Exhibit Opening: An Introduction to The Power of Labeling

As you might have picked up by now, the Incluseum rethinks how institutional cultural spaces operate. Wanting to expand beyond the blog and experiment with a traditional museum function, we asked: What would a digital exhibition look like and what would its process be if inclusion is THE central and driving value? This question led us on a multi-month journey during which we collaborated with an amazing group of community advisors, bold non-profit organizations, and talented working artists, art students, and other creatives. The result is an exhibit, The Power of Labeling, that celebrates creativity, highlights the multifarious ways in which labels and labeling pervade our human experience, and pushes us to rethink the often artificial spatial segregation of art along the lines of dominant classification schemes such as aesthetics, style, medium, scale, identity, etc. Below, we will provide you with a brief recap of our process and introduce the exhibition with a little more depth. In our next post, we will share some of the concrete things we’ve learned from our experience.

The Power of Labeling exhibit landing page. To visit the exhibit click the image.

The Power of Labeling exhibit landing page. To visit the exhibit click the image.

Ground Work

Our Call For Entries stated:

Museums are known for labeling.  How does that impact our experience of objects and art?  What happens when we label people? How have people labeled you and how do you label yourself?

We selected labeling as a theme because it evokes associations twofold: labeling as a museum function (symbolizing the presence of the curatorial voice) and labeling as social practice that can often ascribe value or serve to marginalize. We were interested in the varied work we might receive that would reflect the perspective of artists who have unique relationships to being labeled or the act of labeling.

With this theme in hand, we sought to bring together a group of community advisors that could help guide next steps. The final group of exhibit committee members was comprised of working artists, museum workers, cultural workers, and students that were approached due to their commitment to inclusion and/or social justice in arts and cultural realms.

The Call for Entries was published online, physically distributed to local organizations, and put up across the city on community boards. We were very intentional about where these went up, attempting to cover as many neighborhoods and types of community spaces as possible. Since the exhibition is online, we made ourselves available to help digitize contributors’ artwork. Several people and an organization took us up on our proposal.

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Meeting of the exhibit committee to review submissions and set the course for developing the exhibit.

During our initial committee meeting the committee members’ varied perspectives unearthed important questions about the exhibit process and what inclusion should mean in the context of an Incluseum exhibit. If inclusion is indeed the central value of the Incluseum, how might our exhibit function differently relative to other museums?  Some of the key questions we discussed as a group included:

  • What pieces should be included?  Should some pieces not be included? If so, what is our rationale for making this decision?
  • Should the exhibition space be delineated and organized in some way? Why? And if there were spatial separations what would that signal? Would something important be lost in this divisive act?
  • What is art and who gets to create it? What values and assumptions construct what we believe art to be? How does this impact how we talk about it and present it in a public space?

As a result of these discussions, we became more conscious of the values and ideas with which to align The Power of Labeling and how it should be presented.

The Exhibition

The exhibit can be regarded as an intentional, cohesive whole composed of many single parts; a constellation. As such, each piece in The Power of Labeling is unique, capturing an individual’s creativity and creative intention, while together, the pieces reflect a broad scope of creative expression not often seen in the same space or context.

Each piece in the exhibit is accompanied by some text or description volunteered by the artist. This text is at times very short or lengthier; the artists had free reign over their self-disclosure. Beyond the broad framework of being part of a group exhibition on labeling hosted on Tumblr, the artists’ voices provide the main context given to their work.

In this exhibition space, each piece was assigned without regard for any particular classification scheme. This was done to avoid imposing our aesthetic and intellectual biases on the viewer, thus intending to destabilize more traditional ways of viewing  art. This method of display invites those who are experiencing it to make their own connections outside of pre-established systems. Additionally, we believe that ignoring traditional classification schemes provides a more personal way of experiencing  the many ways in which labels and labeling pervade our human experience.

Our intention is to leave as much of the art’s interpretation up to the viewers. We anticipate that the understanding of the artwork will expand through viewer’s documented interactions with each piece (e.g., through the use of the “like”, commenting, and sharing options). Throughout the duration of the exhibit, we will provide other opportunities to get closer to the art via artist interviews, committee members’ perspectives, and asking questions directly to the viewers about their experience or their own take on the theme of labeling.

Stay tuned!

Rose Paquet Kinsley and Aletheia Wittman co-coordinate The Incluseum.  You can read more about them here. You can always contact them at incluseum@gmail.com

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3 comments

  1. […] can learn more about The Power of Labeling here and view it on our […]

  2. […] used the reality of the power embedded in words for its digital exhibition last year called The Power of Labeling check it […]

  3. […] written, and talked extensively of the power of words. For example, our first digital exhibition, The Power of Labeling, used the power of words as its premise. Working through the medium of the blog, however, we became […]

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