Monday, November 22, 2010

Looking Deeply in the Art Museum

By Maria Mortati

A few weeks ago, I again participated in an Enormous Microscopic Evening, this year at the Hammer Museum. It's an event created by the artist-run Critter Salon, and was supported by the Machine Project residency at the Hammer.

I ran the DIY Scope table, letting folks play and helping them assemble a variety of viewers from found objects. The audience was delighted that the Hammer was supporting this event, and I had countless folks asking me if they would "do this again".

Young participant chooses her lenses.
I've written a few times about the idea that artists make great public programmers. They are experts at exploring ideas and figuring out how to involve others.  The goal at this event was to "celebrate and demonstrate the range of equipment people are using to explore the invisible". Phil Ross, the force behind Critter, described the event as a "large microscope jam session".

The fact that this event was held at an art museum was a nice foil for Critter's objectives:

"CRITTER presents cultural events that focus on the way science is practiced in everyday life, taking form as talks, classes, demonstrations and workshops."
It underscored that point and caught an audience who typically comes to "look" in an art museum by surprise. Visitors were exposed to a variety of ways of looking and navigating in the barely visible, and often academic world.

It was a fantastic success. I had kids and adults coming back for more after making a loop around the room. The layout of which was arranged with the the DIY table in the center, with the full regalia of microscopists forming the edges. 

Feel free to visit the Flickr set by Machine Project here. Photo courtesy of Machine Project/Marianne Williams, poster by Critter Salon.

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