Cabinets of Curiosities

[2023] Multimedia exhibit + displays
Displayed at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and Emily Carr Graduation Show ‘23
This project recieved the Ecological Design Graduation Award – Honourable Mention

Containers of Curiosities was born out of a year-long design investigation into the narratives, built spaces, and modes of knowledge creation within Natural History Museums. It started as an interrogation of my discomfort at these institutions, which manifested into months of research. Through being an observer, seeing the behind the scenes, countless conversations, expert interviews, design explorations, reflections, and analysis of existing projects, I started to break down what once was just a gut feeling.

Through a partnership with the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC, Container of Curiosities began to take shape. An experiment in display design with a narrative focus on the relationship between introduced (non-native) and invasive species as a result of the global trade economy.

A specie is only considered “invasive” when it is actively causing harm to the existing ecosystem, otherwise, once established, any non-native being specie is simply referred to as an introduced or adventive specie. Invasive species are often villainised in media and pop culture. This fear-mongering is often counterproductive, plus the current model of dealing with invasives in BC is mass eradication, which is borderline impossible with established species, especially with smaller creatures such as insects.

In the case of port cities like Vancouver, there are countless such species here due to global trade paths and transportation such as cargo ships.

Through all this I realized that invasive species are nothing but a symptom, a side effect, of a globalized economy. This statement became the core of my exhibit, using shipping containers as a recognizable symbol for global trade and the paths of the consumer goods we so desperately want.

With the aim to disrupt the traditional display design model by subverting the expectations of what we traditionally see, my goal with this experiment is to see how I could push the existing display-specimen-label model to embed the story of why invasive’s are in BC into the displays themselves; avoiding the fragmentation of nature’s beings as separate from ourselves and our systems.

What I came up with are essentially shadow boxes made to look like stacked shipping containers, painted in their usual array of colours. This collection is made up of a few display boxes that invite you to open and investigate. Inside each display box, there is a specimen of an adventive or invasive insect specimen collected locally. Whereas the other rest are door-only facades that serve to tell the story.

research - ecology - futures - speculative - sculpture - mapping - museums - podcast - body - identity - textile - critical - workshop

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