The Everchanging Museum

I started my internship at the Satellite Gallery just a week after Peter Morin’s Museum took up residence in the gallery space. I saw the show change, performance after performance, evolving even after the closing ceremony this past Wednesday, June 29th.

The initial set-up, which was in the space from April 20th until April 29th, was one that resembled a traditional museum, with cases full of Tahltan artifacts lining the walls and reading material available (with a desk and chair, no less). The space felt full and inviting, yet posed more questions than it answered, leaving spectators with the sense that there was something missing.

This feeling soon passed with the first set of changes to the space, which brought with them a tea party and performance by the artist. Peter created labels that went with the objects in the museum, further acknowledging his curatorial role – the labels provided context in the way that traditional museum labels do, but differed from classical labels due to the writing’s emotional imagery. These labels illuminated visitors as to Peter’s history and gave insight into his curatorial choices, and the poetic language served as a connection between spectator and artist, artist and object.

Peter prepared for the tea party by placing teacups (artifacts from the museum) underneath the projection of a knife sheath, filling the cups with Tahltan knowledge. Peter put feathers in the space, some hanging from the ceiling and some intertwined with objects, and further unveiled knowledge by unwrapping certain photographs from the wall of portraits, an act that would continue until the second performance. During the tea party Peter spoke about Tahltan culture, putting on the role of teacher to a group of people eager to learn. He wrote the history of the Tahltan people on the blackboard, but before it had time to settle and become engrained in the memory of those coming into the space, Peter roughly erased it, showing once more that gaining Tahltan knowledge was not a task to take on lightly – Tahltan knowledge came with time and persistence.

After the performance was over, the evolution of the space continued. Each day, we put up one printed fish and unveiled one portrait, letting the fabric that had once wrapped it fall to the floor, leaving an imprint of what was once hidden.

The second performance, on May 29th, was also a book launch for the catalogue of the show, and included a lecture by Peter’s mother. It was fitting that the catalogue, which depended so much on stories – How Crow Got the Sun, Moon, Daylight and Peter’s notes in particular – was handed out to visitors during a performance that dealt primarily with family history and storytelling. It created a juxtaposition between written and oral history; one was preserved in the way that exhibition and museum catalogues are – with notes and citations – while one was ephemeral, preserved in our memories but gone after the moment passed.

After the second performance, the sense of fullness that was provided from the objects dwindled; the cedar table, once prominent in the space, now leaned against the wall, and the photographs covered a blanket on the floor.

A flood of the printed fishes began to take over the space, creating connections between the objects and flowing over and around them, representing the Tahltan River. These fish filled in the gaps where objects had once been, and made the space feel full again.

The final performance, which took place this past Wednesday June 29th, was one that involved a complete intervention of the museum space. Peter removed the glass lids from the cases and left them open, the smell of hide filling the room. He put up an even larger tent, placing the original button blanket one within it before cutting it down. The tent that remained was completely transparent. The sound of Tahltan language tapes surrounded visitors, mixing with the music provided by DJ Darwin Frost. The space was overwhelmingly full as Peter’s cousin washed the blackboard, letting viewers learn about Tahltan culture by witnessing it in action, as opposed to reading about it.

The next day, as we went about cleaning the space, we felt a profound sense of loss as Peter put away most of what had been previously displayed in the museum. He darkened the gallery, flashed a light on a tin cube, and proceeded to walk slowly around the room, shedding light on Tahltan culture. It was a performance for the gallery employees, those of us who had seen the space change – sometimes drastically and sometimes minutely – over the past two and a half months.

It is rare to have an exhibition that is so ever changing, one that feels different, new, and illuminating each time you see it, and we will be very sad to see it go.

-By Marcela Huerta

Peter Morin’s Museum will be displayed until July 3rd.


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