"In our society we say much about love and little about fear." - bell hooks, 2000
The fearologists are back. This past May, R.Michael Fisher and I introduced an upcoming project of ours we're calling The Museum of Fearology. Please see that post for the background details. A couple weeks ago we took a break from working towards our first exhibit, and collaborated on a piece called Zombie Politics and The Walking Dead (which got re-posted at the website Energy Bulletin). In this post we want to do three things: put a call out for folks to send in art pieces for future museum exhibits; introduce you to the characters we've created (seen on the right) as hosts in the funhouse of the Fear Museum; and give a sample of our first upcoming exhibit on The Architecture of Fear.
Calling All Artists and Artist Wannabees- Get Your Fear Hats On
From an early stage in our encounter/collaboration, Michael and I decided we wanted to take a creative route in both inter-personal method and presentation. Michael explains here:
I am well aware that fear is not the most attractive topic for most people. Love or hope and being positive is often better received. People don't like to be reminded of that which is painful and negative. What I want to do is bring a light to the topic to show that fear is fascinating, as fascinating as going into the caves of Old Europe and finding cave paintings, artifacts of human history and interpreting them as to how they can have a meaningful role in us finding out who we are and what we're here for.
As part of that creativity we want to invite readers to co-collaborate with us on the project and create original pieces of art- drawings, photoshop mash-ups, photos, poems, or other forms- that speak to our relationship to fear. Michael himself is a long time artist, and is doing many of these posters and images for us, and he thought this could be a really interesting way for us all to engage with this topic. He writes:
We knew from the start of this venture we wanted to be creative. And a good museum is only as good as those who join and participate with us, co-creating their artifacts to add to the museum as well as commenting on exhibitions and sharing it with their friends. It's really a party...We're all in this ship of fear together- and that's where the fearlessness will float".
So this is an official and open call for original art for The Museum of Fearology. This could be a fun chance to crank up a new level of collaboration and collective intelligence here at Beams, so we hope that those artistically inclined will take a moment- and their camera, or paintbrush, or mouse- and think about their relationship to/experience of fear (or the moving beyond fear) and send us an expression of how that shows up for them. Here's a poster that Michael created for our artists call:
The Co-Curators of The Museum of Fearology
Somewhere along the line Michael and I chose the metaphor of the Museum as the vehicle for our project. It seemed an appropriate place to house and look at all the artifacts of fear and fear culture, a place to stroll and look at the many cultural forms this dimension of our human experience has taken. And so, well, a museum needs curators! For this we chose to create a couple of avatars, a kind of cyber-identity that allows us to, as Michael says, "get out of ourselves and create in ways less fearful or attached to personal-identity structures...more free...and that challenges fear in the face (smile)".
So here's an introduction to our two avatars. Michael, being the one who's studied fear for over 25 years, is naturally the one that's somewhat more behind the scenes, dealing with the archives, objects, artwork and collectibles. Me, well, I'm just along for the ride, out in the halls taking it all in. Here's my avatar's bio:
What’s my avatar all about? Well, I’m not sure, some kind of combination of Hunter S. Thompson and an old school archaeology professor. Ready and willing to stumble and twirl through the godforsaken halls of fear. And as Yoda said, you only find in the cave what you brought in. Shit, sweet mother of Mary, this could be one hellacious trip, one mad descent into the strange and unruly within. But as they say, buy the ticket take the ride. I’m ready. Let’s do this. There’s an inordinate amount of fear in our culture. It must be punctured. Sought after. Understood. And then eatin like a fuckin fried egg sandwich on the sweet road outta hell. Those bastards will never take us alive, the Great Magnet is too strong for that. But first, a dance in the museum, a carnival embrace of our shadowy lights. This will make us stronger. This will liberate the fast sparks of love. So join us, as we open the Great Door, and observe with delicacy and delight the Exhibits of our own inner reaches.
There's obviously a little of the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson in that one, a specter who's showed up at Beams before, and who I suspect will return again. As a long time lover of art and museums, I'm excited about this opportunity for a little cyber curation. Turning to Michael's avatar, you can read his full description in our co-bio, but here's a sample:
My avatar, and his curatorship at the Museum of Fearology, will explore what the architectural historian Dr. Mark Jarzombek (at MIT) calls "curating critical impossibility"(1), where curator and artist combine roles and move beyond trying to be the curator of permanence- of value neutral objects- and rather moves into a creative subject position exploring the value of impermanence and turning things on their head at times, as well. Integrating those two is my avatar's interest, and that means being critical and expressive in curatorial practices that aren't merely about preserving the status quo interpretations of fear and the fearological artifacts of the world...The combination may lead to transformations of how we know fear and ourselves, and that creates possibilities for a different future, and maybe a healthier one. It's all about learning, in and out of the 'Fear' Matrix. Stay tuned...
Exhibit A- The Architecture of Fear
So our first exhibit should be somewhere in late July, possibly early August, and as mentioned earlier it'll be on The Architecture of Fear. What do you think of when you hear that title? Well, when I first heard that as a topic I could think of sweet feck all. But diving into some of my research, it's now dawning on me how rich of a topic this is, and how oblivious I was to this context in my own surroundings. So to give folks a bit of a sense for what the architecture of fear might mean, Michael has prepared a small example as a taster. Take it away Michael:
"Most of us when we think about fear will think of fears we or others have, like fear of spiders. We have been taught to default to a psychology of fear(s) as our way to understand fear, locate it in our body/minds, and to manage it, for better or for worse. The Museum of Fearology takes a position on fear that's not reduced only to psychology, yet embraces the teachings from psychology. And thus, we enter a larger world of what fear means, where it can be located, and what its impacts are.
Our first exhibition will look deep into our notions of places to dwell that are built by humans, that is, our architectures of dwellings. The upcoming show will explore what architects and urban planners have been warning us about for the past few decades, even before 9/11. They've seen a trend of new kinds of dwellings, from personal homes to skyscrapers, which appear to be motivated not by peacefulness, harmony, ecological sensitivity nor communality and democracy, but rather motivated by authority-driven compulsive designs based on fear which infuse the physical architecture and the spaces that this architecture creates for human beings.
Without giving away too much here, one example is the new buildings (often big fancy hotels) that are designed more as fortresses, driven by questionable insurance and security policy mandates for safety than for the Good, the Beautiful and the True and higher human needs. For example is the Marriott Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia, designed and developed by John Portman (seen below). The cultural critic David Byrne writes: "The exteriors of these complexes are awe-inspiring and forbidding; they don’t relate to the street at all — no surprise there — but rather present from the outside a gleaming tower with “fortifications” at street level".
Fortification from what? See the large concrete mass wall in front to keep out terrorists from attacking the building with bomb-laden vehicles (?). Is this the message we want architectures to give out to adults and children who grow up around these buildings and cities that style themselves on safety and security first?
Other examples are gated communities, streets, and mansions, all part of another wall-based, fear-based, mentality that's invading our urban landscapes. The Architecture of Fear exhibit will explore not only the fear that influences form, but the fear that such forms create in the landscapes-mindscapes across the world. We'll bring experts together, often speaking for the "New Urbanism Movement" to discuss these problems and what we can do about them, as some have suggested we need to build architectures of peace and love, not fear. So if you're planning to design and build a dwelling (space) in the near future, or you want to evaluate the ones you're in now, this exhibition will give you some fresh insights into how to recognize fear in architecture and transform it".
So we hope to see you at the first exhibit! Until then here's a parting song that speaks directly- and courageously- to the culture of fear.
Thievery Corporation- Culture of Fear