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Dear CRUMB list readers and respondents,

well, September has been much slower to start than I had hoped, but  
we are here to rectify this...
some of the CRUMB team went last week, at last, to see the exhibition  
Our Cyborg Future?, curated by Andrew Chetty at the Discovery Museum  
in Newcastle. The exhibition description (http://www.dott07.com/go/ 
health/our-cyborg-future-me-or-machine) reads: "Our Cyborg Future?  
looks at the shrinking divide between us and the technology we use.  
 From prosthetic body parts, to smart textiles and wearable  
computing, a range of technologies is penetrating the different  
‘skins’ we surround ourselves with - from our biological skin, to the  
clothes we wear, the buildings we live in, and the communication  
networks we connect through."

I hope that Andrew might comment about the process of curating the  
show, the selection of the works (I didn't see much about the  
buildings we live in, for instance), and the exhibition design, but  
for now I will comment only on the exhibition design, and not the  
content.

The exhibition is installed in the top floor of the Discovery Museum,  
in the Great Hall (promotion photos of it as a venue for hire are  
here: http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/discovery/venuehire/) - a fantastic  
wrought iron vaulted interior with wood floors and a stage - perfect  
for a sunday tea dance! The building is the former Co-operative  
Wholesale Society Headquarters, designed by Oliver, Leeson and Wood  
opened in 1899 (so says their website). The museum itself has  
collections mostly concerning the industrial and scientific heritage  
of the region, but is not lacking cultural artifacts either, and is  
home to the Tyne and Wear archives. The exhibits in Our Cyborg  
Future? -- predominantly 'wearables' or technologically inflected  
clothing and prosthetics, from fabric made from old cassette magnetic  
tape (Alyce Santoro - SonicFabric) to the beautiful dresses made by  
Hussein Chalayan to the victimless leather project by The Tissue  
Culture and Art project -- are 'housed' in the metal frames of garden  
sheds.

To describe a little more clearly - the entire great hall is a maze  
of open framed garden sheds (for lack of a better term). Hanging from  
the ceiling of the hall is a gigantic neon outline of a human figure  
-- with the exhibits in the sheds beneath corresponding into  
'zones' (head, hand, etc.) Some sheds have translucent walls, some no  
walls at all. Some sheds are double sized, with open doors for you to  
walk through, most of them are designed for you to walk around, with  
the exhibits displayed inside. The steel frames act as an armature on  
which plasma screens are hung, showing video documentation of some of  
the projects, and illuminated (lightbox) text panels. There is a  
small photo here, if you scroll down the page, to the description of  
the Stone Island Reflective Jacket :http://www.dott07.com/go/health/ 
our-cyborg-future/the-exhibition/the-exhibition.

A few of the projects installed are responsive (such as Marcel·lí  
Antúnez Roca - Requiem - robotic 'exo-skeleton'), though none are  
truly interactive (I don't think), and the garden shed system makes  
it quite clear that most of it is not to be touched, and you can  
easily stand and look, or watch the screen. I think the exhibition  
design cleverly solves the initial problem outlined in our original  
questions this month: Given the overlapping of works in large and  
sometimes crowded exhibitions how are spaces “divided” and/or to a  
certain degree hybrid? Where does a particular work ‘begin’ or  
‘collaborate’ or interfere with another? Here, there is no overlap --  
the sheds work both to isolate a given work (in some cases one  
project per shed) as well as to group like-minded projects (all of  
the jewelry projects, which are smaller, are installed on different  
sides of the same shed). My complaint would be that while this was a  
simple and effective/practical installation design solution (you can  
run wires just about invisibly up the metal girders of the shed to  
power the plasma screens, hang the lights from the shed itself,  
meaning the show didn't have to fuss with the huge vaulted ceiling of  
the great hall), the sheds seem at odds with what is contained within  
them. At times it made the exhibits, many of which obviously had  
mannequins on which the wearables were displayed, look like they were  
renegades from a swanky shop window elsewhere in town, hanging out in  
a kind of shanty town. The human figure outline hanging from the  
ceiling might not have been noticed at all if you weren't tempted to  
look up (which if you haven't been in the room before you might do,  
but if you were easily seduced by the objects on view you  
wouldn't)... and i think it could have been reproduced in tape on the  
floor, simply and effectively. I didn't feel as though there was a  
particular route through the exhibition, and indeed, there wasn't a  
single handout piece of paper, pamphlet, guide or anything of the  
like to indicate as much.

Perhaps others on the list could describe some of the exhibition  
design solutions they have used in large group show contexts, like  
this one, which includes both interactive and non interactive design  
projects?

Sarah