Exercise 4

Earth as Museum

This exercise is going to drill down into one specific kind of artifact, one near and dear to my heart. The Museum Label. Or, The Wall Text. Or, The Wall-mounted Informational Placard that accompanies a work of visual art in a museum or gallery. Based on no data except my own experience,  this is 100% the best artifact there is. Even when it’s done well, this actual Museum Label is often esoteric and rarified, making it such a fun thing to ape. When it’s done poorly, say at a community art show where no copy-writer even got a crack at the artist-written description before it was installed, it is often hilarious. Anyway, my partner and I have dedicated a lot of time writing in the form of what we usually refer to as “The Museum Placard.”

Take a look at this project we did called “The Hidden Museum,” where we spent a day exploring the Susquehanna Museum of Art and wrote dozens of fictional museum placards for non-works of art in the museum. Our placards supposed that these non-art objects (windows, air vents, dents in the ground, pieces of tape left stuck to the ceiling) were actually works by various artists. We named these non-existent (or are they?) works, devised a unique artist character for each, and wrote a short description of how the art came to be or what it meant. Then, the museum was kind enough to let us install these as part of a conceptual art exhibit in the summer of 2018.

I want you to write 2-3 museum placards / artwork labels for non-existent works in your neighborhood (or, in your home, if you prefer not to go out). One proven strategy is to identify overlooked things, to point the viewer’s attention to something they never knew they were seeing every day. Or, make a label for something everyone in the neighborhood knows well, but twist the history of its creation or the depth of its meaning into something new and strange.

Now, I would be completely tickled if you actually found a way to install your placard (hard artifact), but sharing with us the text itself (standard artifact) works fine. You can also post an accompanying picture if you like. Lastly, if this whole “Earth as Museum” concept puts you in the mind to make some other kind of artifact related to the idea of museums or art, go for it!

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