We have a great permanent collection exhibition up right now called Midnight Party, organized by Joan Rothfuss, Adjunct Curator, with Eric Crosby, Curatorial Assistant. It’s a beautiful and diverse show, filled with “art whose content is primarily spiritual, visionary, enigmatic, or dreamlike—in a word, subjective.” Check out a creepy and mesmerizing video promo of the exhibition here.
An interesting theme from the show deals with our attempts to impose logical structures onto illogical and subjective ideas. To that end, the graphic identity is a loose interpretation of Freud’s “dream rebus”—a series of seemingly unrelated images, a pictorial composition, that are the key to decoding the meaning of a dream.
“The dream-thoughts are immediately comprehensible, as soon as we have learnt them. The dream-content, on the other hand, is expressed as it were in a pictograph script, the characters of which have to be transposed individually into the language of the dream-thoughts. If we attempted to read these characters according to their pictorial value instead of according to their symbolic relation, we should clearly be led into error. Suppose I have a picture-puzzle, a rebus, in front of me. It depicts a house with a boat on its roof, a single letter of the alphabet, the figure of a running man whose head has been conjured away, and so on. Now I might be misled into raising objections and declaring that the picture as a whole and its component parts are nonsensical. A boat has no business to be on the roof of a house, and a headless man cannot run. Moreover, the man is bigger than the house; and if the whole picture is intended to represent a landscape, letters of the alphabet are out of place in it since such objects do not occur in nature. But obviously we can only form a proper judgment of the rebus if we put aside criticisms such as these of the whole composition and its parts and if, instead, we try to replace each separate element in some way or other. The words which are put together in this way are no longer nonsensical but may form a poetical phrase of the greatest beauty and significance. A dream is a picture-puzzle of this sort and our predecessors in the field of dream-interpretation have made the mistake of treating the rebus as a pictorial composition: and as such it has seemed to them nonsensical and worthless.” —Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
Presented on color backgrounds, the objects evoke the retro natural history museum vibe that infuses the show, suggesting artifacts, mythology, and science. Another reference point (especially for the type) was an encyclopedia/magazine of the occult called Man, Myth & Magic. Both title graphics for the show feature a rebus of three objects each, seemingly random, though begging decryption. The groupings evoke hieroglyphics—an alphabet that refuses to abstract itself completely, instead grafting a second meaning on top of the objects, a system of somewhat subjective relationships that needs to be decoded to be understood. We asked our Facebook fans to guess the name of the exhibition based solely on the skull, cow, and disco ball rebus, and they came up with some great suggestions. Maybe we should start crowd sourcing our exhibition titles . . .
For the Card Catalogue brochures (pictured above), the relationship between the object and the featured artwork was more direct. A shell makes an appearance in Guy Maddin’s film, the Minoan bull suggests Sterbak’s meat dress, and the timer refers to Strassheim’s forensic-like attention to light and exposure. The show also features two great audio guide tours, one called “Shadows” and one called “Visions”.
We had a good time shopping for some of these objects to photograph. A few things we purchased but didn’t use: a small boat anchor ($10), a creepy hotel key ($3), a 550 Million year old trilobyte ($5), and a pair of meat hooks ($10) that I keep in my office now to freak people out.
(Dylan & Cameron at Hunt & Gather.)