacts associated with a group of people accessible to the public. The signage will be split between imagining internal thoughts of the artifacts’ users and providing context.

I was initially very skeptical. Having just read a clearly-written treatise/guide-book on signage, I wanted to jump into using the techniques and strategies of that book. Yet if, as Freeman Tilden put it, “the chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation,” this exhibit may be wildly successful. First-person emotions, wherever they come from, are always more provocative than dry context, right? Defined as the exhibit is by a specificity of setting and characters, perhaps this approach best fits the scope of the project.

I am assigned to contribute to this exhibit, about which I had initial reservations. My curatorial concept is not that of the curator, but it is his job, not mine. Even if we were equals, we would still have to mediate curatorial visions. We’re about to confront the difficult process of consensus building in class as we determine a direction for our class project. Thirteen ideas (at least!) enter, one survives. We’ve already seen ways in which various ideas might combine to form a Frankensteinian super-exhibit, that may be the best way forward. Or maybe we’ll all come to the table with Serrell on our minds and depart with a simple, clear, and, most importantly, workable, concept. Perhaps a very small one.

I’m sure not every part of the conversations to come will be fun but we’ll come out of them with something out there on the horizon to aim for. And we’ll have exercised our consensus muscles, the ones we didn’t know we had.

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