Care and Wear: Bodies Crafted for Harm and Healing
Crash test dummy, Alderson Research Labs, Inc. USA, c. 1960, metal, rubber.

Care and Wear: Bodies Crafted for Harm and Healing

Esker Foundation, Calgary, AB - Sep 23 - Dec 17

by Michael Turner

Art today is known as much for collaboration and inclusion as it once was for singular genius and vanguardism. Though artists continue to work under solo monikers and attend exclusive dinners hosted by collectors, more and more are aligning with communities whose material circumstances are rooted in more immediate bodily concerns, like food security and sustainable energy. Some, such as Brendan Griebel and Jude Griebel, eschew the word “artist” altogether, preferring “curator” when speaking of installations mounted from their Museum of Fear and Wonder.

Artists and curators working with museums isn't new. What is new is the way that work is conceptualized and enacted. Aby Warburg called his museum an atlas (Mnemosyne, 1924-29); Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov called theirs an archive (Image Bank, est. 1969). The Griebels’ museum, according to press materials, comprises “crafted surrogates for the human body that are variously designed to model or mimic physical and emotional aspects of the human experience.” These objects include an early-19th-century Italian painter’s mannequin and a circa 1960 crash test dummy from Alderson Research Laboratories.

In an effort to broaden our understanding of the human life cycle through the use of surrogate objects and mnemonic forms, the Griebels implicate the institutionalized museum as an agent of social control. Recently we have come to speak of this control as part of the colonial endeavour, but museums have traded in reduction, reification and erasure since classical times. The Griebels’ achievement lies in their ability to remind us of that longer arc – civilization’s life cycle, as it were – through under-discussed themes ranging from safety testing and training to sport and play.

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