Scholarship as Exhibition

By | October 27, 2014

The readings from The Exhibition as Product and Generator of Scholarship touched on a lot of the ideas I had been having in regard to our final project, and how I would be able to transform my ideas from a simple academic paper into an exhibition. Being primarily interested in the theory/ideas side of media studies, I have yet to combine my artistic or interpretive side with my work because of the difficulty I have had in bridging the gap between the kinds of thought or brain storming which go into formulating an idea, and how to best communicate that idea in physical space. Writing about an idea, and the research and work which goes into it,  is a thing I’ve gotten comfortable with over the past seven years of my higher education. However, going further and considering the materiality of these ideas, or how they could be expressed non-verbally, spatially or through object association is a leap I’ve not yet been asked to take, or was even sure I could make. The reason being was the different level of interpretation which is needed, and an entire range of visual communication that requires subtlety to tap into . Though an exhibit often uses words, or can be quite literal, in a lot of ways it requires a more sophisticated, poetic eye that allows us to show as well as tell our ideas.

The essays we read helped me think through some of the ways scholarship can be displayed, and how exhibit can be used as another means to explore and communicate academic ideas. In Thinking Through Objects Martha Fleming writes:

One can use objects in a similar ways to words; objects can be metaphors, partake of metonymy, synecdoche, allegory, allusion, analogy. Also like words, one can string them together in narratives, in casual relations, in antithesis, chronology or diachrony. One can use relational techniques such as humor, intimacy, distantiation. And one can use techniques that are not so easily deployed with words…perspective…color, light…time, sound, spatial divisions…One can see here that these techniques are highly structured; can we find ways to work from design methods back into epistemological ones? The inverse might then also become possible- to find a route out of epistemological inquiry which leads directly into innovative display techniques( PG 43)

I find this quote particularly inspiring and illuminating to the ways exhibition can be an significant tool in communicating ideas, offering an immersion in the ideas and harnessing a power through the visual and tangible which is absent from other more traditional forms of sharing academic ideas. As Ulrich Raulff says in his piece Old Answers, New Questions – What Do Exhibitions Really Generate?, sometimes the physical paring of objects, and our ability to be physically present with ideas, allow exhibitions to ask questions which we wouldn’t normally be inspired to ask during the traditional researching/writing and editing. For me, this is what is exciting about this opportunity, to challenge ourselves to translate our ideas into physicality, and then see how this transforms the idea itself.

One thought on “Scholarship as Exhibition

  1. shannon Post author

    I’m glad you drew so much inspiration from these readings, Annie! It might help to keep in mind that *showing* isn’t only about making visible or tangible; it can involve appealing to *all* the senses, incorporating spatial rhetorics and movement, etc. We might even think of *choreographing* an argument in space!


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