Tuesday, October 9, 2012

class outing

Half way through the semester ... so we had some fun.  Half the class was spent talking about some texts to do with museums and galleries, their organization and ideologies, their traditions and innovations - and then we trotted off the USC campus, and across the Expo line light rail tracks, and past the rose garden, and into the Natural History Museum, full of dinosaurs.  My thanks to Ashley and Doug, the staff members who were intrigued to have a whole class of 10 graduates arrive who were thinking about classification and display, and who gave us lots of time and talked about their dinosaur pets (they all have names, even if they are ancient bones).  And the big ones are huge, and the small ones - well, as small as hummingbirds.

But I confess, I have a real weakness for stuffed animals (some date back to the 1930s: the more recent ones come from population culling - coyote pups, for example - or from sad zoo fatalities).  The dioramas occupy this strange hinterland between true and false: posed, most of them with an anthropomorphic love of the perfect family.  Right away, they made me think of Sugimoto's diorama photos taken in the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, between 1975-99 (though his images are all in black and white), which similarly collapse the distinction between the real and the imitation (and, thus, reflect neatly on the role of type, and specimen, and photography itself.)

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