You can only imagine my anticipation while waiting for the gallery opening of a show titled "The Hunt". Sara, Maija and I have blogged about the process since 2009.
During the artist's visits to the Archives, reactions were mixed on their first encounter with their artifacts. Usually a picture is worth a thousand words. This is true, but a photo of a WWII field kit used by German soldiers in brutal combat cannot ever compare with holding the kit, feeling it's heft, seeing the precision steel of scalpel and saw glint in the dim lighting of the reading room imagining where it had been, how it had been used. Repulsion is not too strong of word here. Or what of the heart valves... some having been used to test their worth in pig or dog. And not to be minimized... the electric shock apparatus used to calm the frazzeled minds and bodies of nervous housewives. And what shall an artist create from a set of bookplates designed and used by a brilliant, angry, yet compassionate neurosurgeon who may have committed suicide? And a lead enema syringe? Need I say more?
The artists looked to me, puzzled faces, wanting to know more to help them understand what it might have been like to be a willing or perhaps unwilling subject of medical practice through time.
I didn't know what to expect from the recontextulization. My work in the Archives is not to recreate but to understand the reality. To know hat it is, how it was used, who used it, when was it used, "Just the facts Ma'am", is my job.
I was dazzled by what the artists had created and surprised by how they had internalized their encounters with their pieces. The works reflected their own or other's experience with illness and dis-ability. Some were intense, and startling. Some were laugh-out-loud hilarious, while others were puzzling and thought provoking.
I couldn't have been more impressed. It was nice to see the artists again. It was enlightening to read their artist's statements. This was a group of truly honest and talented artists.
Can I just say thanks to Beth Robinson, curator of the show, for pulling these people together and for organizing the entire project and for creating that incredible book. It was a whole lot of fun for us in the archives and welcome more of the same.
Please go see the show. It will be in the Hoffman Gallery until July 27. You really shouldn't miss it.
Thanks to Maija for the photos posted here.