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Museum or Mausoleum

Spring Quarter Begins April 2

For those interested in Spring Quarter, here are the details:

Museum or Mausoleum? The Framing of Art, Culture and Neuroplasticity
Fall – Winter – Spring

Faculty: Sarah Williams ; feminist theory, consciousness studies.
Collaborating Instructor: Marshall Astor; art, museum studies, arts administration

Signature Required: Students wishing to join the program should have previous studies in visual or performing arts, cultural studies, anthropology, cognitive studies, philosophy, feminist theory or museum studies.. Students should bring evidence that they have met the prerequisites to the faculty at the Academic Fair to obtain signature. Materials may also be emailed or mailed to Sarah Williams ( or SEM II A2117, The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway, Olympia, WA 98502). If mailing materials, include a brief note requesting to enroll in the program, along with contact information.

Description: Do museums transform living, changing cultural objects into fixed, preserved, inviolate collections? What stories do museums tell? What stories do objects embody? And what stories do we, visitors, tell ourselves? How do objects housed in museums affect our sense of self-identity? What does it take to become aware of how stories we tell both frame and are framed by objects? Is it possible to heal culture and the self through the interactions of narratives and objects? What happens to historical ideas about human consciousness when we explore the mausoleum-like exhibitions of what this consciousness has exhibited as other? What happens to consciousness when it is framed by neuroscience or to the self when it encounters thinking as an evolutionary internalization of movement?

We’ll explore the power of narrative objects in a variety of exhibition spaces: museums, galleries, shopping malls, book/web pages. We’ll identify curiosities about the relationship between art objects and self-representation, particularly shifts in cultural influences and identities as they relate to shifts between the museological and mausoleum-like aspects of exhibition spaces.

A triptych is a narrative object that uses three pictorial panels to convey movement in time, space, and states of being. A triptych, of sorts, is the focus of our fall quarter work and the model for our winter field studies. Consider our left panel: in the lives and other virtual realities of William Gibson’s Count Zero, the effects of narrative objects range from creative to preservative to destructive. Equally significant is how these effects are framed in movements between exhibition spaces experienced as “bird-cages of the muses” and those encountered in computer generated Joseph Cornell-like bird boxes. In the center panel is the narrative power of an artwork in Sheri Tepper’s science fiction novel, The Fresco. Here, alien races experience the consequences when a fresco at the heart of their cultural identity has been violently misinterpreted for a millennium. Now, the right panel. Here, in Catherine Malabou’s texts the shifting movement or adaptability of self is called neuroplasticity. Her analysis of Claude Levi-Strauss’ fascination with two sides–graphic and plastic–of masks illustrates her definition of neuroplasticity. We’ll read this post-Derridean theory of self and do fieldwork with masks available for viewing in local collections.

During spring quarter students will have the opportunity to integrate individual and peer group projects into a core all-program curriculum. That is, in addition to the 8 credit all-program activities of seminar, lecture, visiting artists’ lecture and film series, a retreat week, and related assignments (e.g., weekly seminar response essays, a theory as evocative object chapter, a mindmap and 3D triptych, and mid-term and final reflective and evaluative writing), each student will use an ILC/Internship form to design an in-program individual or peer group projects for 8 credits. These projects may include (but are not limited to) the curation and/or installation of an exhibition or collection, an internship, a studio-based artistic or technical practice, community-based learning in support of Paddle to Squaxin 2012!, or a field-based museum-related study. Students will document their individual or peer-based learning and create a multi-media presentation for week ten. Partially funded by TESC’s Noosphere Award, week 7 retreat week activities will include a range of contemplative practices: 5 rhythm dance; yoga nidra; lectures with Seattle University philosopher and Zen priest, Dr. Jason Wirth; and a retreat day at Seattle University’s St. Ignatius Chapel.

In Addition to Weekly Articles on the Program Moodle Required Texts Include: As Above, So Below (Rudy Rucker – to be read prior to the beginning of Spring Quarter), My Cocaine Museum (Michael Taussig), What Makes a Great Exhibition? (ed., Paula Marincola), Descartes’ Error (Antonio Damasio), Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing (Catherine Malabou). A recommended text for students active in the Paddle to Squaxin is Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives (ed., Susan Sleeper-Smith).

Preparatory for studies or careers in: art history, art, cultural studies, writing, anthropology, feminist theory, contemplative education, and museum-related fields.


Welcome to the public website for the program Museum or Mausoleum: The Framing of Art, Culture, and Neuroplasticity.

Program descriptions can be found on the “About” page and in the link to “Program description” located in the sidebar.


A Superbowl of Quantitative Data

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Hans Rosling is an international health superstar.  His TED Talk is probably the most amazing presentation of “boring” quantitative data in human history (the first five minutes alone are a tour de force).  Our quantitative project is the last major assignment due during our field study, but if this doesn’t inspire you to get working away on it, you may need to see a doctor about an adrenaline shot.  Go fullscreen and enjoy!


Five Blogcraft Projects for New Bloggers

Five Fingers?

