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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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The Block Museum encourages innovation and contemplation in new Winter Quarter exhibitions

Photo by Grace Wu
Block Museum Student Associates learn about “Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology,” one of the Block’s Winter Quarter exhibitions that runs between Jan. 26 and July 7.

With a welcome sign flickering between the words “block” and “look,” the Block Museum of Art reopened for the Winter Quarter on Jan. 26, with three new exhibitions: “Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology,” “Looking 101” and “The Block Collects.”

The exhibits expand the traditional museum experience by introducing unusual elements to the museum space. For example, “Actions for the Earth,” a collection of works by more than 18 artists from around the world, allows visitors to interact with the artwork, activating the senses of touch and sound in addition to the more traditional sight.

However, “Looking 101” takes an opposite approach, removing the placards of information typically found next to artwork to help visitors think about art in new ways.

“The Block Museum is one of Northwestern’s most dynamic classrooms,” Lindsay Bosch, the associate director of communications, marketing and digital strategy, said. “We are always changing to engage and connect with the curriculum and the big ideas that are part of a Northwestern experience.”

“Actions for the Earth” arrived at NU this quarter for the second stop on its national tour and will stay through July 7.

The exhibition encompasses the Block’s main and downstairs outdoor galleries, welcoming visitors with soft background music, sitting mats and 3D art pieces that examine human interconnectedness with the earth.

“This is really an exhibition that invites participation and contemplation. There are spaces to rest, meditate, think and engage,” Bosch said. “It is a beautiful offering for our campus community to consider the idea of connection in an expansive way.”

Communication senior Madeleine Giaconia said “Actions for the Earth” fits with the museum’s mission. The Block’s exhibitions often “push the boundaries of what we consider art and how we engage with museum spaces,” she said. 

As a Block Museum Student Associate, Giaconia is responsible for giving exhibition tours. This unconventional exhibit has forced her to anticipate a range of responses from attendees, she said.

“There might be challenges in encouraging people to lie down somewhere or put on a pair of headphones and sit with something rather than just wanting to get through a museum because sometimes people do not spend as much time reflecting on things,” Giaconia said.

An interactive aspect also exists in “Looking 101,” another of the Block’s new exhibitions, which will be available until April 21.

Featuring five artistic pieces selected in conjunction with various NU faculty members, the exhibit does not include the informational placards present in many traditional museums. Essi Rönkkö, the associate curator of collections and academic programming, says this encourages visitors to examine the gallery before scanning a QR code or picking up a physical booklet for a written description.

“What I wanted to do is avoid putting any interpretive materials on the walls so that you are forced to make observations and build your initial analysis of what is going on based on your own experience and perspective before you access the context and research,” Rönkkö said.

This way, Rönkkö said, visitors can notice how their analysis changes after learning context and critiques how their background influences perceptions.

“We make decisions about what we look at and interpret in such a quick way in our brains that it is sometimes helpful to slow that down,” Rönkkö said.

Like “Looking 101,” Block’s third exhibition, “The Block Creates,” showcases work from the museum’s pre-existing collection of over 6,000 pieces. In particular, the art was selected by last year’s cohort of student associates.

While this group of art for “The Block Creates” will only be up until March 3, its replacement with other works will not detract from the experiential learning.

“What you see will always change at the Block, but what will not change is an experience in which questioning and experimentation is at the foreground, inviting big ideas and dialogue that connect to interdisciplinary studies and contemporary life,” Bosch said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @_gracewuu

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