Filled with a curated mass of eccentric, everyday objects from wildly disparate themes, Mmuseumm is an 80 square foot independent exhibit space housed in a New York lift shaft.
Now in it’s third season, it claims to preserve the overlooked, unseen, or forgotten treasures of everyday stuff; initial collections included Cambodian menu photo rejects, paper found in photocopiers, fake IDs and personal effects like rusty combs washed up on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
But this is more than just a house of remarkable junk. Previous displays have included Chinese funeral paper objects, children’s bulletproof Disney backpacks, Mars excavation tools and soap carved by prisoners in California. This year, you can gawk at 200 mosquitoes killed mid-bite, ‘censored’ Saudi Arabian pool toys, an array of plastic spoons, weathered styrofoam rocks, Saddam Hussein memorabilia and artefacts of daily life in North Korea.
Mimicking (or mocking?) the traditions of “the museum”, from the bare display aesthetic to the pithy dial-in audio guide, Mmuseumm is perhaps more closely aligned with a punk sense of academia: unlike a traditional museum, visitors can submit their own collections and edification is not, at least directly, the point.
For as easy as it is to trivialise the humble ‘soup delivery device’, the backstories to each collection are as fascinating and revealing about the context in which contemporary objects are made, kept, acquired, collected, lost or moved around the world – whether as flotsam on a Pacific current, or pillaged (like the collection of expensive watches) from the tomb of a penniless pornographer – as anything you might read on a small piece of card stuck to the wall of the V&A or the British Museum.
After all, these are simply modern-day artefacts, items lost and found in the cracks and corners of cultures around the world and, while the objects themselves, or the collection as a whole may at first appear to provide little more than pure intrigue, behind each tiny piece there lies a complex human puzzle.
North Korea remains one of the most isolated, secretive, and least-understood countries on earth. Mosquitoes carry more than malaria. Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV for short) patrol the aisles of shopping malls with marker pens.
“By examining the small things, the vernacular,” the website explains, “we are able to look at the big one, life itself, or at least start to see its edges.”
Quite a feat for an exhibition so small that the whole thing fits into your peripheral vision, but in this 80-square-foot space you need only turn your head 90 degrees for something quietly revealing to come into view.
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