Thursday, January 29, 2009

The exhibition concept

This blog outlines some thinking on the direction of an exhibition with a working title All about Evil.

The Australian Museum is adapting a Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam exhibition concept for an Australian audience. Originally titled, Het Kwaad (All About Evil), the Tropenmuseum described their exhibition as being about “... the root of all misery, utter disaster and every kind of bad luck. This exhibition tells the story of man’s struggle against evil down the centuries. A story that spans all ages and countries, cultures and religions.

The Australian Museum (AM) exhibition will be arranged as a world cultures/ popular culture exhibit. It’s not intended to be a factual treatment of actual Evil events; rather it is intended that the exhibition select a range of historic narratives, legends and myths, sagas and folklore, superstitions and contemporary belief systems to explore both the popular and exotic concepts of evil and how these concepts have shaped cultural perceptions and behaviour. We’re aiming to show a range of historical and contemporary perspectives in order to challenge the audience’s preconceptions of evil.

‘Evil’ is subjective and the concept of what is evil has changed significantly through time and varies between western and traditional cultures. While the exhibition will include objects from the Museum and other collections around Australia, strong 2D/3D visual elements, film, music, text, audio visual and multimedia as well as interactive components; it is a difficult topic including contentious themes and explicit imagery and objects.

There is opportunity to challenge, provoke, surprise, be controversial, show contemporary viewpoints, display popular culture, inject humour, have slick technology and create an immersive experience. This is where we need your feedback and so we’re inviting you to participate and tell us what you think about the idea!

We look forward to hearing your (evil) thoughts to help us make this exhibition a real showstopper.

...remember - “it’s not a soap opera until someone’s evil twin shows up”


  1. Although it would be an unusual angle for a museum to take and not strictly in line with your world cultures theme, this exhibition could be a timely opportunity to look at the corporate evil that has precipitated the current economic implosion - even some of the key players. Madoff and his ponzi scheme springs to mind but there will be Australian examples. Perhaps some historic comparisons where extreme greed and a breakdown in governance has had dire consequences for society as a whole.

  2. Thanks Vanessa,
    I'd certainly like to explore corporate evil. I'm particularly interested ideas from social psycologists/ theorists/ commentators that help explain our civic discourse such as -

    The wisdom of crowds - James Surowieki
    The Lucifer effect - Dr Philip Zimbardo
    The Lucifer principle - Howard Bloom
    The bystander effect - Darley & Latane
    The collusion of mediocrity - Paul Levy
    The cult of the amateur - Andrew Keen

    Perhaps there are more social theories that relate directly to corporate society?

    Corporate evil is a great contemporary reference to globalisation & capitalism and their 'evil' effect on our contemporary world.

  3. In the front-end evaluation the topic of corporate evil was raised. Focus group participants were asked to bring along an image that represented evil to them. Apart from the expected (Hitler, swastikas, devils, guns) some chose cigarettes, magazines that promoted unrealistic body images, poker machines and Tom Cruise (think the scientology link here!).

    My next post will address these findings in more detail. In the meantime you can view the image collages from each group here on Flickr

  4. Hooked! Great idea, so many constantly morphing subjects and contexts to cover. Let me know if I can help in any way, me thinks this concept has a lot of 'legs'...

  5. Wicked! - you could debate what that means I guess and it's relationship to evil.

    Will be following this project with great interest.

    Pamela Lovis