"The Museum or the Object as Portal"


The blue post-it note reads: "The museum or the object as portal".

Here we go:

The museum is homely in that it has doors and windows, but I would like to suggest that the similarities stop there. The points of entry and exit serve to remind us that he museum is a transient space, for the curators, staff and public (even for the objects on display 'permanent' collections are 'temporary' - as the 'Disposal' talks concerning the future of several of UCL's collections, starting Monday 19th, will demonstrate). Within the museum, we move to observe, looking with our whole bodies. But it might be more proper to say that the objects move us, compelling us to draw near. And in response, perhaps even the most still and silent objects are themselves moving, as the physics reminds us - the object in an event slowed down. Dr. Simon Jones (an performance maker and academic working in performance studies whom I quoted in another post on Conversational Practices in Knowledge Conservation) wrote: "objects, even those of study, do not really exist, what we call things being relatively slower events than what we call events, hence empiric reality is an illusion, hence also the objects called into being by its measurements and standards, hence the overarching operation of commodification", (Jones, 2003). Therefore, the object is an object in name only, tending, more like us, perhaps, towards an articulation of time.

An opening in a wall - (doors and so on to enter and leave by - according to certain restrictions) - OKAY - but elsewhere (in fiction, particularly Science fiction): the portal connects (impossible or improbable) locations across distances. Theretofore: the object concerns not only time but space as well, explicitly.

Some Portals, since 1950:

1: The Wardrobe in the 'Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' [Lewis, 1950];

2: The teenage High School student Rod Walker's 'Ramsbotham Jump' in [Heinlein, 1955]

3: Mr. Benn's Magic Door at the back pf the costume shop [McKee, 1971-72)

4: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Portable Portal Generator [1987-1996 CBS KIDS)

5: Dr. Sam Beckett's contrast-high doorway in the TV series Quantum Leap (1989-93)

6: The door to the inside of John Malkovich's head [Kaufmann & Jonze, 1999]

7. The Cinema screen that cuts from The Evil Dead to Motivational Speaker / Sex Offender Jim Cunningham's house, in 'Donnie Darko' [Kelly, 2001];

There are others (but after due consideration we - the Object Retrieval research team - nominated these as our personal favourites). It might be pertinent to note that on some instances the portal delivers the traveller to a specific destination (Lewis's Narnia, for example) and in others the portal leads to who-knows-where (as in Beckett's Quantum Leaps).

>> I address the post-it ("The museum or the object as portal") with profound skepticism >> In the museum I can see aged objects (but rarely touch them, perspex and glass be damned) >> The object itself, though, does connect disparate places that we could call Epochs, invoking chronology and periodization the slippages of contested, appropriated time >> The FIRST EPOCH I call "The Epoch of Play" >> The SECOND EPOCH I call "The Epoch of Substitution >> The THIRD EPOCH I call "The Epoch of Sickness" >> The FOURTH EPOCH I call "The Epoch of Broadcast Transmission" >> The FIFTH EPOCH (my favourite) I call "The Epoch of Endless Retrieval" << The SIXTH EPOCH will simply be called "The Time for Questions is over" << In the first the toy car is a toy car>> in the second it is candy, sweetness >> in the third it is poison, in the fourth it is an object lesson, in the fifth it is conversation, in the sixth it is lost, simply lost >> We have left the regular cycle of (presumably) annual retrieval (FOURTH EPOCH), in which the Object would be retrieved from the collection and the perils of lead consumption would be broadcast (one-way transmission, Old-style)>> We have arrived in the irregular multi-directional retrieval, where the loops, folds, ribbons and tangles (FIFTH EPOCH) >> Here at Object Retrieval we are face-to-face with others, or else turned outwardly towards a complex web of ever-changing information (a further slippage between FACT and its obverse, if not opposite - OPINION)>> In this new epoch the object is beyond definition (no fact is definitive) >> It alters - becomes Other. It would be tempting to suggest that it is merely (merely?) its significance which changes as we refine our patter and listen to new ideas >> But NO, I am coming to disagree >> The portal is not only the doors or the windows that allow entry and exit, but the process of movement itself >> Our routemaster bus (though stationary) and our toy car (broken down, lacking a steering wheel, and 50-times too small) TRANSPORT us.

To Be Further-er-ed...

Suggested Reading & Viewing:

Lewis, CS: 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', (Book) 1950

Heinlein, R: 'Tunnel in the Sky', (Book) 1955

McKee, 'Mr. Benn', BBC, (TV Series) 1971-1972

Fred Wolf Films / Toei Animation 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' , CBS, (TV Series) 1987-1996

Bellisario, D: 'Quantum Leap' (TV Series), NBC, 1989-1993

Kaufmann, C and Jonze, S: 'Being John Malkovich, Universal Pictures, (Film) 1999

Kelly, R: Donnie Darko, Newmarket Films, (Film) 2001