THE IMPOSSIBLE MUSEUM | D'Arcy Wilson & Amy Malbeuf, curated by Lisa Bouraly
DUE TO COVID-19 THE THOMAS MCCULLOCH MUSEUM IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
The Impossible Museum is an exploration of the Thomas McCulloch Museum’s history and collection through the lens of contemporary art. Two Atlantic-based artists, D’Arcy Wilson and Amy Malbeuf, were invited to reimagine the museum’s permanent display through artworks that question, critique, and recontextualize the contents of this 19th century collection. Typical of this era, the natural artifacts in this museum are displayed through Audubon-style dioramas, an aesthetic practice that exemplifies the scientific, social and political values which dominated the Western world in the late 19th century. Among the museum’s glass cases, some artworks are lodged between artifacts, some are discreet or almost hidden, and others vine across the display boxes or among specimens.
Wilson, who is of settler descent and based in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Malbeuf, a Métis artist from Rich Lake, Alberta, challenge the colonial interactions depicted in the dioramas’ already carefully constructed natural worlds. Their interruptions and interventions shed new light on the tensions between the protection and destruction of nature, the economic and political uses of animals by the Dominion of Canada, the ethical concerns about displaying animals hunted for educational and scientific purposes, as well as the absence of women, Indigenous and people of colour in the formation of these narratives and scientific canons.
Wilson’s work includes one video projection of performances in natural history museums, a ready-made installation based on decoys from McCulloch’s permanent collection, two site-specific floral installations that attempt to reconnect the birds to their original environment, a lightbox mimicking a diorama for the extinct Labrador duck, and a rug with floral patterns inspired by McCulloch’s showcases. Using the museum’s glass walls as a diorama in itself, Malbeuf’s work includes an installation featuring five animal furs with security jackets hand-sewn onto their skin. A portrait of museum founder, Thomas McCulloch, has been replaced with a frame displaying two braided strands of hair—one from a caribou and one from the artist. Inherited by her grandfather, a coyote stretcher wrapped in 21st century commercial furs rests against a diorama, seemingly trapped. The Impossible Museum foregrounds the interplay between artworks and artifacts, past and present temporalities, and colonial and Indigenous traditions. Archives have been carefully selected and included in the display in a concerted effort to mobilize this multi-vocal exhibition with historical, sociological, and political facts.
Amy Malbeuf is an award-winning Métis visual artist. Amy is from Rich Lake, Alberta, Treaty 6 territory and she lives and works on unceded Mi’kmaq territory in Terence Bay, Nova Scotia. Through the mediums of animal hair tufting, beadwork, installation, performance, wearables, and tattooing Malbeuf explores notions of identity, place, language, and ecology. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally in over forty shows at such venues as Art Mûr, Montréal, Winnipeg Art Gallery; Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton; Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe; and Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua, New Zealand.
D’Arcy Wilson is an Atlantic Canadian artist whose work laments past and ongoing colonial interactions with the natural world, from her own perspective as a descendent of European settlers in Canada. Her interdisciplinary work has been presented across the country, most recently at Dalhousie University Art Gallery (2019), The Beaverbrook Art Gallery (2018), The Rooms Art Gallery (2019) the Owens Art Gallery (2016), and the 2019 Bonavista Biennale (Floe), as well as M:ST, Flotilla, and Connexion ARC. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award (Atlantic). D’Arcy is based in Corner Brook, NL, where she is Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts Program at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Grenfell Campus.
Lisa Bouraly is a researcher in Museum studies and a curator of contemporary art. She is currently pursuing a joint PhD in Montreal (UQAM) and Paris (Université Paris 8). Her research explores how contemporary museums are reshaping the permanent exhibition through an emerging repertoire of curatorial strategies and practices.
Accessing the Museum:
The Thomas McCulloch Museum is located at Dalhousie University in the Life Science Centre. The easiest way to find the museum is to go through the main entrance of the Wallace McCain Learning Commons and walk straight through the hallway to the Life Science Centre. The museum is on the right-hand side. Doors to the Learning Centre and Life Science Centre have push-button entrances. The Museum entrance does not, but Eyelevel staff will be on hand to open doors during events. There is metered parking in front of the learning centre, and the museum is close to a #1 bus stop (stops on Coburg Rd.)
Regular Museum Hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30AM - 4:30PM