Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brian Jungen at National Museum of the American Indian

This was one of the museums that has opened since we were last here and wanted to see.  The Outside is impressive.  Inside. . . I wasn't impressed.  You are directed to a movie on the first floor as the starting point.  Now, six hours later, I'm having trouble even remembering images, and I'm not sure of the point.  I do remember that we sat in a circle something that, on our side anyway, had a blanket that served as a screen for the movie.  The domed ceiling also had images on it as did some shiny object below.  I did like the coordination between the three moving images, but there was nothing about the film that prepared me for the rest of the museum.  

I suspect it was difficult trying to curate an exhibit representing so many different cultures.  Two floors had large dark rooms divided up into maze like exhibits of different cultures.

One of the objectives seemed to be the message that Indians are people who often blend into society and you wouldn't know they are Indians - they don't fit people's stereotypes.  While all the pictures and art objects and depictions of daily life are nice,  I think the real dividing line between Native and Non-Native Americans is the special status Native peoples have in relationship to the federal government.  Due to treaties and Supreme Court decisions - Native Americans belong to tribes that have a unique sovereignty and Indian nations have a special sovereign to sovereign relationship with the federal government.  While some of this got mentioned, I didn't see any serious attempts to explain this relationship, its history, and why it isn't 'special treatment' or any other form of favoritism that a lot of non-Natives, in their ignorance of the law and the history, believe.  Maybe it was there and we missed it.

But I did particularly like Brian Jungen's recycled sculpture.

These totem poles are made up of old golf carts.

And this whale sculpture is from white plastic garden chairs.

This section on maintaining cultural identity in the modern world was also good.  

Here's a beaded tennis shoe.  And the exhibit juxtaposes it with 
how foot coverings were traditionally beaded.

The architecture is stunning.  The content is pretty, but didn't do a lot for me. 

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