Spesialutgave Om vikinger og virkninger. Festskrift til Ellen Høigård Hofseths vikingtidsutstilling. Hege S. Gjerde og Gro B. Ween (red. - PDF

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Spesialutgave 2016 Om vikinger og virkninger Festskrift til Ellen Høigård Hofseths vikingtidsutstilling Hege S. Gjerde og Gro B. Ween (red.) Primitive tider utgis av Elise Naumann (red.), Jostein Gundersen,

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Spesialutgave 2016 Om vikinger og virkninger Festskrift til Ellen Høigård Hofseths vikingtidsutstilling Hege S. Gjerde og Gro B. Ween (red.) Primitive tider utgis av Elise Naumann (red.), Jostein Gundersen, Steinar Solheim, Hege Skalleberg Gjerde, Josephine Munch Rasmussen, Heidi Mjelva Breivik og Vibeke Maria Viestad. Primitive tider spesialutgave 2016 er redigert av Hege Skalleberg Gjerde og Gro B. Ween. Ansvarlig redaktør: Elise Neumann. ISSN Postadresse: Primitive tider Postboks 7009, St. Olavs plass 0130 Oslo Ombrekk: Egon Låstad Trykk: Reprosentralen ved Universitetet i Oslo Primitive tider. Ettertrykk for mangfoldiggjøring kun etter avtale med redaksjonen. Forsidebilde: Oppussing i salen som rommet de eldste periodene i Ellen Høigård Hofseths utstilling Fra istid til Kvitekrist. Snart klart for nye utstillingsgrep. Foto: Kirsten Helgeland/Kulturhistorisk museum. Hvordan sitere: Hele volumet: Gjerde, H.S. og G.B. Ween (red.) 2016 Om vikinger og virkninger. Festskrift til Ellen Høigård Hofseths vikingtidsutstilling. Primitive tider spesialutgave Reprosentralen, Oslo. Enkeltartikler: Elliott, K Sagaen om vikingtidssalen: minner fra en nybrottstid. I Om vikinger og virkninger. Festskrift til Ellen Høigård Hofseths vikingtidsutstilling, Gjerde, H.S. og G.B. Ween (red.), s Primitive tider spesialutgave Reprosentralen, Oslo. INNHOLD Innledning HEGE SKALLEBERG GJERDE og GRO B. WEEN Sagaen om Vikingtidssalen: Minner fra en nybrottstid KATHERINE ELLIOTT A kaleidoscopic vision: exhibiting and imagining the Viking Past in Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist MARZIA VARUTTI Skattkammerets blendende aura HÅKON ROLAND En lang omvei om vikingtidsutstillingen som et feministisk prosjekt, jotnen Ellen Høigård Hofseth og flate ontologier GRO B. WEEN Våre helter vikingene et portrett av en historisk periode HANNE LOVISE AANNESTAD Tekstilrelieffene i vikingtidsutstillingen LISA DAMSTUEN The skilled Viking: displaying crafts and not displaying killing in an exhibition on the Viking age GEOFFREY GOWLLAND En gjøgler blant guder? Om det samiske i vikingtidsutstillingen HEGE SKALLEBERG GJERDE De levende døde i vikingformidlingen TONE WANG Kjenner du din indre viking? Et perspektiv på bruk av gjenkjennelse som formidlingsgrep I utstillingene HILDE SOFIE FRYDENBERG En omvisning i Vikingtidsutstillingen på Tullinløkka et sted for skolebarn og tilpasset opplæring KRISTIAN OMNES Skapende rivingsprosess? Demontering av vikingtidutstillingen og deltakelse fra publikum, en form for dekuratering basert på tillit TONE CECILIE SIMENSEN KARLGÅRD A kaleidoscopic vision: exhibiting and imagining the Viking Past in Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist Marzia Varutti 1 Institutt for kulturstudier og orientalske språk, Universitetet i Oslo In this paper I propose the metaphor of the kaleidoscope as a tool to analyze exhibitions. More specifically, I will apply this metaphor to the analysis of the exhibition Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist ( From the Ice Age to Christianity ) set up between 1992 and 1997 by curator Ellen Høigård Hofseth at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. The metaphor of the kaleidoscope enables me to capture and critically discuss the exhibition s multifaceted character and museological features layout, contextualization, sensory engagement and narratives, among others. I suggest that these features are indicators not only of the distinctive and visionary character of the exhibition, but also of its museological significance within the broader historical, institutional and disciplinary contexts in which it developed. The exhibition as a kaleidoscope The exhibition Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist is devoted to the representation of Norwegian history from the Ice Age to Christianity, thus including the crucial Viking period. This exhibition evokes in my mind the image of a museological kaleidoscope, a wondrous assemblage of display approaches and techniques. I propose to use this metaphor the kaleidoscope to capture the innovative and unique character of this exhibition, combining diverse museological approaches, display techniques, narrative tones and curatorial styles. The kaleidoscope is an optical device invented in 1815, consisting of a tube containing an arrangement of mirrors or prisms that produces different images and patterns [...] light is typically reflected from the mirrors or prisms through object cells containing glass pieces, seashells and the like to create ever-changing patterns of design and color (Spade and Valentine 2008:xiii). Given its peculiarities, the kaleidoscope has lent itself to be used as a metaphor in several