Inside the Peabody Museum May 2016


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Two Public Events

The Secret Sex Life of Anthropological Objects: Solomon Island Canoe

New Gardner Fellowship in Photography Awarded

Members Celebration

In Case You Missed It...


Detail from cover of Resolution of the Suspect by Miki KratsmanTwo Public Events

Distinguished Argentine-Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman has worked in the Palestinian Occupied Territories for over three decades, documenting the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including its daily effect on the Palestinian population. Kratsman is the Peabody Museum's 2011 Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography. In his view, the accumulated documentation of this difficult daily routine is more significant—and more disquieting—than single images of dramatic events. Kratsman will discuss his new book, The Resolution of the Suspect (Peabody Museum Press), and his approach to making visual the ways in which the shadow of death hovers, sometimes literally, over his Palestinian subjects. His lecture, The Resolution of the Suspect: The Israeli-Palestinian Context, on May 3 will be followed by a panel discussion and book signing. See below for details about this year's Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography.

On Thursday, May 12, get ready to rethink everything you know about animals at the event, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Primatologist Frans de Waals has written a groundbreaking book revealing how intelligent animals really are and how much we underestimate their abilities. Vicki Croke, New York Times bestselling author of Elephant Company, will moderate a discussion with de Waal, followed by a book signing. The event is free and registration is required. 

panorama of Solomon Islands canoeThe Secret Sex Life of Anthropological Objects: Solomon Island Canoe

Students in the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies class The Secret Sex Life of Anthropological Objects met this spring at the Peabody Museum. Asked to analyze an object from the perspective of her academic discipline, student Jennifer Kim wrote about a wooden canoe from San Cristóbal in the Solomon Islands, which may be seen from the third floor Encounters gallery looking up toward the (temporarily closed) 4th floor mezzanine.

As a student with equal academic footing in both anthropology and visual art, I found this suspended canoe to be a particularly intriguing object of analysis. It is relatively illegible. We see only its striped belly some twenty feet above us; we are given no contextualizing accompaniment, no other visualization of the object. In anthropology, we might use its opacity as an opportunity for investigative ethnographic work. Who uses the canoe, and for what? Is it participant in economies of exchange? In hunt or excursion? In ritual? What were the conditions and circumstances of its acquisition? In short, how might this object fit into a thick description of the greater context in which it participates? We compare the shape of its underside to other canoes; we look for evidence of its functionality in social life.   

In visual art, contrastingly, we might treat the canoe not as a question but rather as a statement. Its presentation is not a mere signifier of greater worlds or processes; it is fully formed in its own right, an end to its own means. We examine the textures and colors of the underbelly for evidence of the artist’s hand. We appreciate the gentle curve of its form, remark on the organic sensibility of its oblong shape. We understand the object’s suspension and distance not as barriers to its comprehension but rather as part of the work itself; we contemplate the way its hanging belly encourages us to circle underneath it, mouths agape and eyes straining upward. We interpret all of its parts – its materiality, occlusion, presentation – as intentional moments of artistic practice.

Through both strains of academic interrogation, however, the canoe’s undeniable opacity allows for thoughtful interpretive work and serves to challenge the ways in which objects – both cultural and aesthetic – are often presented as dissectible truths. It remains maddeningly unattainable from eyes which too often seek to strip things to their bones, forcing us to think carefully about its presence in the museum. 

Floating Restaurant 2016

New Gardner Fellowship in Photography Awarded

An unusual photography project that began on the beaches of Hong Kong in 2015 will now expand to the beaches of western Australia. With their recently awarded the 2016 Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography, Mexican artists Ilana Boltvinik and Rodrigo Viñas (TRES Art Collective), will develop the second phase of their projectUbiquitous Trash, a beach-waste, art-based, research series. The project draws upon biology, archaeology, economics, and anthropology to create a complex understanding of the material waste at hand.

Boltvinik and Viñas have established a work methodology that involves walks and explorations, as well as scavenging that help them detect and contextualize waste through meticulous observation. According to Boltvinik and Viñas, “The intimacy with which we, as a collective, live with trash is extended into an aesthetic experience through photography. We derive a sense of pleasure and voyeurism through the close-ups and panoramic views.” Waste narratives emerge and are made visible with their fieldwork: photography, video and drawing. This work is then complemented and woven in with statistics, interviews, and art-based research to render the global dimension of the problem in a way that it is accessible to others.

The Fellowship carries a $50,000 stipend to begin or complete a project followed by publication of a book. Previous Gardner Fellows include Mike Kratsman (see the first story above), Guy Tillim, Stephen Dupont, Dayanita Singh, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Yto Barrada, Chloe Dewe Mathews, and Deborah Luster.  Learn more about the Fellows.

In Fine Feather openingMembers Celebration and Special Patron Member Exhibition Preview

Join us for an evening of drinks, small bites, conversation, and gallery exploration in both the Peabody Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History on Friday, June 24 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. Open to all HMSC and Harvard Art Museums members. Member tickets ($25 adults; free for youth 18 and under) now available. 

Patron members can get a first look at the newly renovated Glass Flowers gallery before it opens to the public at the special Patron Member Glass Flowers Preview, Tuesday, May 17 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm . Patron member tickets ($50) now available. Space is limited. Become a member or renew today.

In Case You Missed It...

The museum's Native American Running conference and its related activities were featured in a few news stories just before the Boston Marathon. 

See what's coming up in the Calendar of Events.

Image credits: Detail from the cover of Resolution of the Suspect by Miki Kratsman (Peabody Museum Press); panoramic view of Solomon Islands canoe; Floating Restaurant, 2016 © Ilana Boltvinik and Rodrigo Viñas; an event in In Fine Feather: Selected Featherwork from the Peabody Museum Collections.