Blogging can be hard.  Sometimes you don’t know what to say or how to say it.  Some days you shoot a zillion images, and you just can’t bear to do something comprehensive.  Maybe, you just don’t know where to start.  You might just not be “feelin’ it” one afternoon.  Here’s five fun “blogcraft activities” that and that are pretty fun and easy to do when you’re stuck:

#1 Share Your Place

We’re all in different places right now.  Normally, we have the Evergreen campus as a place of reference, a common experience.  Use images to make your new place part of our extended, distributed “place.”  Are there LCD taxi horses, gender-segregated parking lots, or tetrapod beaches in your new hood?  Sharing even the tiniest detail can get you connected to your project and keep us all connected together as a learning community.

#2 Opinionate! Opinionate! Opinionate!

Consider this a relaxation/stress relief exercise.  Stretch your opinions a bit.

Say there’s a terrible piece of Andy Warhol-inspired street art in your Field Study site.  Let loose your irritation, people will relate to it.  Exorcise it and move on.  These should be short and to the point. Brevity is the soul of wit.

#3 Find a Goofy/Novel/Macabre Theme and Run With It

This is a good way to make a whole bunch of fun posts.  Early on in your Field Study you find some quirky thing about your museum and you post about it a lot.  This thing should evoke, and maybe be a little strange.

My theme for a while was “severed heads”.  Every time I find one in a museum, I shoot it, do a little research, write about it.  Little things like this keep people coming back.  They want to know what the next one in the series will be like.  Maybe you’re at a zoo.  Once a week, maybe you post an image of the weirdest thing from the cafeteria and review it.

This is also a good way to show how Flickr can work for you.  All my severed heads are in a set together.

#4 Peggy’s Musings

When I was on my ILC in Thailand, I kept sections in my notebook for musings.  Some were about language, some were about food, some were about insects, some were about music.  Let these things accumulate, like a hairball, and then unwrap the hairball and lay out the strands. Weave them back into something.  They don’t have to thesis, but they should illustrate relevant streams of thought.  Calling out a post as a musing is giving yourself license to think, publicly, to share those loose thoughts that you might have in the shower.  Stretch out your writer’s voice.

For example, I was inspired by a Thai art book I found in my friend’s bathroom to ramble about Thai and American curatorial/exhibition organizational methods.  It’s not a great piece of writing, but it helped me get past some writer’s block.

#5  Make a Movie Out of Something (An Object?) That is Not a Movie

A few years back art writer Tyler Green threw out a challenge to other arts bloggers to make their top five paintings into movies.  I ran away with it.  It’s some of the best fun I’ve had online.

This “blogcraft project” has two parts.

Part One.  present an image of the object and some background, maybe just a sentence or two.  If it’s in a museum, you can use the text from their site to get you started.

Part Two. “realize” the movie.  This part of the recipe has two ingredients.  The first one is presenting a short narrative based on the object, or featuring the object, or making the image contained in the object come to life.  The second ingredient is to contextualize the narrative.  Is it a noir film?  A documentary?  Is it a B movie?  Anime?  Horror?  Dramedy?

Put the pieces together and you’ve probably magnetized your readers with a good story.

Hopefully, the above creative blogging exercises might get you started, or get you out of a rut. Blog early, and blog often!

February: Independent Field Study


Courtesy of Cresny's photos via Getty Images

Weeks 5 thru 8 (February 1-29) will be Individual Museum Field Studies.

Feeds to student blogs will be available on the “Student Journals” page, located in the sidebar menu.

Assignments to be completed during museum field study and submitted electronically include: an annotated bibliography using Zotero and a research paper on the history of the museum; a quantitative assessment and visualization of data, an organizational diagram of the museum structure using Prezi, a material culture essay modeled on a similar chapter in Sherry Turkle’s Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, a field journal, and a log.  Back on campus weeks 9 and 10, students will create podcasts integrating audio and visual material about their field study and make presentations about the results of their museum-based field studies.

Winter Quarter 2012


During winter quarter faculty and students will explore narrative objects and self-representation through six weeks of fieldwork in museums of their choice. Museums can be exhibitions of art, history or science; even zoos and botanical gardens can be considered museums. Students will document their research on their museum and will return to compile a multi-media presentation of their research project. In studios and workshops during fall and winter quarters students can expect to learn audio recording, digital photography, drawing with color pastels, ethnographic fieldwork, mindfulness practices (yoga, meditation), creative non-fiction writing, blogging and public speaking.

Links to student blogs will be available in February (located on the “Student Journals” page)

Schedule Information – Orientation and Week 1

Field Notebook recommended for the program. Available at the campus bookstore.

The Fall 2011 program Museum or Mausoleum? has a preview day meeting on Monday, September 19th from 3-5pm in Sem II D3105. It is part of orientation for new students, but all students enrolled or on the wait list are welcome to attend.

The first official day of class is Monday, September 26th at 10am in Sem II E4115.


The schedule for week 1 is as follows:

Monday 10-Noon Sem II E4115

Monday 1-3pm Sem II D1105

Tuesday 10am-Noon SemII D1107

Tuesday 1-3pm (SemII D2107 or D2109 depending on which seminar group you are in)

Wednesday 9am-1pm (Mac Lounge in the computer center, special workshop in audio recording for Week 1. This class session runs from 9:30-1pm in a different location all other weeks. See Moodle site at or

Thursday 10am-2pm SemII E1107

Introductory Video

Because pictures really help… We made a quick media piece. This is something that was easily put together in a matter of hours. Students in the program will have the opportunity to do similar work, but at a higher quality, polishing and editing over the course of several weeks.

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