domains, with particular success in the humanities and social sciences. For instance, the metaphor of the kaleidoscope has been used to describe linguistic variety and complexity (Dalby 2001); gender identities and relations (Spade and Valentine 2008); and the interplay of time, memories and emotions in creating a sense of place (Richardson 2008; Stanton 2003). At the root of its potential as a metaphor lies the kaleidoscope s ability to efficaciously illustrate 1 Marzia Varutti er museolog ved Senter for museumsstudier, Institutt for kulturstudier og orientalske språk, Universitetet i Oslo. 27 Spesialutgave 2016 Artikkel ideas of refraction, multiplication, fragmentation, and perpetual transformation (Groth 2007:217). This is because the kaleidoscope creates multiple and constantly changing views and gazes; in so doing, it produces images that demand to be apprehended as objects in their own right. It could be argued that the kaleidoscope is a liminal device: it provides an interface between different worlds, between subjects and objects, and between reality and imagination. As Helen Groth (2007:217) notes the kaleidoscope has always suggested interaction, a dialogue between hand and eye, inside and outside. As a non-norwegian based at a Norwegian institution, and writing about a very national topic, I am too casting both an insider and outsider s gaze. In its original cultural and historical setting of 19th century England, the kaleidoscope had a great success as an object of popular delectation, a toy for both children and adults, and later a sought-after collectible. In this sense, since its origins, the kaleidoscope has been more an object of aesthetic pleasure than a scientific instrument or a tool for precise observation. The viewer may experience the uncertainty, volatility, even slight dizziness induced by the many blurred, dancing images created by the device. As Groth puts it the interplay between spectacle and intimacy [ ] [was] synonymous with experiment and perceptual instability rather than mastery (Groth 2007:223). The kaleidoscope, continues Groth, captures the moment that precedes resolution and definition, when the mind and eye are open to sensation and difference (Groth 2007:233). What the kaleidoscope lacks in precision and scientific rigour, it compensates with aesthetic pleasure and evocative power. I suggest that the metaphor of the kaleidoscope can be fruitfully applied to an exhibition all the more when this succeeds in providing visitors with a wide range of views and images, and thus becoming a creative artefact in its own right. In an exhibition, views and gazes intersect, refract, multiply they ultimately create an object of both beauty and knowledge, a museological artefact that opens up fresh and unexpected perspectives on much-discussed themes and old collections. Yet in one respect at least, the kaleidoscope metaphor offers a limited explanatory capacity, this is the multisensorial aspect of exhibitions. The kaleidoscope is centred on vision and visuality, whilst exhibitions are complex and composite media, activating multiple senses and providing rich sensory experiences. As we shall see, Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist is particularly engaging for the senses, memories and emotions. That said, the kaleidoscope metaphor retains its utility in highlighting the liminal character of the experience, the exhibition-viewing as an encounter between subjects and objects. In approaching the exhibition in this way, I implicitly adopt a phenomenological museological perspective (see Dudley 2009, 2012, 2013; Edwards et al. 2006) whereby the focus is on the micro-dynamics of the encounter understood as a process in which both participants, person and thing, are active and significant [ ] part of a mutually interdependent, material world, full of multiple and shifting meanings, values and functions (Dudley 2013:2). This theoretical stance, emphasizing the encounter, the interaction, and the space in between (thus implicitly attributing some degree of agency to materiality, see Gell 1998) brings to the fore a set of factors such as sensory stimulation, proprioception, and imagination that are affected (amplified or silenced) by display techniques, and that can become complements to (or even substitutes for) texts in exhibitions, enriching and transforming the interplay among the most classic exhibition elements such as text, objects and images. As such, these non-textual, sensory dimensions play a considerable role (if still relatively poorly understood) in the way visitors experience and interpret museum exhibitions. Sensory stimulation and proprioception can activate cognitive and emotional personal responses, such as imagination, memories, poetic vision, and shifting perceptions of time and space. Yet too often, due to their non-visual but perceptual nature, these factors are overlooked in the analysis of displays. In what follows, I consider how the above mentioned factors play out in the exhibition Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist, and more 28 Varutti broadly I discuss the aspects of the exhibition