The Birth of the Cool Exhibit

When one walks into the Birth of the Cool exhibit there are many “discrepancies” one might point out along the way in regards to the choices of visual display made by the curator.  These “discrepancies” cause one to think about the exhibit more, whether in distaste or amiability, but nonetheless one is thinking more and differently from how one normally thinks when visiting a museum exhibition.  Ralph Rugoff would no doubt call this exhibit a shining example of what he coins “Stoned thinking.”[1] “The effect of stoned thinking is to scramble our perception of boundaries,” and therefore get us thinking about the visual display of things outside the exhibit based on the intrigue the exhibit just instilled in us.[2] The initial intrigue begins however while still in the exhibit when “the artifacts we are supposed to be learning about start to dematerialize into a field of questions about display and the nature of knowledge.”[3] The problem, as Rugoff states, is that we are looking for the truth.[4] Yet we all know, as Derrida has taught us with Deconstruction, that we have to break the habits of our normal thinking, and stop attributing the truth effect to all things before we can even begin to understand something.[5]

[1]Rugoff, Ralph, “Beyond Belief: The Museum as Metaphor.” Visual Display: Culture BeyondAppearances. (Ed. Lynne Cooke and Peter Wollen. New York: The New Press, 1995) 73-74.

[2] Rugoff 73-74.

[3] Rugoff 73.

[4] Rugoff 75.

[5] Roberto Tejada, “Deconstruction: Jokes and Ghosts.” (Art Historical Methodologies. Fine Arts Library at the University of Texas at Austin. 31 Mar. 2009)

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  1. Carolyn Porter
    June 13, 2009

    I was not able to view this exhibition, but your introduction has made me very curious to see the exhibition documentation!!

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