We used Fred Wilson’s Mining the Museum work as a starting point with 7th and 8th graders to understand the power of museums and how and for whom they have served over time. Museums have asked Wilson to select objects from their collections and arrange them into groupings that evoke new meanings. For instance he set a group of historical, American parlor chairs in theater-setting, facing a whipping post from the same era. The image below is a groups he did of slave shackles and a silver tea setting from the same era.
Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum Maryland Historical Society, 1992
It was a stretch for my students to understand the idea that an artist can make meaning just by placing objects side by side, without making a new object. So I felt like they really needed to practice this in order to understand. I asked them to copy Wilson’s method in our school building. Student search for two things that could create a new meaning if they were placed side by side. They repositioned these objects next to one another and photographed them. Here are some of the matches they made.
A Discipline Referral Sheet paired with a telephone (for phoning parents). This gives the phone a very menacing, highly charged meaning.
“Hunger and Plenty”
“Science Nerd vs. Cool Guy”