that mark a departure from conventional museological approaches, and may contribute to explain why the legacy of this not uncontentious exhibition is nevertheless enduring. The making of a time-capsule The exhibition Fra Istid Til Kvitekrist occupies a large section of the ground floor of the Museum of Cultural History of the University of Oslo. The exhibition space, relatively narrow and elongated (on a floor map, it would look like a long rectangle), has been structured to create an involute and meandering visiting path. Most of the objects on display are presented in glass cases that line the walls and shape the space in-between to create a zig-zagging viewing path. A kaleidoscopic vision This however, does not follow a chronological criterion, but rather a thematic one. Indeed time is almost flattened in the exhibition: we know we are in the past, we become gradually immersed into what that past might have looked like, but there is no emphasis on evolution or progress (which tend to be recurrent themes in historical displays). The exhibition texts are essential and nonintrusive (situated below or next to the display case). This is not an exhibition meant to be read, as to be experienced : the main points of entry into the display are provided by the overall atmosphere and the mood created in the room, as well as by objects themselves - their interrelations, the resonances and the contrasts that emerge from their juxtaposition and grouping in glass cases. Figure 1. The zig-zagging visiting path in the gallery. Photo: Marzia Varutti. 29 Spesialutgave 2016 Artikkel Light (both natural and artificial) is used sparingly and with precision. In some areas, such as the closing section En Variert Gudeverden (translated as The Gods and Their Worlds ) which includes religious objects, the exhibition room is quite dark, almost as to suggest a sacred environment, although this clashes with the representation of the gods through cloth dolls. The exhibition makes extensive use of mannequins and miniature figures made to represent individuals in past societies as well as deities. In so doing, the curator placed human figures (life size and miniature, puppets and sculpted effigies) at the core of the display. With this somewhat ironic use of miniatures, the Figure 2. Life-size figure representing a Viking. Photo: Marzia Varutti. curator gives a face to Vikings (often benignly smiling) and physiognomic features (fair skin and fierce red, untamed hair). This humanizing approach is a direction rarely taken in archaeological exhibitions, which tend to focus on the materiality of the archaeological artefacts retrieved through excavations, whilst scrupulously adhering to the chronological time-line. Telling (hi)stories in new ways The exhibition plays with the idea of contextualization. There is clearly an intention to provide contextualization for the objects on display. Information panels located below the exhibition case provide short descriptions for objects: a general caption provides details on the objects provenance and dating (e.g. Grave-find from the 9th century from Torshov, Gjerdrum & Akershus ) and each object is provided with a concise description (e.g. belt with buckle ). The panels are relatively discreet, being located below the gaze level, as if to invite only interested visitors to bow down and read the captions. In addition, an exhibition catalogue (in Norwegian and English) is available to visitors next to the display cabinets. The catalogue addressing topics as broad as glacier movements, flora and fauna distribution, Stone Age hunting techniques, farming, burial practices etc. offers comprehensive, in-depth, research-based information complete with scientific sketches and references to academic sources. Given its format, breadth and depth of information, this publication, more than an exhibition catalogue, can be thought of as a proper academic book. In this sense, one would ideally read it in the quiet and comfort of a library, rather than standing in the exhibition room. A more concise text with highlights and pointers to key objects in the exhibition would have probably provided visitors with a more efficient tool to navigate the display. That said, the catalogue is an important testimony to the depth of research underlying the display. Through the low-level panels and the exhibition catalogue, information is made 30 Varutti available but is not imposed on visitors. This curatorial decision reveals the prominence attributed to the encounter with the object and its evocative power. Like the refracted images in the kaleidoscope, objects such as miniatures, life-size mannequins and dioramas are re-framed as tools for contextualization in the exhibition. For instance, miniature cloth figures are placed in the display case to illustrate how specific tools would be used (e.g. a small figure representing a silversmith at work). Importantly, these figures also create an image and a canon for the Viking which emerges as a strong, industrious, assertive character. Contextualization is also provided through dioramas and large background landscape paintings. These don t aim to