Format: video with audio
Running time: approx. 7 min 31 sec.
Summary: Recently Kim's been obsessing over museums, her new "hobby." Here she reads from her latest report. Mildly unpleasant Dead Pinky Story also included (download the free poster!).
[ Photo of Mimi & Kim in front of the Natural History Museum, London, England. Caption: In the fall of 2007, Mimi took Kim on a tour of museums in North America and Europe. Now Kim is very interested in museums. ]
Pinky: And here is Kim to read an excerpt from her most recent report, The Creation of Value: meditations on the logic of museums and other coercive institutions. Okay, go ahead Kim.
Kim: "What is a museum?" A museum is basically a large box with many objects in it. The box should be sturdy so that it can protect the stuff inside from rain, excessive fluctuations of temperature and humidity, and also harmful insects. The box functions like a reverse time machine: instead of moving you to other moments in time, it simulates time travel by bringing other historical moments to you. This is accomplished by time freezing - in other words, to treat each object in "The Collection" like it's frozen in time. Nothing is allowed to get old and fall apart, which of course is impossible and goes against the laws of nature, but museum people fight Nature every day with the latest technology in order to slow the effects of time as much as possible.
Pinky: That's good.
Kim: What kind of objects can you put in a museum? They can be paintings, mummies, or even whole buildings. Basically any culturally or historically important object, although there is much debate about if the object really has to be important or not, or if when you put the object in the museum that's when it becomes important. For example, why is this painting in a museum? Don't you think it's ugly? Who decided this is important enough to put in a museum? Chances are, the museum people who decide what gets to be put in a museum probably don't have anything in common with you...
[ jump cut ]
Kim: ...Museum people need lots of training so they can tell the difference between what's important and what's not important. They go to college to get trained how to think properly so that they can learn to recognize what has "Value". The valuable things will get into the museum where the public will be allowed to worship it. Sometimes museum fashion changes and something that was once worshipped will get kicked out, that happens. But that's okay because something else always replaces it so who cares.
Ideally the museum building will look like some kind of temple, to help make the urge to object-worship stronger. Or the building can look like a modern office building, which is actually only a different kind of temple. Inside, the objects are usually lined up against blank walls. Blank walls are good so that the visitors won't have to deal with so much "context" or "history". Then you put a small label next to the object in order to "Guide the Visitor's Experience" towards whatever you want their experience to be. Make sure the lettering on the labels is very tidy and sharp, and also only use language that sounds academic, otherwise the authority-effect won't be so convincing. That's the formula: blank walls + nice tidy labels + maybe even shining a light on the object = guaranteed to make any object look extremely important.
[ jump cut ]
So who runs these elite museums? Well, museums are like factories where certain values are manufactured and then distributed to society. If you want to see who's making the decisions maybe you can request to meet the "Board of Trustees". [stops reading]
Actually, at first I thought there must be some kind of law against having poor people on a museum's board of trustees, but then later I found out that actually there isn't any law like this, this is just they way they like to do it. Anyway... [reading] the board of trustees are the ones that tell "The Community" what is worth remembering and thinking about, and therefore, also what is worth forgetting and not worth thinking about. This is a big responsibility so they are very careful about what kind of people they hire to work for them, otherwise if the museum starts sending out the wrong kind of perspectives, this can lead to mayhem! For certain people. This is why if you want to work at a museum you must be educated in the school system for a long time, unless you just want to work as a security guard or help load boxes, in which case you don't need hardly any school at all, you just can't have a criminal record.
[ stops reading ]
At the end of the report - Appendix A - I also included a fictional story that kind of shows how all this works - you know, like, by the time you see a certain display in a museum gallery or something.... In my story, Pinky dies, and then somebody who works at a museum says, "Hey let's put that cat in our museum." (for whatever reason) So... a taxidermist takes Pinky apart and puts her back together again, the right way, so that her body won't just, you know, decompose. So they do that and when they're done, you know how stuffed animals always have that not-very-life-like expression on their face? Well, they look like "rrrrgh!" [laughs] So anyways... And it's like that because no matter how hard the museum people try to copy reality it's never going to come out right. But then all the museum visitors say "Oooh look, this is the actual Pinky; this is very educational" and so on. Anyway I guess you have to read the whole report, that's just a summary.
Pinky: How come I get stuffed by a taxidermist in your story?
Kim: I don't know - it's funny, right?
music: Erik Satie, Gymnopedie 1 (stock music). RFCM Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Keith J. Salmon.
poster: drawn by Pinky, concept by Kim
[ image credits ]