To begin with, I would like to share some of my intentions in creating the Monsters Museum and acknowledge the problematic (and quite paradoxical) nature of such an institution itself. Although the museum is rooted in the democratic creation and dissemination of knowledge, it often functions as what Delleuze and Guattari call an “apparatus of capture” (http://projectlamar.com/media/A-Thousand-Plateaus.pdf) While I am aware that avoiding capture entirely is impossible, the Monsters Museum intends to produce certain lines of flight by deconstructing the monster’s bodies (or shells) that are represented in Western popular culture. Besides, representations of stereotypes does not necessarily mean their abuse. By capturing such stereotypes, the Monsters Museum will begin the process of brushing history against the grain through an active critique of historicism and the problematic effects of detaching dybbuks, golems, and zombis from their historical roots.

Stemming from the Western Enlightenment, the museum was originally based in the belief that one can come to understand the world and its history through a novel organization of its productions. Furthermore, the museum was meant to embrace ideals of objectivity and inclusivity: an institution of the people and for the people. Yet despite these more radical roots, museums often trend towards subjectivity, capturing aspects of history in such a way that contributes to, rather than disputes, dominant historical narratives. The effects of this institutionalization of knowledge are quite dire as they enable the victors of history to maintain their position and control through their contribution to hegemonic thought.

Another issue that arises within the museum institution is the constant use of rhetoric that suggests the enlightening of citizens to higher civilization/art. Often museums ignore what is considered popular, resulting in a process that directs knowledge (master narratives) at the people and results in a classist, racist, and sexist institution. Monsters Museum intends to use the popular as a mode for exploring and critiquing the social structure that such art is born out of. In doing so, I intend to expose how stereotypes manifest themselves through artistic representation. In a certain light I see zombies and stereotypes as potentially working in a similar fashion: both are static representations of the past that come to prove to those who are living that the effects of history are still very much alive and constantly affecting those who are living. They are both tangible ways of remembering.

In Raymond Williams’ article “On High and Popular Culture,” he argues that any body of work is always decontextualized in certain respects. He comments, “No individual and no single society receives or uses this whole body of work. Rather, particular societies, for historical reasons, receive selections of this body of work, which they perceive as their effective cultural traditions” (http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/high-and-popular-culture). It is through such a process of selection that monsters are caught and flattened, coming to represent classist, racist, and sexist ideologies rather than living beings.By looking at specific instances of capture, I hope to open up a spacemind and internal complexity. The motive of this monster project is to work at discovering the many different elements of these bodies of work that have been left out of popular conjurings/ representations and resulted in the monster as a machine for otherizing minorities.By looking at specific instances of capture, I hope to open up a space for constructive critique of these depoliticized and ahistorical monsters.

A museum is not meant to be a jail for art where it is locked up and patrolled by guards in uniform. Rather people must be able to handle and intimately engage with the past through a critique of these tropes, which have emerged from the capitalization of the other in popular culture. I intend for my role to be that of a facilitator and for everyone who wishes to be the museum’s curators. Hopefully by taking this approach the audience will come to identify not as passive bystanders but as agents of history and together work at deconstructing master narratives.

Rather that restating the answers provided by these master narratives and making complete sense of history, the museum’s more disjointed/ fragmentary approach is meant to alienate one from what seems obvious: that monsters are objects of horror. Instead, the museum hopes to explore monsters as vehicles for introspection, in this case often saying more about the culture and people into which it is received than the culture and people from which it originated. Therefore, audience engagement is essential to understanding the monster phenomenon.

The Monsters Museum is meant to be an audience-centered space where everyone is encouraged to comment and share their own stories. In order to facilitate this I will be suggesting certain questions or themes of debate in the hope that others will take my ideas as starting points for a discussion. Please feel comfortable changing the site in any way you feel would be most appropriate to achieve these stated goals. Also if you feel comfortable doing so, it would be excellent for others to link to their own projects as well.

In order to make this a more horizontal “curatorship” I want to ensure that everyone has equal access to help “curate” this museum. The email account associated with the page is djoseph@oberlin.edu and the password is Avant-Garde402.


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