be realistic, but provide a coloured canvas that covers the original museum architecture and obscures the large window frames. An original aspect of the exhibition is that it includes poetry: in the same way as miniatures and mannequins, poems are also turned into tools for museological contextualization. Panels with short poems relating to the objects on display (e.g. Norse Gods) are located near, and sometimes in, the glass case as if to complement the information available to understand archaeological objects and artworks. One senses the efforts of the curators to show that it is possible to move away from conventional forms of representation and contextualization, and succeed in communicating meaning by evoking emotions and by stimulating imagination through other channels such as painting, art installations and poetry. These create new, highly original visual and emotional frameworks to the archeological objects. This approach blurs the divide between the archaeological exhibits and other elements of the display: there is now a new kind of dialogue going on between dolls, ancient iron work, poems, landscape photography, and art installations. The kaleidoscope s magic is at play. This new kind of intertextuality (Bryson 1988) is one of the most innovative and powerful museological aspects of this exhibition. Sensing the past A kaleidoscopic vision The exhibition makes a point to transcend visuality, and engage more senses. Indeed, the exhibition is rich in sensory stimuli and invites visitors physical engagement with the display. In addition to vision, several sensory channels are activated: sound (through background medieval music), touch (through invitation to touch the textiles, the fur offered by the mannequin, the stones of the fake cross and pith), proprioception (the raised platforms and ramps bring visitors to move in the space, to bend over to see some exhibits for instance, the faces of some Viking deities, reproduced as textile cloth dolls and closely observe minute objects in the glass cases). The visiting path, playing with turns and twists, high points and descents, creates vistas, points of view, and directs the visitors gaze. Visitors are invited to look up (to catch sight of exhibits placed on top of display cabinets as in the case of a wooden sculpture and the textile birds hanging from the ceiling in the section devoted to Norse deities) and down to the graves (to grasp the details of the funerary sets). They will need to zoom in on the detail of the beautiful carvings on combs, and zoom out to take in the large background paintings hiding the window frames. Such a degree of sensory engagement in a museum exhibition might go unnoticed today, at a moment when curatorial practice is strongly concerned with stimulating the senses in the gallery space and providing visitors with multiple sensory channels to experience the displays (see for instance Edwards et al. 2006). This was however less the case in the early 1990s, when this exhibition was set up; moreover, the sensory dimension has been mostly explored in art exhibitions, much less in an archaeological exhibition. This is thus another innovative aspect of the exhibition that deserves mention. Conversely, the inclusion of human remains on display (the burial site of a male identified as Hal, and dating back to the 8th century) is a curatorial choice that can be questioned in the 31 Spesialutgave 2016 Artikkel light of ongoing ethical debates in museology (e.g. Fforde et al. 2004; Lohman and Goodnow 2006; Jenkins 2011; Redman 2016; see also WANG); in addition, it contrasts with the lighter tone of the rest of the display. Playing with ambivalence Figure 3. Viking cape? Photo: Marzia Varutti. The concept of museum object is creatively explored, challenged and redefined in the exhibition. Artworks, craft and archaeological objects are mixed in creative ways: they complement each other and provide an imaginative background for the archaeological findings. For instance, in the section devoted to religion and deities, the glass cases include archaeological specimen arranged around a textile artwork representing a Norse deity. Here, the authentic historical piece is set into a dialogue with props. A panel below the glass case visually clarifies this: a stylized drawing of the contents of the glass case eases the identification (through numbers and letters) of each archaeological specimen (dating, provenance and meaning) whilst implicitly revealing the non-scientific nature of the centerpiece artwork, which is the only item devoid of description. In another instance, a new-looking red cape is hanged high on a wall, surmounted by an helmet. The objects are illuminated by a powerful light, which signals their relevance and invites attention, yet they are exhibited without glass protection, and the chair of the gallery security guard was placed just under it in occasion of my visit. These features send out ambivalent messages: this is an object worthy of attention, yet it is not as valuable as others; the cape looks relatively recently-made, how old is it?
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