Spaces gallery rewrites history with a fake museum that corrects injustices.
History museums stand as the dogmatic authority in shaping how we view the past. To play with that control, Spaces gallery has created the People's Museum of Revisionist Natural Itstory, a collection of exhibits that make a faux museum. On display through Jan. 15, it features seven departments that cheekily confront issues regarding science, racism and sexism in the dominant historic narrative. "I was interested in how our pillars of culture gave information to the public," says curator Christina Vassallo, "and how easily we are willing to accept that when you see something in a museum, it is correct."
To help you decipher the rewritten history, we offer a glossary on the unorthodox display.
Aestheticized Science Ambiguity
Art that suspends time and belief to create landscapes that make sense visually but not scientifically. How It's Used:In Life Through the Ages (Bellona), Jacob Feige mixes animals from different eras and text from actual museums in works that parody how science, art and assumption work together in displays to depict prehistoric worlds. "Museums take scientific data and convince you that ... speculative things were fact," says Feige.
The process of genetically modifying dogs to symbolize wealth and power. How It's Used: Artist Lauren Davies compiles real fur to form show-ready pooches that are displayed like trophies among brushed-aside mixed-breed models in Selections from the Museum of Canine Eugenics.
A place that reclaims the work of female astronomers, mathematicians and scientists whose ideas were overlooked or stolen by men. How It's Used: The Venus Vault exhibit re-examines the work of nearly 15 female astronomers, astronauts and physicists through an immersive experience that includes a womblike feminist planetarium equipped with a phallic telescope symbolizing male dominance in research and innovation.
The act of a stripping a location of its identity. How It's Used: In Earthlab: The Lost Postcards of Generica, Jon Gitelson collects a series of early 20th-century postcards from American small towns that bear identical formats and landscape images. "I was interested in the idea of, How do you decide to use the right image that could be anywhere but also nowhere?" says Gitelson.
An assertion based on social norms and anecdotal evidence, rather than scientific proof. How It's Used: Amber J. Anderson, Marc Lefkowitz and Corrie Slawson develop a series of notebooks and scientific field guides in A Speculative Future that poke fun at our habit to trust mainstream thinking on issues, such as climate change and genetically modified organisms, rather than research it ourselves. "So many reasonable people still don't believe in science," says Slawson.