Curation at the Critical Making Lab
A critical foundation of Critical Making is, of course, the act of making, the creation of an object from spare parts or specially created components, and the exploration and critique of the process. So what happens when the maker is done making?
That’s where I come in. I’m the curator at the Critical Making Lab. When the researchers are done with an object, it’s my turn to play!
My duties involve cataloguing the objects, deciding which objects should be kept and which should be recycled, finding a place to store them and (the fun part!) organizing them into exhibitions. As a non-researcher, my background is a little different from most of the other lab residents – I’m actually a Museum Studies student, albeit one with a bit of an intellectual crush on emergent technologies.
There are a lot of challenges to being lab curator.
I’m the new girl and I just don’t have the context I need for many of my objects, especially since I don’t have a background in any sort of computer or electrical work. The big, fancy ones are pretty easy because I can Google them. It’s not hard to find information on things like the prosthetic sockets or blind tennis; they were pretty well-publicized projects. But I would frequently quickly catalogue an object which I thought was just a test print and move on. Then, days later, someone would walk by and casually mention that the object I had set aside was, in fact, part of some terribly significant and interesting project. I’m lucky in that everyone in the lab is quite friendly and willing to share their knowledge but it’s hard to get answers when you don’t even know what questions you need to ask.
There’s also the fact that the Critical Making Lab is not a museum space. Displaying objects is a secondary concern. Every decision I make has to take functionality into account. Yes, I can mount part of my exhibition on that shelving unit there but it’s right next to the full-body scanner, so people might need that space. Yes, I can create a beautiful and elaborate slideshow with multiple components to show off every aspect of the lab but who’s got time to update something that involved once I’m gone?
But hey, even if the job has its challenges, I wouldn’t change it for the world. And if I occasionally end up shirtless in the lab on a weekend because I needed a black backdrop for photography and it was the only black cloth I had, well, it’s just another day in the life of a Critical Making Lab curator!