"Object Lessons" at the University of Michigan






Showcasing original objects dating from 1837 to the present, Object Lessons affords visitors a synthetic look at 200 years of collecting for science. Museum specimens, artifacts and documents from the archives bring into focus the University Museum’s importance to early state history, its first global collecting expeditions, the changing relationship between culture and nature, science and religion; and the transformation of research and collecting practices from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Not all of U-M’s historical collections survive; the exhibition reflects this fact by focusing also on the life cycle of collections, on points of origin and decline, and on the shifting valorization of objects over time.

Object Lessons draws on collections housed in the University's research museums (Paleontology, Zoology, and Anthropological Archeology), as well as the University Herbarium, the Museum of Natural History, the Stephen S. Clark Map Library, the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, the Bentley Historical Library, and the University of Michigan Library.

The exhibition features photography and sculpture by New York-based artist Richard Barnes that engages with specimens, taxidermy, and artifacts from the collections. Staging these images and sculpture in today’s campus museum spaces, Barnes offers an aesthetic reflection of the histories on display. 

DIORAMA: INVENTING ILLUSION at The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

OCTOBER 6, 2017 – JANUARY 21, 2018


Richard Barnes, Single Ungulate and Man Amidst Crosses, 2008

Richard Barnes, Single Ungulate and Man Amidst Crosses, 2008

The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents a major exhibition dedicated to the cultural history of vision. It focuses on the diorama, which is used to reconstruct and realistically stage events, stories, and habitats with the aid of various means. Invented in the nineteenth century by the French painter and photography pioneer Louis Daguerre as a playhouse enlivened with light effects, it, as a glass showcase became the presentation form par excellence for natural history museums. The diorama stages human knowledge of the world, not without influencing and perpetually challenging the viewer’s perception. Being the first comprehensive examination of the diorama, the exhibition highlights both the various stories behind the development of this form of presentation and the correlations and chronological developments that took place parallel to it.

The diorama has been a crucial source of inspiration to this day: numerous artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries address questions of staged vision in their works by questioning and dissolving the illusion of a reconstructed reality. The exhibition at the Schirn presents the early forms of the diorama in religious art and its beginnings in the playhouse and showman art of the nineteenth century, and considers the diorama as the preferred form of presentation for museums conveying natural-historical and anthropological knowledge. The deconstruction of the diorama in today’s art is illustrated by large scale installations, contemporary dioramas, sculptures, photographs, and films by such artists as Richard Barnes, Richard Baquié, Diane Fox, Mark Dion, Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Mathieu Mercier, Kent Monkman, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Jeff Wall. The presentation develops an overall chronological narrative that traces the cultural history of vision and of exhibiting from various perspectives. 

“Although the diorama embodies the age-old staging of ‘watching,’ it still forms a blind spot in our cultural history. The exhibition is the first broad-based examination of this topic and attempts to link up the various strands of the diorama’s origin. An exhibition about the diorama is also an exhibition about exhibiting. Each attempt to tell its story leads to the beginnings of exhibitions in the context of the first mass amusements and visual inventions. Contemporary artists consider the diorama to be a conceptual installation and an opportunity to deconstruct the visual techniques passed down from the nineteenth century–and thus a suitable means for doing justice to the expressive power of sculptural elements,” explain the curators of the exhibition, Katharina Dohm, Claire Garnier, Laurent Le Bon, and Florence Ostende.

The exhibition was organized by the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt in collaboration with the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, where it was conceived and first presented. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

The full press release can be read here. Additional text on the exhibition is featured in SchirnMag.

State of Exception/Estado de Excepción at parsons school of design, new york

Richard Barnes, "America Tree," 2012

Richard Barnes, "America Tree," 2012

February 03, 2017 - April 17, 2017

Opening reception: Thursday, February 2, 2016, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

State of Exception/Estado de Excepción presents traces of the human experience—objects left behind in the desert by undocumented migrants on their journey into the U.S. and other forms of data, all collected as part of the research of University of Michigan anthropologist Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration project.  De León’ sees the materials as fragments of a history, revealing death, trauma, and suffering on both sides of the border while bringing to light complexities of the migrant experience.

This exhibition, created by artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak in collaboration with anthropologist De León, includes an installation of hundreds of backpacks left behind by migrants crossing the Arizona desert as well as numerous pieces of clothing and ephemera, and video images created by Richard Barnes on location along the Mexico-United States border. The installation also includes excerpts of original recordings of audio interviews with migrants, all part of De León’s work.

In the many years now since Jason De León and his team commenced this research, State of Exception/Estado de Excepción has continued to evolve, constantly updated to reflect De León’s findings, the ongoing public debate around immigration, as well as the continuous efforts towards immigration reform, and inevitable backlash.  Now, more than ever, in the aftermath of a presidential campaign that fed off anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, it is absolutely critical to look deeper into the migrant experience and raise questions as to what the future may hold for the thousands of people fleeing dire poverty, drug cartel violence, and political instability to the south.

The exhibition will be held at The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center.

2 West 13th St, NY, NY Ground Floor
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery